Class action lawsuit claims it’s Google’s fault Android phones are so expensive

by: Jonathan FeistMay 2, 2014


Google illegally monopolized, and financially and creatively stagnated the American market of internet and mobile search, or so says Hagens Berman in a class-action anti-trust lawsuit filed in California on May 1st. The nationwide suit alleges that Google rose to the top of search because it forced its own products on mobile users after the purchase of the Android operating system. The lawsuit seeks damages for individuals who have purchased artificially high priced devices due to Google’s alleged price-fixing, anti-competitive restrictions.

Hagens Berman is a national plaintiff-focused law firm, with suits and other actions taken against GM, the NCAA, CytRx Corporation, MagnaChip Semiconductor Corporation and more – and those are all just announcements on the homepage of their website.

The basis of this lawsuit states that Google has gained a monopoly in search by forcing all Android device manufacturers to use Google apps, including Search, on their devices. The complaint claims that if device manufacturers were free to choose the default search engine, the overall quality of internet search would be improved and manufacturers could offer lower prices for their devices.

Some respected tech writers have torn this entire lawsuit apart using words such as unproven, ludicrous and laughably ill-informed. We agree in many regards. Firstly, Google was top dog in search well before it acquired Android OS, which, in itself, was many years before Android became the dominant mobile operating system in the United States. Thus, claims that Google’s search success was a direct result of Android sales is a little bit ludicrous.

Google Search Update

The lawsuit is correct that if another search engine replaced Google as the default search provider on Android, they would likely see an increase in traffic, but this is certainly unproven. In-fact, back in 2011, the Samsung Galaxy S on Verizon, also known as the Galaxy Fascinate, used Bing as its default search. In 2010, the Motorola Backflip used Yahoo search, and if we venture away from smartphones, the Kindle Fire tablet has spent some time using Bing as well. These devices may not serve as examples with high market penetration, which may actually be my point, but they are certainly a reminder that Android can operate without Google’s Search.

It will be interesting to watch how this lawsuit plays through, Google’s forced inclusion of its services have been under fire in the past, but a nation-wide class-action suit may be a little much to get a couple bucks for an HTC EVO 3D owner in Kentucky and a Samsung Galaxy S3 owner in Iowa.

Do you think Hagens Berman has a leg to stand on, or is AOSP related, open and free enough to invalidate the accusations?

  • TechGuy

    We’ve heard of patent trolls. … This just seems another kind. Google/Android is not a monopoly and the public have a choice. Ridiculous.

    • abazigal

      Yeah, choice between Android or IOS. Big choice there.

      • TechGuy

        Or Windows or RIM or Symbian or Bada and the forthcoming Tizen from Samsung. Quite a choice.

  • Bambang Hermanto

    The Google Apps are free to DOWNLOAD on Play Store.

    And hey Berman, what phone do you use? An iPhone? Or a Blackberry? As I remember both use Google Search Engine as default in their Safari and Browser, and I never hear about them paying anything to Google for this.

    • MXH070

      Well as a Blackberry user Google isnt the default search engine its an option as Blackberry leave the choice to the user when first setting up the device. You can use BING, yahoo or google or the terrible navtive one.

      • Bambang Hermanto

        I know there are choices in the option, but I never needed to change that since I unboxed my now good-as-brick Bold. I assume that as default ;)

    • Guest123

      “free to DOWNLOAD on Play Store”

      While that is a true statement, I do believe the lawsuit is focusing on the fact that many of google services are pre-installed as “system apps” just like carrier bloatware and therefore you cannot uninstall them, and are therefore much more likely to use them over others.

      This is very similar to how MS pushed IE down everyone’s throat — people are too stupid to install another app that does the same thing. Hell, they don’t even know what a “browser” is.

      Now I’m not saying I think this lawsuit has merit — search engines are essentially websites people choose to go to or use, and the fact that people are too stupid to change from google to bing on a device isn’t google’s fault. However, the case has the same merits as the case against MS for having IE pre-installed or “baked into” the OS.

      Personally, I hate bloatware! Regardless if that bloatware comes from the OEM, Google, or the carrier. It’s all crap forced on me without my consent — I’m not downloading it “free from the google play store” — as I really have no choice since every friggin phone in the US has a butt ton of bloatware — The Nexus line is full of google’s own bloatware. I don’t need gmail! I use K-9 mail, thank you very much.

      IMHO, devices should come with the bare minimum to get them up and running to connect to an app store of their choosing to install what the user would like. However, people are far too stupid for that to work.


      • Otto Andersson

        I mostly agree with you. I actually just switched to CyanogenMod on my Nexus products of removing God awful Google +, Newsstand, Hangouts and other unwanted Google bloat according to my taste.

        Too many people are quick to defend Google, but the truth is their apps are mediocre and always set to the lowest denominator to accommodate people with lower tech spec devices.

        • Guest123

          and they suck the life out of your battery, constantly checking your location and sending unnecessary data back to google — connect to wifi and google search has to jump on even though you aren’t using it?!?!? ugh.

      • Matthew Wypyszinski

        i think what the poster is trying to say is that the apps are free and thus cannot contribute to the cost of the phone, wether or not people use them. I personally enjoy some of googles apps, while i use custom apps for others (which is why we all bought an android in the end, its the ability to choose how you want your device to run)

    • MasterMuffin

      Apple replaced Google with Bing as default in iOS 7 :D

  • Grman Rodriguez

    It’s this guy aware that the OEM can choose whether or not to use Google Apps? Google is simply better. Period.

    • Otto Andersson

      Although I don’t agree that Google Apps are always better, I’m actually impressed that Google even gives users the choice for their search engine of choice and changing the default apps.

  • SimonC

    So the £79 Android phone I purchased for my partners daughter was too expensive!
    Why do I get the feeling Microsoft/Apple is lurking somewhere behind this?

    • Alistair

      I know right, it has Apple and Microsoft written all over it ;)

  • RockMarz

    What an idiot.

  • Gurpreet

    i can almost smell M$ in this

    • David Gabel

      Or Apple

  • Milton

    Expensive prices, very cheap quality and slow laggy OS

    • Ihateappleslappys

      Must be an Apple slappy. If you buy a high end Android it is better than a Apple anyday, and for the same price. Better hardware, more freedom, and depending on the phone the same build quality if not better.

      • Milton

        No, Apple is just an expensive fruit, not really good quality either

  • NickM_27

    Its Google’s OS if other manufacturers want to use it they have to go by Googles rules, and I doubt Samsung would sell their devices for any cheaper if this wasn’t the case.

    • gils001

      Exactly, It’s their DAMN FREE OS, and to be an Android OEM you have to follow their rules. Manufacturers don’t have to use Android, they choose to.

  • Fabian Taveras

    Lol this guy is stupid if you don’t like Google apps just DELETE THEM!!! they’re free in the play store anyways.

  • Cao Meo

    Looks very much Microsoft’s conspiracy, just don’t understand why it’s so stupid, Google does not charge consumers for either Android or its services so how can it make phones more expensive. iPhones are way more expensive by the way.

    • David Gabel

      Agreed. An unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with 32GB storage is about $649, while an unlocked Apple iPhone is $749 for 32GB. I fail to see how Google is “making more expensive phones” because of Android. This Hagens Berman “law firm” is full of morons looking to make some money rather than actually having anything to do with real law other than using it as a poor charade.

  • Roberto Tomás

    I’d like to see a more balanced presentation of their claim, just because it looks too easily dismissed to have gone to court at all, let alone win the right to try the case.

    Google provides the package optionally, and manufacturers actually don’t always choose google’s version of the AOSP … particularly in other countries.

  • chaki-

    When you won the lottery, all your relatives would come to see you :D

  • Macalee Harlis Jr.

    so, where exactly does Goolgles NEXUS line fit into all of this? Because these are devices google sells to consumers almost at cost. How are these devices examples of how Google made smartphones more expensive? wow

  • Fit

    Meh, it’s just a bunch of lazy, free loading, bottom feeders trying to get a free paycheck. Pay no attention.

  • supremekizzle

    Legitimately had to check the calendar to make sure that it wasn’t April 1st. This is a joke…

  • Jason Yuen

    Google does have a habit of forcing their services down a consumer’s throat. Until recently, Youtube kept nagging you to link Google+ and post comments with your real name. You would have to decline every single time you logged into Youtube with your old account. With that said, this lawsuit is ridiculous. I’d put this law firm right up there with patent trolls.

    • Thaddeus Brown

      I actually enjoyed the having to post with your real name. Trolling dropped off significantly since anonymity was lost.

      • Jason Yuen

        I agree that it definitely has its benefits in terms of reducing offensive content, but I think it should always be a choice. Forcing someone to use their real names also reduces perfectly valid but maybe controversial comments that might not have been shared without anonymity. If we start letting our privacy slip away bit by bit, we’ll never get it back. Where do we draw the line on our online identity and if one day we cross it, why is that line more valid than our online names? I feel that “not having something to hide” is not a good enough reason to sacrifice our privacy even in the slightest.

  • Aditya

    I don’t understand.. how does including the suite of Google apps make Android phones more expensive? Google is definitely not charging manufacturers for those apps. If anything, they maybe giving some incentives to the manufacturers to include their entire suite. Can someone please help me understand?

    • Guest

      They are trying to say that because Google forces manufacturers to install Google’s apps, manufacturers have not bothered building and installing their own competing products, thus, monopolizing the market and preventing price wars.

      • abazigal

        Which is ridiculous. If anything, it’s because everyone is using Android that has caused the commoditisation of Android phones and caused their prices to dip, to the extent that only a few OEMs are earning any real kind of profit (as evidenced by Samsung and Apple vacuuming up more than 100% of the industries’ profits.

        In the end, only Google wins, but I certainly don’t see rising smartphone prices as a consequence of that.

  • Andrew T Roach

    I just got a Candy Crush pop up and a full page add when I visit Android Authority. On a mobile device. It even opened up the App Store without consent.

    Are you guys kidding? Your competition has no pop ups whatsoever. Reconsider.

  • Otto Andersson

    Maybe someone can help me put. Isn’t Android free to customize without having to use the Android apps? I mean, just look at Amazon, by default, they don’t even let you use the Playstore even if you wanted to. They are simply a fork of the open source and free to customize android software.

    Does Google force hardware manufacturers to have their apps pre-installed? Products like Kindle lead me to believe otherwise.

    • abazigal

      You could fork Android, but unless you are a big company like Amazon with enough resources to develop their own ecosystem as a replacement, it generally isn’t a good idea to. You are losing access to Google’s stock apps and services. So you would just be cutting off the chin to spite the face, IMO.

      Just look at all the trouble and resources Apple has sunk just to come up with their own competing maps alternative. It’s not cheap, and just not an option for many an OEM provider.

  • Why isn’t anyone suing Apple for forcing people to use their default apps (Safari) and also selling iPhones at High Price?

    • abazigal

      Because with Apple’s market share, it hardly counts as a monopoly?

  • Bryan Z

    Making sure that people kept using googles products was pretty much the only reason they bought android. There’d be no android without google so imagine a world where the iPhone was the only phone and Google had to beg them to have them keep using their products. So yeah google did that to make sure their apps and search we’re going to continue being used by the majority. Googles game is not to better android but to be in every phone including iPhones

  • Goblin Shark


  • Tyrone_83

    Google’s fault Android phones are so expensive? Really that’s his his excuse? I bet this guy has bought and uses a 700 iPhone 5S

    I bet the judge would throw this outlandish lawsuit out the window.

  • ichuck7

    If it weren’t for Google, Apple would be fatter than a hog. Slap this guy with the costs of the lawsuits.