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Android users in Europe may get more search choices after Google about-face

Search engines won't have to pay for a seat at the table.

Published onJune 8, 2021

Google Pixel 5 front
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Google is dropping a controversial Android search choice auction in Europe.
  • Any qualifying search engine can participate for free.
  • You may see more choices for search on your Android phone as a result.

You may soon get more choices for Android’s search engine — if you live in Europe, at least. As TechCrunch reports (disclaimer: this author writes for TC’s sibling site Engadget), Google has scrapped an auction system where companies paid or a chance to be included in Europe’s Android search choice screen. It will also include more than the existing four choices.

Read more: Google vs the EU: Which side are you on?

The internet giant will now let qualifying Android search providers participate for free in the wake of “further feedback” (read: pressure) from the European Commission. As Bloomberg noted last month,  EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the auction system was broken and that the EU was “actively working” on a fix. Google risked further regulatory action if it didn’t move first, in other words.

The updated Android search choice screen should arrive in September.

Google launched auctions in 2018 in response to the EU’s $5 billion antitrust fine over allegedly anti-competitive behavior, which included a requirement that the company distribute its search engine outside of Google Play. The firm maintained that its pay-to-participate approach for the search choice screen helped competition, but rival engines balked. They said the paid system not only made it harder for smaller search providers, but punished alternative business models (like the tree-planting engine Ecosia) and had too few slots.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll always see Ecosia, DuckDuckGo or other alternative search engines when setting up a new Android phone in Europe. You’ll certainly see more choices, though,  and you might see engines that were rarely (if ever) options in the past. That’s good news if you’re not a fan of Google search or just want more flexibility when personalizing your devices.