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The Information: Google Play requirements getting even stricter

A new report from The Information details some of the recent changes that OEMs must agree to in order to get Google Play and other Google services on their Android devices.
September 26, 2014
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Towards the beginning of the year we reported on some of the hoops manufacturers must go through to get Google certification, and there’s been quite a bit of talk on our site and across the web about how Google is doing more to get the focus on its own services and apps as opposed to those from OEMs like Samsung. Now a new report from The Information goes into a bit more detail on the contracts that Android device makers must sign and some of the more recent changes that they must adhere to in order to get Google Play and other Google apps.

Some of the changes include stuff like adding a “powered by Android logo” to device splash screens and requiring OEMs to put Google Play on the main homescreen. Additionally, the Google search “widget” must be on the default homescreen and an icon labeled “Google” must provide a collection of at 13 Google apps: Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, Gmail, Google+, Google Play Music, Google Play Movies, Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand, Google Play Games, Google+ Photos and Google+ Hangouts. Interestingly enough, Google Now must also be the default voice search/assistant app, and that includes a stipulation that swiping up or long-pressing a home button launches Google’s voice search.

Honestly, most of these changes aren’t that surprising and while the (subscription only) article on the Information goes in a bit deeper than the stuff we highlighted above, we’ve heard most of it before. So are these changes Google’s way of strong-arming Android like some claim? Perhaps there’s a tiny bit of validity to that claim (though it’s a very arguable topic) but is providing a uniform experience through Google services really a bad thing? Ultimately, OEMs still have a lot of control when compared to other platforms like Windows Phone and iOS such as adding custom skins, extra apps, bringing in their own marketplace alternatives and so much more.

What do you think, any of these changes surprise you? Are you glad to see Google doing more to provide a uniform experience across all skins/ROMs, or do you feel this is just the beginning of gradual move to a more ‘locked-down’ Android/Google experience?