Google is expanding its pilot User Choice Billing (UCB) program with Spotify among the first participants. It now officially allows customers of the music platform to set up service payments outside of the Google Play Store.
Back in March, Google partnered with Spotify to launch the program by giving users the ability to use different payment options. UCB was initially available to users in Japan, Australia and several European countries. It is now coming to the United States, Brazil and South Africa after Google acquired one “positive response and [feedback]» from the first round (opens in new tab). In the coming weeks, Spotify will make the third-party payment option available to Android users only, so they can choose how they want to pay for a Premium subscription.
Open and fair platform
After it’s released, people who want to subscribe to Spotify Premium will see it another option to use the service of the platform itself (opens in new tab). The main difference so far is that you can’t track your subscription with Spotify’s billing service, whereas you can with Google. Other than that, it’s business as usual: enter your credit card details to pay and you’re done.
Currently, Google allows other non-gaming apps on the Play Store enroll in the UCB pilot program (opens in new tab). Developers must follow some UX guidelines (opens in new tab) created by Google that details how to implement the feature. Looking at the guidelines, developers must include an information and billing opt-in page every time a user tries to purchase a service. The displayed value must also be in advance and in the center.
The full list of UCB participants is unknown, but we do know that dating app Bumble will soon join the program “in select countries [within] the next months”.
Spotify says it is defending UCB because it sees the program as “Google [allowing] more choice and competition’ in the Play Store. The company wants more fairness on the platform for apps to thrive and “offer users [the free service] the ability to register and make purchases directly [on the] application.”
We asked Google what it hopes to achieve with UCB specifically for users, as well as why game apps are currently excluded from the program. This story will be updated if we have news.
The future of app stores
As for Apple and its popular App Store, we highly doubt users will see anything remotely resembling UCB. Apple has made it clear that it doesn’t like third-party payment options in the App Store. Recently forced Telegram to hit iOS users creating paid posts because the tech giant wasn’t getting a cut. And then there is Apple’s legal battle in 2021 with Epic Games after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store due to similar actions.
Change, however, may be inevitable. The Open Markets Act is a proposed antitrust bill that aims to prevent both Google and Apple “from engaging in conduct harmful to their competitors.” Google seems more than willing to play better, but it remains to be seen if and when Apple decides to do the same.