Google is expanding its User Choice Billing (UCB) pilot program with Spotify as one of the first participants. It now officially allows music platform customers to set up service payments outside of Google’s Play Store.
Back in March, Google teamed up with Spotify to launch the program by giving people the ability to use different payment options. UCB was first available to users in Japan, Australia and several European countries. Now it’s coming to the United States, Brazil, and South Africa after Google released a “positive response and [feedback]from the first round (opens in new tab). In the coming weeks, Spotify will roll out the third-party payment option only to Android users, so they can choose how they want to pay for a Premium subscription.
Open and fair platform
After it rolls out, people who want to subscribe to Spotify Premium will see another option to use the platform’s own service instead (opens in new tab). The main difference so far is that you can’t track your subscription on Spotify’s billing service, while you can with Google. Other than that, it’s business as usual: you fill in your credit card details to pay and you’re done.
Google currently allows other non-gaming apps on the Play Store to enroll in the UCB pilot program (opens in new tab). Developers must follow certain UX guidelines (opens in new tab) created by Google describing how to implement the feature. Looking at the guidelines, developers should include an information and billing choice page when a user tries to purchase a service. The price displayed should also be upfront and central.
The full list of UCB participants is unknown, but we do know that the dating app Bumble will join the program soon “in selected countries [within] the upcoming months.”
Spotify says it’s defending UCB because it sees the program as “Google” [allowing] more choice and competition” in the Play Store. The company wants more platform equality for apps to thrive and “give users of” [the free service] the ability to subscribe and make direct purchases [on the] app.”
We asked Google what it hopes to achieve with UCB specifically for users, and why gaming apps are currently excluded from the program. This story will be updated if we hear anything.
The future of app stores
As for Apple and its popular App Store, we highly doubt that users will see anything remotely similar to UCB. Apple has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t like third-party payment options in the App Store. It recently forced Telegram is going to hit iOS users hard making paid posts because the tech giant didn’t get a share. And then there is Apple’s 2021 lawsuit with Epic Games after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store due to similar actions.
However, change may be inevitable. The Open Markets Act is a proposed antitrust law that should stop both Google and Apple “engaged in harmful conduct toward their competitors”. Google seems more than willing to play nicer, but it remains to be seen if and when Apple will decide to do the same.