As US regulators gear up to launch another antitrust probe of Google’s business, an alternative Android app store is dialing up its longtime complaint of anti-competitive behavior against the search and smartphone OS giant.
Topmag.Pw, has recently reported that Aptoide is in talks to supply its alternative app store for Huawei devices.
In light of the US/China trade uncertainties, and the executive order barring US companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant, which have led to reports that Google intends to withdraw key Android services like Play from the company.
But Trezentos pours cold water on these rumors, suggesting there has been no change of cadence in its discussions with Huawei.
“We work with three of top six mobile OEMs in the world. Huawei is not one of them yet,” he tells us. “Our Shengzhen office had been in conversations for some months and they are testing our APIs. This process has not been accelerated or delayed by the recent news.”
Portugal-based Aptoide is launching a campaign website to press its case and call for Google to “Play Fair” — accusing Mountain View of squeezing consumer choice by “preventing users from freely choosing their preferred app store”.
Aptoide filed its first EU antitrust complaint against Google all the way back in 2014, joining a bunch of other complainants crying foul over how Google was operating Android.
And while the European Commission did eventually step in, slapping Google with a $5BN penalty for antitrust abuses last summer after a multi-year investigation, rivals continue to complain the Android maker still isn’t playing fair.
In the case of Aptoide, the alternative Android app store says Google has damaged its ability to compete by unjustifiably flagging its app as insecure.
“Since Summer 2018, Google Play Protect flags Aptoide as a harmful app, hiding it in users’ Android devices and requesting them to uninstall it. This results in a potential decrease of unique Aptoide users of 20%.
Google Play Protect is Google’s built-in malware protection for Android, but we believe the way it works damages users’ rights,” it writes on the site, where it highlights what it claims are Google’s anti-competitive behaviors, and asks users to report experiences of the app being flagged.
Google hide aptoide App
Aptoide says Google has engaged in multiple behaviors that make it harder for it to gain or keep users — thereby undermining its ability to compete with Google’s own Play Store.
“In 2018, we had 222 million yearly active users. Last month (May’19), we had 56 million unique MAU,” co-founder and CEO Paulo Trezentos tells TechCrunch. “We estimate that the Google Play removal and flagging had cause the loss of 15% to 20% of our user base since June’18.”
(The estimate of how many users Aptoide has lost was performed using Google SafetyNet API which he says allows it to query the classification of an app.)
“Fortunately we have been able to compensate that with new users and new partnerships but it is a barrier to a faster growth,” he adds.
“The googleplayfair.com site hopes to bring visibility to this situation and help other start ups that may be under the same circumstances.”Google hide aptoide App Among the anti-competitive behaviors Aptoide accuses Google of engaging in are flagging and suspending its app from users’ phones — without their permission and “without a valid reason”.
“It hides Aptoide. User cannot see Aptoide icon and cannot launch. Even if they go to ‘settings’ and say they trust Aptoide, Aptoide installations are blocked,” he says. “If it looks violent, it’s because it’s a really aggressive move and impactful.”
Here’s the notification Aptoide users are shown when trying to override Google’s suspension of Aptoide at the package manager level:
Even if an Aptoide user overrides the warning — by clicking ‘keep app (unsafe)’ — Trezentos says the app still won’t work because Google blocks Aptoide from installing apps.
“The user has to go to Play Protect settings (discover it it’s not easy) and turn off Play protect for all apps.”
He argues there is no justification for Aptoide’s alternative app store being treated in this way.
“Aptoide is considered safe both by security researchers [citing a paper by Japanese security researchers] and by Virus Total (a company owned by Google),” says Trezentos, adding: “Google is removing Aptoide from users phone only due to anticompetitive practices. Doesn’t want anyone else as distribution channel in Android.”
On the website Aptoide has launched to raise awareness and inform users and other startups about how Google treats its app, it makes the claim that its store is “proven… 100% secure”.