You know how Apple forces all in-app payments to go through its billing system? Yeah, Google will implement a similar policy on March 31st. But oddly enough, Google just made a last-minute pivot. It’s now exploring a “user choice” billing option that will genuinely improve the payment experience in all Android apps.
The idea behind user choice billing is pretty simple. Participating apps no longer have to force users into a browser window for external payment options. Instead, they can include their own payment system directly in their apps—so long as “Pay with Google” is also an option.
Google is still exploring user choice billing, so the rules aren’t set in stone. Also, the company has only confirmed that it’s testing this system with Spotify. Other developers are still forced to adopt “Pay with Google” and ditch their browser-based payment systems on March 31st, which is unfortunate. (There’s a bit of leniency here, as developers can file an appeal with Google to extend the March 31st deadline.)
The good news is that user choice billing will improve your experience as a customer. Once it rolls out, you can open an app like Spotify and pay for a subscription using whatever billing system you choose. If you don’t feel like typing in your credit card info, there’s Google’s payment system. And if you want to give Google the finger, you can pay Spotify directly.
That said, we’re not entirely sure what the future holds. Google takes a cut of all payments made through its billing system, so many developers have responded by jacking up in-app prices. I imagine that Google will make fair pricing a requirement for user choice billing, but if customers choose to go through Google’s payment system, developers will still lose out on profits.