back to article Google rolls out Android Easter Egg for Europe – a Microsoft antitrust-style browser, search engine choice box

Android users across Europe are due a software update from Google today that will ask them to make a choice for the future of their smartphones and gadgets – which browser and search engine do you want to use? Once the update has been installed, the next visit to the Google Play Store will throw up two panels, asking users to …

  1. Paratrooping Parrot
    Paris Hilton

    What if Brexit already happened?

    Would we have the web browser choice screen? Is this dependent upon the manufacturer updating Android? Or is this the Play Store update?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What if Brexit already happened?

      We would be using proper mobile phones designed and built by the GPO as Corbyn intended.

      (did I manage to offend all sides?)

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: What if Brexit already happened?

        Dunno, but you've helped derail the comments from any criticism of Google which was presumably the op's intention....

        Can't have it looking like people on the internet don't like Google!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What if Brexit already happened?

        Offended anybody?

        Maybe in a different time it would be considered offensive or satire - now it just seems like one of the more logical political choices. Certainly not the worst outcome possible, I mean Mrs May resorting to nuclear war to "up the ante" and get her withdrawal agreement through probably holds that position at the moment.

        Who's to say what tomorrow will bring...

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: What if Brexit already happened?

        Oh I wish we still had the GPO - in 1990 BT had the opportunity to make a 2.4gb chip that would have taken in 2.4Gbit fibre, and send it on for 10km at an error rate of 1 in 10**14. It would have cost less than a £5. They could make 10km of fibre for less than £10 too. I wonder how much they are paying for that sort of shit now?

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: Oh I wish we still had the GPO

          If so I think we'd still be using acoustic couplers for the internet. Alternatively you would be able to rent a modem router, but this would involve an engineer visit to wire it into the premises distribution point.

          It was, I think, BT - post-privatisation - who allowed the great British public the ability to have sockets to which one could plug in devices such as modem routers.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What if Brexit already happened?

          "Oh I wish we still had the GPO - in 1990 BT had the opportunity to make a 2.4gb chip that would have taken in 2.4Gbit fibre, and send it on for 10km at an error rate of 1 in 10**14. It would have cost less than a £5. They could make 10km of fibre for less than £10 too. I wonder how much they are paying for that sort of shit now?"

          From memory, the limits around fibre in the early 90's were primarily the equipment to handle it, not the fibre interfaces themselves. While multiplexers could feed cables at these speeds, more intelligent equipment couldn't keep up - the rest of the market wasn't driven by fibre interface speeds, so it is unlikely that this would have provided any real benefit beyond it's use in large scale muxes, particularly given the eventual impact of Gigabit Ethernet as a driver for fibre interfaces by he late 90's. 1Gbps PHYs were available from a manufacturer at around the price you state by the early 2000's.

          In terms of cost, fibre cable itself is not that expensive (<£1/m for 24 core wholesale), it's the digging, repeaters and splicing where the real costs are, (particularly in the early 90's when splicing glass was almost an art form). It's more expensive than a single copper pair, but that's not the argument here.

          Reviewing some of the material online, this was likely driven by BT's privatisation in 1984 as it was collaborating with US telco's for transatlantic links. It's difficult to say if the GPO would have proceeded with those commercial opportunities at the same rate.

          TL;DR: even if these parts were developed by the GPO rather than a privatised BT, I think it is unlikely that they would have altered speeds or costs of equipment we now see as the costs are largely volume dependent (individual interfaces) or independent of the parts mentioned (fibre circuits).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What if Brexit already happened?

          Hey, their R&D told me that tale too.

          But I already knew enough about semiconductors to wonder what exactly they had been drinking.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: What if Brexit already happened?

        "Proper" mobile phones? You mean the ones you could carry from the table to er, somewhere not too far away due to the short cable to the junction box?

        Corbyn would certainly remember, and appreciate those!

  2. ThatOne Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Choice screen?

    What is that supposed to change if you already use Firefox, have made it default and it already uses some other search engine(s)?

    Will this screen forcefully uninstall your copy of Firefox to install a new one?

    I'm sure they wouldn't want to make that too efficient or user friendly, if only to stir a wave of protests against the "Choice" ("Bad European Commission, bad, you wrecked my phone/tablet!").

  3. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    It's going to be interesting to see how many people change search engines. I'm thinking the vast majority would want to stay with the Google they know, but just a small percentage of people making a mistake is going to double the number of users of some other search engines. Maybe this should be a regular exercise?

    We should probably all get ready for relatives asking us to "fix their phones" after they took a random option.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      Actually I had switched away from Chrome / Google, but I ran out of space at some point, and you can't uninstall Google or Chrome, so the alt had to go... and np*, I'm not terribly happy with that. But I don't do much browsing on my phone anyway.

  4. NATTtrash
    Trollface

    Free up that space!

    But the more important question of course is: can we now deinstall all these Google apps (without rooting) that are not used and occupy space needlessly? People (like ratfox says) might want to know...

    1. Spacedinvader
      Meh

      Re: Free up that space!

      Would like to deinstall all the shite that comes preinstalled...

      1. NateGee

        Re: Free up that space!

        Too bad that the manufacturers own bloatware wouldn't be included in this option, only Google's.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Free up that space!

      Got a new phone the other day, just so much unnecessary crap that I replace the first chance I get. A gig and a half of useless crap (Although half that is the massive blob of "Google Play Services").

      Chrome 135

      Docs 105

      Drive 23

      gBoard 53

      gMail 33

      Google 64

      Google Play Movies 21

      Google Play Music 37

      Maps 88

      Photos 45

      Youtube 49

      Google Play 56

      Google Play Services 763

      Google Play Store 50

      ON a side note, still trying to figure out how the built-in clock app can soak up 12.5 MB...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free up that space!

      Not that it affects me, but i'd be interested in knowing if this 'choice' actually removes any googlyness from android devices?

      Presumably it just means that your search & browsing history is now sent to two masters rather than just the incumbent Google? If it doesn't, what's the point?

      As with the Microsoft case, most people will stay with what is familiar to them, the ones that know there is a choice will have already made it.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Free up that space!

        As with the Microsoft case, most people will stay with what is familiar to them, the ones that know there is a choice will have already made it.

        Exactly, that is why IE still has 95% of desktop browser marketshare ...

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Free up that space!

      My phone spends ages updating loads of apps I never use. I've tried uninstalling them but they just get reinstalled at the next update. Google maps seems to deliberately lose all its settings so I get told my commute will take 20 minutes despite the fact I dont commute and the GPS is turned off so how the fuck it thinks it will take me 20 minutes to get from somewhere it doesnt know to somewhere else it doesnt know is beyond fucking annoying and I'm trying to use my Jetson Nano and Coral to work out how to destroy Google in the most painful way possible,!

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Free up that space!

        Google doesn't need you to have GPS turned on to know your location. The cellular radio will calculate a rough location so the towers know when they need to hand-over to a neighboring cell, it is possible for the OS to pull that information from the radio processor.

        There is also the map of Wireless Access Points they made when doing the Streetview project. The phone listens for broadcasts from nearby access points, then searches for the MAC address in Google's database to map it against a physical area.

  5. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    But nice to see Qwant a choice at least.....

    1. devTrail

      Qwant does nothing else than return Bing results.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Qwant does nothing then.

        1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

          It does prevent Microsoft from building an advertising profile on users (Although that does allow Qwant to do it themselves). Not a big win, but prevents MSFT from correlating it with all the telemetry bullshit they get from Windows and Office. Your information is still tracked, but at least its two organizations with only parts of it instead one big one with the whole thing.

  6. devTrail

    Hidden oligopoly

    In the picture I can see the list of the proposed search engines. Qwant, Ecosia and DuckDuck Go just return the results of Bing API. Seznam is a local limited search engine that will be chosen by a small group. So the change is not going to bring in a lot more choice, I don't expect much more on the second page and in any case it is irrelevant a lot of marketing analyses showed that most people tend to choose the among the first options. This will be still a sector dominated by few big corporations.

    1. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Hidden oligopoly

      Decide which browser and search engine you want.

      Look in the app store to see if you can download it from there, if not then go to their website to see if it's available for your phone.

      What's so hard about that? We don't seem to have a problem switching from the defaults on Windows.

      It does feel that the assumption is that we must protect lazy people from themselves by forcing them to make a decision or two.

      I'd be interested in knowing what the effect of the similar topic with Windows and Internet Explorer had on the choices made.

      1. devTrail

        Re: Hidden oligopoly

        Decide which browser and search engine you want.

        I'm not talking about me, I'm talking bout what is happening on wide scale.

        It does feel that the assumption is that we must protect lazy people from themselves by forcing them to make a decision or two.

        Trouble is that those you call lazy people make up more than 90% of the population and their choices force companies to pay protection money under the form or useless ads to the big engines not to loose visibility in the sear

  7. naive

    I will never understand the point of this...

    “The Google choice screen for Android does nothing to correct the central problem that Google apps will remain the default on all Android devices. With Android holding 85 per cent of the global smartphone market, it is time for robust enforcement of the non-discrimination principle enshrined in the European Commission’s July 2018 decision condemning Google for abuse of dominance with regard to Android."

    What do they want. Google is for free. I remember the time in the early 2000's, when all these enlighted souls started building .NET websites, causing people browsing with anything else but Internet-Exploder getting a message to bugger off, and use MS Internet-Exploder

    That was abuse. Asking people over $ 100,- for a buggy OS, and force the world into using one browser.

    At that time, the EU commission was nowhere to be seen. For John Doe, there was hardly a choice. Now people can buy anything from a $ 200,- Android up to a $ 1200 Iphone X.

  8. aks Bronze badge

    If you don't want your OS from Google, Apple or Microsoft why not install LineageOS.

    That's on the assumption that you own the phone rather than renting it.

    https://lineageos.org/

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Because to use most popular apps you still need to install Google services, Google Maps, Play store etc - so sending just as much business their way.

      Of course my granny could compile all the apps from source and load them with adb - but she doesn't trust any computer that she can't enter the bootloader with front panel toggle switches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is no need to use any Google services or apps, I'm running LineageOS with Outlook, Here Maps, Viber, OpenCamera, Adguard, Firefox, VLC & 2FAS Auth. None of which was downloaded from Google play. There are sites that host mirrors of the APK's, some also have their own update checking mechanism. I agree about the issue of getting LineageOS loaded in the first place, once it's there however, updates are easily managed & installed. The list of compatible devices isn't huge but it does include a lot of 'mass market' Sony, Samsung, Google & Huawei devices.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      I'm a big fan of LineageOS, but it cannot be recommended to very many people because it's not supported on many devices. Yes, it's more than most other alternative mobile OS images, but it's not that long a list. Frequently, the people who ask me for ideas already have hardware they want to use, and it's rarely already on the list.

      Even if it is already supported, the process is not easy enough for a nontechnical user. If a nontechnical user wants to try desktop Linux, they can get a disk from someone and boot it (usually happens automatically if it's an optical disk). From there, they just follow the instructions like they would on any other computer. To install Lineage, they will need to know how to root a phone, what a bootloader is, how to install and use ADB on the command line, and possibly other issues depending on the specific device. That is enough complexity to put a large part of the public off. I'm willing to install it for some, but I can't do so for everyone.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Lineage looks and works like Android, so it is just Android with more privacy. So lineage doesn’t provide an escape from the shitness of Android.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Having migrated from Windows Mobile to LineageOS - the least worst option of LineageOS, full Google Android or iOS, I agree, Android has an inherent Shitness that's hard to comprehend until you're actually using it - notifications being the first thing that comes to mind...

    4. tallenglish

      Great idea but....

      It roots your phone from what I have seen, so quite a few important apps will refuse to work.

      Like banking and Sky TV.

      So this is a none starter for most, which is a shame as it actually looks well put together OS.

  9. wayne 8 Bronze badge

    Your approved option is DuckDuckGo to Microsoft

    DDG is a front end to Microsoft's Bing. Pick your monopolistic corporation.

    Like elections where there is a choice between two corporate owned. wealthy elite backed parties.

    Illusion of choice in a corporate owned world.

    Bing's results are more manipulated than Google's.

    Qwant is interesting, but has limited resources and hampers search when the number of search requests exceeds some secret number that is unreasonably low.

  10. Snake

    Fines

    I would have preferred $5bn per year of any delay in rolling out a solution, but it seems (most) governments are afraid to [too hardily] spank the hands that feed them (looking at you, Washington).

  11. steviebuk Silver badge

    And why...

    ...has the EU and America still need thrown one of these cases at Apple? Especially with iTunes.

    1. gigabitethernet

      Re: And why...

      Yeah how can Apple walk away with limitations such as no sideloading, an inability to change the default browser,mail and mapping apps and mandatory WebKit instead of blink or gecko.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: And why...

        I'm not supporting Apple's decision to do this, but it is not the same as what Google is doing and is not as clear-cut a competition issue. Consider this:

        Apple doesn't let anyone else build things running IOS. Google does let other people make android devices. Google does not allow the manufacturers to change defaults if they are running the Google build of Android (they can change the UI, but could not make another search engine the default or decide not to include Google's apps). Manufacturers also can't make some devices with AOSP or other non-Google Android builds if they also want to have some devices with Google apps. So Apple restricts only the customers of their own products, whereas Google restricts the many phone manufacturers that have at least some Android products. If Apple had a massive market share, this would be a factor, but they do not have enough to be considered a risk to customers or competitors, while Android does. That's the major difference between the cases as the law is concerned.

        You may say that Apple is still worse, as the consumer has less choice. However, that is a bit simplistic. Apple doesn't let the people who buy those devices make some decisions, while Google tries to eliminate the choice for all users of Android regardless of manufacturer. For example, the reason we can't get Lineage OS shipped on a device is because Google has prevented it. Decide on your own whether this difference is relevant to you, but at least you know why Google is being targeted and Apple is not, for now.

    2. skrampen

      Re: And why...

      Why would you need iTunes?

      I use it sometimes to copy the Music over - done....

  12. Pseu Donyme

    Google (Alphabet) should really be sliced and diced into smaller independent companies exposed to competition*, or, failing that, regulated as monopolies**. A key thing here is removing the cross-subsides between the component parts of Google so that competition could emerge***. Regulating monopolies is necessary as such; in this case the regulators should be especially careful to prevent a monopoly from being used for an advantage in another market / business area****.

    * I suppose this might work for things like search or email, at least if the users paid for the service as this would create a straightforward market; micropayments could work for search, subscription works for email

    ** Android as an OS, and its app store certainly fall in the latter category as natural monopolies (both created and maintained by the network effect)

    *** further action might be required for competition to actually emerge though, such as further splitting a subsidiary split from Google into two or more separate companies competing with each other

    **** e.g. using monopoly profits to price out competition in another market or using an OS monopoly to push other products and services of the OS vendor

  13. tallenglish

    Microsoft must be cringing as well

    Lets not forget Windows 10 has Edge baked in as well as Cortana using only Bing.

    So EU fine didnt do squat, the only option needs to be both Chrome and Edge and all baked in apps should be user deletable. Samsung is the worst baking in Facebook and LinkedIn spyware as well.

    System apps should only be Android system, no excuse to have any browser installed at factory when we have WebView (which also needs options for addons as its also a massive threat due to it being used by all android apps - so no chance to block spyware, mallware or adware crap).

    Seriously Google techs are either morons, or actively benefiting from peoples devices getting pwned.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...Look no choice screen

    And after a few months f being implemented there will be an Android update and the browser choice screen will disappear. That's what's Microsoft did with Windows service pack 1. The eu did nothing about that.

  15. Chris G Silver badge

    Call me cynical

    The offering looks to me, to be the result of a lot of cross platform discussion in order to arrive at a deal that looks like choices being offered when in fact nothing real has changed.

    When an update will allow me to completely remove Chrome, Google assistant and half a dozen or more junk apps that are embedded into the OS for no good user reason, then I will think Google are addressing the problems.

    Microshaft are due for another raking over too, now that win7 is about to lose support with the win8 incarnations close behind, eternally buggy and continuously updating 10 with its intrusive telemetry will dominate. I bet once the majority are on board, options will become narrower and narrower with only Apple as an alternative for most business use MS will step up abuse.

  16. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Puffin Web Browser

    If you install that, will you get a big bill?

  17. Steve Graham

    I wondered what all that was about.

    On my non-rooted phone (Nokia: I still like getting OS updates) you can't uninstall Google Search, but you can "disable" it. I have Chrome installed as a backup in case something doesn't work, but haven't needed it so far.

    So the choice screen was asking me to install an alternative to Google Search which is disabled; and a different browser, which I've already got. (And which I use with my choice of search engine when required.)

  18. irg

    Play OEM monopoly

    Eh, personally I'd like to see OEMs not be mandated to ship Google play w/ Android on pain of death. Then we could see Lineage, Samsung and vanilla android devices shipped w/o a trace of Google in Europe, and Amazon wouldn't have to use minor device manufacturer partners.

    It's truly anti competitive, even if it doesn't change the overall market outcome.

  19. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Startpage

    Startpage and sometimes Disconnect - those are the ones that I use. Yes, ultimately they both query Google, but as a proxy, so none of your actual user details are transmitted.

  20. RyokuMas Silver badge
    FAIL

    Devil's in the detail...

    So, going by the wording on that image, an Android user "... can choose additional search services/web browsers..."

    Key word - "Additional"

    What's the betting that the first thought going through the head of the average Joe is "why would I need an additional search service/browser..."?

    Once again, Google paying lip service in a blatant attempt to avoid a fine while keeping as close to their original product tying tactics as possible.

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