Google will test alternatives to its Play Store billing system, starting with Spotify

The pilot could impact the entire industry, including Apple.

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

As part of a program that could have far-reaching consequences for the tech industry, Google is launching a pilot to test third-party billing systems in Android and across its wider ecosystem. The company announced on Wednesday it plans to conduct the pilot with a handful of participating developers, starting most notably with Spotify.

Beginning later this year, Spotify users who have downloaded the company’s app through the Play Store will have the option to pay for a Premium subscription through either one of Google or Spotify’s billing systems. “For the first time, these two options will live side by side in the app,” the company said. “This will give everyone the freedom to subscribe and make purchases using the payment option of their choice directly in the Spotify app.”

Spotify said it would begin collaborating with Google on that functionality within the coming months, with the work involving product and engineering teams across both companies. “This pilot will help us to increase our understanding of whether and how user choice billing works for users in different countries and for developers of different sizes and categories,” said Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of product management.

For Spotify, today’s announcement is nothing short of a breakthrough victory. The company has spent years campaigning against app store monopolies, its efforts culminating in 2020 when it formed, alongside Epic Games, The Coalition for App Fairness to pressure Apple and Google to change their policies.

For Google, meanwhile, the pilot is very much a defensive move on the company’s part. Like Apple, the company has spent significant time and resources lobbying against legislation like the Open App Markets Act, which was recently advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Should the bill become law as it stands, it would prevent app marketplace owners with more than 50 million users in the US from locking third-party developers into their payment systems.