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Google Play Store Changes Could Make Your App Subscriptions Cheaper

Google is letting Spotify and Bumble bill customers for subscriptions from within the app and pay lower developer fees to boot.

Google Play Store logo on a tablet screen
Sarah Tew/CNET

Google is now allowing developers to bill subscribers from within their Android apps, starting with Spotify and Bumble. In return, Google is taking less of a cut in developer fees, which could lead to cost savings for users.

Google explained that the new option, called User Choice Billing, or UCB, would allow apps downloaded from the Play Store to let users subscribe and get billed for services within the app. Though developers must still pay service fees to Google -- 15% of revenue made in the Play Store for the first $1 million in annual earnings and 30% for everything after -- those fees are lowered by 4% for user transactions made within an app through UCB, according to support documents.

It's up to companies whether they'll pass those savings on to users. In Spotify's blog post explaining the new option to subscribe within its Android app, the company didn't mention whether its in-app subscription tiers would be cheaper. To be fair, Spotify didn't increase its prices to accommodate the cut Google takes from purchases made on Android. Spotify didn't respond to a request for comment by time of publication. Bumble did not have a public announcement about implementing UCB, and did not respond to request for comment.

Even allowing developers to bill subscribers from within apps, rather than route them through the Play Store and allow Google to take a full cut, is a concession. Both Google and Apple have faced criticism for years over how much they tithed for allowing apps into their stores, and both have squared off with developer Epic Games in court over allowing third-party payment platforms.

Regardless, Google and Spotify are positioning User Choice Billing as a convenience for users. The Android team started inviting developers of nongaming apps to participate in a pilot program for UCB, letting users in the US, India, Australia, Brazil, South African, Indonesia, Japan and Europe try out the option.