Facebook is looking into launching its own Android app store to compete with Google Play, according to a report by The Information. The social networking giant has no plans to split with Google, but is considering to launch a separate app store for Android devices that don’t currently have Google Play installed, according to the report. Facebook declined to comment on the matter.
Google currently controls the vast majority of the Android market, but there are some notable exceptions: Chinese handset manufacturers have long relied on their own or third-party app stores because Google is not doing business in mainland China.
There are also third-party Android distributions in other parts of Asia, Russia and other developing countries that don’t use Google’s official app store. Facebook could offer these companies an alternative to Google Play, giving their platforms more credibility as well as a revenue cut for any paid apps.
Technically, this wouldn’t even be the first app store run by Facebook. The company already operates the Oculus app store on select Samsung phones in conjunction with its Gear VR headset. Consumers are able to download free and paid apps and games through that store to use with the Gear VR — something that is likely watched carefully by Google.
Google doesn’t allow companies to distribute anything that resembles an app store through Google Play. This means that Android apps distributed via Google’s app store can’t trigger the download of other apps independently of Google Play. Facebook and Oculus are sidestepping this issue through their cooperation with Samsung, but that still may not be enough to pacify Google.
The company has fought in the past with Samsung about control over Android, forcing the handset maker to abandon plans to customize the Android experience and downplay Google’s involvement. In this light, Facebook’s plans for a separate app store could just be a card to play in negotiations with Google.