Google Mobile Services is a group of proprietary software such as apps, services, APIs, etc. that are owned by Google. They usually come as part of the Android package for many phones.
Google Mobile Services (GMS) are owned and licensed exclusively by Google to phone manufacturers (OEMs). A lot of people are so used to seeing Google on Android that it is easy to assume that it is part of Android. It is not.
Pure Android is known as AOSP. This is the raw version of Android that OEMs download, modify, polish, and install on phones that they sell. This is why other Android-based OS like Fire OS or Harmony OS have no access to GMS.
Recommended: what is AOSP?
What can we find in Google Mobile Services (GMS)?
Google started as a web search engine but over time has aggressively grown into a tech giant. Google is no longer just a web search engine or just a software company for that matter. They have grown beyond that.
The apps and services provided by Google include:
- Workspace: Drive, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Duo, etc.
- Apps: Chrome, YouTube, Maps, Photos, Lens, Contacts, Play Games etc.
- Services: YouTube Music, Google Search, Play Store, Google Assistant etc.
Recommended: Software licenses explained
How to obtain GMS?
Since GMS is closed-sourced and exclusively belongs to Google (proprietary), one would need a license to use it. A license is simply permission to use a piece of software. In this case, Google has to issue the license.
Google has very strict requirements that manufacturers must meet to be able to use GMS on those phones. If these companies meet these requirements, Google issues them a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement (MADA) license. The MADA license is also known as the GMS license because having it allows one to use GMS.
Having access to GMS is a deal breaker for many smartphone users as Huawei recently discovered. Many people are tied into Google’s ecosystem of apps and services, and as such will not use a phone that has no access to GMS.
GMS on Android is number one in the world in areas that they are good. A good example is having access to PlayStore which contains millions of apps. If that is missing from a phone, most people won’t touch it.
Restrictions and monopolies
Accusations of restrictions and monopolies have dogged Google through the years. To use GMS, one of the requirements states that the company does not use mobile services from Google’s competitors such as Microsoft or Huawei.
Some of Google’s competitors have stated that Google actively pushes OEMs to block rival apps (or blocks them) from being installed on Android phones. Google also actively promotes its app at the expense of others. These and more are why Google has been sued in several countries for breaking anti-trust regulations etc.
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