Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Spotify is starting to test its own payments on Android — and Bumble will soon be doing the same

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Earlier this year, Google announced a pilot that would see Spotify (and possibly other apps) bypass standard Google Play billing on Android in favor of their own payment systems. Crucially, Google still gets some of those payments under this new User Choice Billing initiative, but in Spotify’s words, it still represents progress toward greater “platform fairness and expanded payment options.” And now the streaming music service has started actually testing User Choice Billing in select markets.

“Going forward, Android users will soon be able to choose how they want to pay for their Spotify subscription in the way that works best for them,” says Spotify. wrote in an editorial post. “Google has taken a bold step to level the playing field, but this is just the beginning.” The GIF below shows an example of the payment flow for billing by user choice.

A GIF demonstrating the User Choice Billing workflow for Spotify's Android app.

User Choice Billing allows Spotify customers to pay the company directly for their subscriptions.
GIF: Spotify

Google also has more details shared on the User Choice Billing pilot. Running in more than 35 countries (now including the United States), dating app Bumble has joined as the second major app to participate. “We are working with their teams and we expect their users to see this choice in the app in select countries in the coming months,” wrote Google product manager Paul Feng.

But as we know, Google still gets some of these payments even if Spotify processes them. According to Google FAQ about the pilot“When a consumer chooses to use an alternate billing system, the service fee paid by the developer is reduced by 4%.” Spotify will continue to include the Google Play billing option. Games are currently not eligible for the program at all.

The customer tests follow extensive criticism (including from Spotify itself) of Apple and Google for their billing systems and what some consider unfairly high commission rates. Regulations have forced the two leaders of mobile platforms to relax their payment structure in some countries, and dating apps have occasionally received special treatment. But Google probably hopes that user-choice billing will be enough to more broadly allay those concerns over time and alleviate some of the heat and scrutiny.

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