If you've used an Android phone at any point in the past seven years, Google could soon be offering you a court-mandated payment as the result of an anti-trust lawsuit.
This "gift" is all because of the case Utah et al v. Google, launched in 2021, between Google and 36 U.S. states (plus Washington DC) over how Google operates the Play Store, the primary gateway to apps on Android phones. Google was accused of making it hard for developers to sell their apps elsewhere, and taking an overly large cut of payments for itself in the process, something which the court has decided is indeed anti-competitive.
As part of the newly publicized settlement, as explained in a Google-issued statement, the company will be setting up a $630 million settlement fund to be "distributed for the benefit of consumers according to a Court-approved plan," plus another $70 million which is being handed over to the plaintiff states for their own payouts.
On top of this, Google has promised to make "sideloading" — downloading and installing apps manually from outside the Play Store — easier, as well as revamping its warning screens to better inform users about the risks of doing this. It also emphasized how Android 14 has made using third-party app stores work better (referring mainly to manufacturer-specific stores like the Galaxy Store on Samsung phones), and promised an expansion of User Choice Billing to let users pay for apps using alternate methods to Google's own payment systems.
Who's eligible for the Google Play payout?
In order to get a share of the $630 million payout, you need an address in one of the U.S. states, or Washington D.C., Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, and to have used that address when making purchases through the Google payment system.
You also need to have bought something via Google Play Billing, such as buying an app, making an in-app purchase or subscribing to a service, between August 16, 2016 and September 30, 2023. Unless you stick exclusively to free apps, there's a high chance you're entitled to at least a little money if you used an Android phone during this time. This could be as many as 102 million users, according to the Washington Post.
Unfortunately, we don't know how these payouts will be delivered, or indeed when they or the Play Store updates will appear. We're going to have to wait to see if September's initial settlement (via Reuters) becomes official and Google's promises are judged to be appropriate remedies. But it seems that at least the plaintiffs, writing in a court filing, expect up to 70% of the payments to happen automatically, which would make things super easy for the majority of users.
Note that while Google's lawsuit with Epic Games bears some similarities, it's not actually linked to this judgment. The court has currently sided with Epic, but Google intends to appeal, so expect more legal news about Google and its alleged monopolizing soon.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.