Facebook Considered Push into Open-Source Android Phones

As Facebook has prepared for the possibility of being removed from Google Play app store on Android phones, it also has contemplated an intriguing push to integrate itself with Android phones that aren’t controlled by Google, a small but significant percentage of the total Android ecosystem.

Toward the end of 2015, Facebook was looking at whether it might offer certain services to app developers, like helping them send app-related notifications to people’s phones or handling in-app payments and related fraud-prevention issues for them, according to two people briefed on the discussions. These tools would only be offered on so-called open-source Android phones that don’t come preloaded with Google Mobile Services.

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Open-source Android phones accounted for about 15% of all Android devices shipped during the second half of last year, according to ABI Research. These phones mostly go to customers in China, where Google Web services are largely blocked, or among smaller phone makers that don’t have an official Android distribution deal with Google, like Highscreen in Russia. Most of those manufacturers do business in developing countries like the Philippines. Plenty of people who own open-source Android phones use Facebook. On such phones, Facebook already pushes app software updates directly to the phone and pushes notifications from its apps to the devices using its own back-end systems.

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As an enticement, Facebook could offer the phone makers or carriers a significant cut of in-app purchases from apps like games.