Google Inc. is reportedly planning a China re-entry for its Google Play Store, with unnamed sources claiming the service could be up and running by fall on the mainland.
The U.S. tech giant has apparently been working on a China-friendly version of the Play Store for over a year, compiling a selection of apps and features that are approved by the Chinese government.
Google has been at odds with the Chinese government since 2010, when the company was barred form the country over email security issues and the censorship of search results. In the past five years the China tech market, including its majority Android smartphone sector, has seen booming growth, making it harder to ignore for U.S. tech giants.
The play store will reportedly make its debut as a pre-installed option on Google-licensed Android smartphones in the Chinese market, though it is not yet clear which phones. Currently a number of the country’s biggest smartphone brands, including Xiaomi and OnePlus, run Android modified operating systems, making it the most popular mobile OS in the country.
Despite their global brand recognition, entering the Chinese market could prove tough for the play Store, even if they get the green light from the government. Unlike other countries where the Apple iTunes store and the Google Play store form a market monopoly, China has seen dozens of black market Android app stores gain popularity due to the absence of official options. Many of these stores offer the apps and services that a giant like Google will likely have to cut if they are to remain on good terms with the government.
The possible launch of the Play Store is a confusingly progressive step forward in the U.S. company’s relationship with the Chinese government, which appeared to be deteriorating further recently. In December of last year, Gmail was blocked in China, marking the last big Google service to be taken down by the firewall. In the absence of Google services, China has seen a slew of services pop up to fill the gap from a series of companies, including documents, mail, maps and other similar features.
In the past, Google management have been openly critical of the Chinese government, including co-founder Sergey Brin. However like other western tech giants that have been barred from the country such as Facebook and Twitter, Google has made efforts to tap into sectors of the Chinese market that remain available to them.
The development of the Android Play Store in China – while far from settling Google’s wider disputes in China – is a positive step in their journey to monetize in the world’s biggest mobile market.
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