Google removed its app store from China back in 2010 due to concerns about potential cyberattacks and surveillance from the government, not to mention personal feelings about censorship in the country. It was a bold move on Google’s part, perhaps even admirable, but it was easy for the company to do back when China’s smartphone market was still comparatively small. However, now that China has turned into one of the most valuable smartphone markets in the world, Google has decided to begin discussing the return of its app store with the Chinese government.
Google Inc. is in talks with Chinese government officials and handset makers about launching a new Android app store there, according to people familiar with matter, a move that would mark the Internet company’s return to the world’s second-largest economy. For more than a year, Google has been working on a version of its Play app store that includes only apps and services approved by the Chinese government, those people said. This app store would come installed on new smartphones made for the Chinese market that run on Google’s licensed version of Android, the people said. One of the people said Google hopes the new phones will be available by the end of the year, though it isn’t clear if the company will hit that target. Google needs licenses from the Chinese government and it isn’t known whether those have been approved, the people said. Google abruptly ceased most operations in mainland China in 2010 following cyberattacks against Gmail users and disagreements with the government over censorship of search results. At the time, there was debate within the company about whether Google could exert more influence by staying in China. Since then, China has become the world’s largest smartphone market, and Google rival Apple Inc. is a leading player there.