The idea that Google’s Android mobile software is both “free” and open-source is so often repeated that it is virtually an article of faith online. There’s only one problem: neither is strictly true.
While the basic Android software is indeed available for free, and can be downloaded, compiled and changed by anyone, it doesn’t include the apps that make up Google’s mobile services - such as Maps, Gmail, and crucially Google Play, which allows people to connect to the online store where they can download apps.
Without them, a device has only minimal functionality.
To get the key apps, a manufacturer needs a “Google Mobile Services” (GMS) licence. Just like Microsoft with Windows and Windows Phone, GMS licences are charged on a per-device basis - so that for example a company looking to ship 100,000 units of a tablet would have to pay about US$75,000, a source in the Android device community told the Guardian.