Google Starts Blocking ‘Uncertified’ Android Devices From Logging In

Google logins on unlicensed devices will now fail at setup, and a warning message will pop up stating “Device is not certified by Google,” reports Ars Technica. “This warning screen has appeared on and off in the past during a test phase, but XDA (and user reports) indicate it is now headed for a wider rollout.” From the report: While the basic operating system code contained in the Android Open Source Project is free and open source, Google’s apps that run on top of Android (like the Play Store, Gmail, Google Maps, etc.) and many others are not free. Google licenses these apps to device makers under a number of terms designed to give Google control over how the OS is used. Google’s collection of default Android apps must all be bundled together, there are placement and default service requirements, and devices must pass an ever-growing list of compatibility requirements to ensure app compatibility. Android distributions that don’t pass Google’s compatibility requirements aren’t allowed to be called “Android” (which is a registered trademark of Google), so they are Android forks. The most high-profile example of an Android fork is Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of products, but most devices that ship in China (where Google doesn’t do much business) fall under the umbrella of an “Android fork,” too.

While Google’s Android apps are only properly available as a pre-loaded app (or through the pre-loaded Play Store), they are openly distributed on forums, custom ROM sites, third-party app stores, and other places online. When a non-compatible device seller (or a user) loads these on a device, they can potentially trigger Google’s new message at login. The message pops up when you try to log in to Google’s services, which usually happens during the device setup. Users who purchased the device are warned that “the device manufacturer has preloaded Google apps and services without certification from Google,” and users aren’t given many options other than to complain to the manufacturer. At this point, logging in to Google services is blocked, and non-tech-savvy users will have to live without the Google apps. Users of custom Android ROMs — which wipe out the stock software and load a modified version of Android — will start seeing this message, too.