Both Google and Apple have been the target of several anti-trust suits and complaints in the past couple of years, and this week the UK is progressing further towards attempting to intervene with the two tech giants. A new report released today shows that the UK takes issue with the “duopoly” Google and Apple have over the mobile space.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating concerns that Apple and Google have “too much control” over mobile operating systems, browsers, and app stores. The CMA is “concerned” that Google and Apple’s “vice-like grip” over mobile devices is limiting competition and “meaningful choice” for consumers.

Pointing the finger at Apple, the CMA calls out iOS’ restrictive policies against cloud services and that users may be missing out on the “full benefit” of web apps, adding that Apple does now allow any third-party methods of app distribution and limits browsers on iOS. The restrictions placed on third-party browsers were previously called out by a now-former Google employee.

The report further found that Apple’s Safari has a share of nearly 50% of mobile browser use in the UK, while 40% came from Chrome. Apparently, more than half of smartphones used in the UK in 2020 were iPhones, with the rest being Android. The CMA report also brings out that over 95% of native app downloads in 2020 were from the Play Store and App Store on their respective platforms.

On Google’s side, the CMA takes issue with Google’s contracts with Android manufacturers that encourage the use of the Play Store, Chrome, and other Google services. These points have also been the central point of investigations in the US and Europe.

While the UK isn’t directly taking action against Google or Apple yet, today’s CMA report is a clear sign that things are moving in that direction. The report also offers a few suggestions for how Google and Apple could address these issues.

  • Making it easier for users to switch between iOS and Android phones when they want to replace their device without losing functionality or data.
  • Making it easier to install apps through methods other than the App Store or Play Store, including so-called “web apps”.
  • Enabling all apps to give users a choice of how they pay in-app for things like game credits or subscriptions, rather than being tied to Apple’s and Google’s payment systems.
  • Making it easier for users to choose alternatives to Apple and Google for services like browsers, in particular by making sure they can easily set which browser they have as default.

The UK’s investigation into Google and Apple will see a final report in June of next year.

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Ben Schoon

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