Google and Apple formally face UK probe over mobile browser duopoly

Mobile web browser apps on Android
(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is officially looking into Google and Apple's mobile web browser dominance.
  • Apple's App Store practices that supposedly restrict cloud gaming are also being investigated.
  • The CMA is expected to conclude its market investigation within 18 months.

The U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority has formally launched a probe into potential market duopoly by Google and Apple involving their mobile web browsers, reinforcing concerns that their practices require government intervention.

In June of this year, the UK's competition watchdog consulted on launching a probe into both companies' duopoly in mobile ecosystems. The CMA cited industry concerns that Google and Apple have exercised a stranglehold over Android and iOS, app stores, and mobile web browsers.

The consultation has resulted in "substantial support for a fuller investigation into the way that Apple and Google dominate the mobile browser market and how Apple restricts cloud gaming through its App Store," the CMA announced today (opens in new tab). The majority of responses came from browser vendors, web developers, and cloud gaming service providers.

Apple's restrictions, in particular, have caused web developers to deal with additional costs in fixing bugs and glitches when building web pages, according to the CMA. Apple did not immediately respond to Android Central's request for comment.

"Many UK businesses and web developers tell us they feel that they are being held back by restrictions set by Apple and Google," said Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA. "When the new Digital Markets regime is in place, it’s likely to address these sorts of issues."

According to the CMA, 97% of all mobile web browsing in the UK in 2021 occurred on either Google Chrome or Safari. Regulators are concerned that market restrictions will stymie the development of "innovative new apps" for Android phones and iOS devices.

"Android gives people a greater choice of apps and app stores than any other mobile platform," a Google representative told Android Central. "It also enables developers to choose the browser engine they want, and has been the launchpad for millions of apps."

The CMA noted that Apple and Google have argued that restrictions are needed to protect users. The search giant also reaffirmed its commitment "to building thriving, open platforms that empower consumers and help developers build successful businesses."

The CMA’s probe is expected to loosen the tech giants' grip on mobile browsers, at least in the UK. This investigation is also expected to conclude within 18 months. 

However, it could take years before regulators can actually implement changes to the tech titans' operations in regard to concerns raised by various industry stakeholders. At the very least, the investigation is a good start.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.