August 8, 2022

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Apple and Google hold a “vice-like grip” over the mobile phone market that stifles innovation...

Apple and Google hold a “vice-like grip” over the mobile phone market that stifles innovation and drives up costs for consumers, according to a scathing new report from a British regulator. 
The UK Competition and Markets Authority on Tuesday slammed the companies’ “overly restrictive” app stores, which have been criticized by developers including Fortnite maker Epic Games for charging commissions on in-app payments of up to 30 percent. 
Since more than 95 percent of UK app downloads were made through Apple or Google’s app stores in 2020, developers have no choice but to pony up a large chunk of their profits just to access the marketplace, the London-based regulator argued. 
The end result of this “duopoly” is likely higher prices for consumers, the regulator argued, since onerous app store fees are ultimately passed on to them. 
The regulator also argued that both tech giants have taken steps to crimp competition in free services like internet browsers. Since Apple pre-installs the Safari web browser on iPhones and Google pre-installs the Chrome browser on most Android devices, any competing browsers are at an immediate disadvantage, ultimately resulting in less competition and innovation, according to the regulator. 

“Apple and Google have developed a vice-like grip over how we use mobile phones and we’re concerned that it’s causing millions of people across the UK to lose out,” said Andrea Coscelli, head of the Competition and Markets Authority. “This control can limit innovation and choice, and lead to higher prices -– none of which is good news for users.” 
To address its concerns, the regulator made several recommendations, including making it easier for users to transfer data between iPhone and Android devices, allowing users to download apps from third-party app stores and making it easier for users to choose alternatives to Apple or Google web browsers. 
A Google spokesperson argued that the company allows plenty of competition. 
More than 95 percent of UK app downloads were made through Apple or Google’s app stores in 2020. Getty Images
“Android provides people with more choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps and app stores they use,” the spokesperson said. “The Android app ecosystem also supports nearly a quarter of a million jobs across thousands of app developer and phone maker businesses in the UK.” 
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
The report comes as the UK and other nations take a harder line against what many view as anticompetitive practices by Big Tech companies. The Competition and Markets Authority in November ordered Facebook parent company Meta to sell off GIF-sharing company Giphy, arguing that Meta owning the company hurts social media users and advertisers by stifling competition. 
“Android provides people with more choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps and app stores they use,” Google argued. NurPhoto via Getty Images
In the US, some bipartisan lawmakers are pushing laws designed to increase competition in tech, including by potentially breaking up companies like Google and Meta. 

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