UK regulator plans to launch probe into Google's and Apple's mobile duopoly

The CMA is also investigating Google's Play Store rule that requires developers to use its payment system.

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The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded that Google and Apple "hold all the cards" when it comes to mobile phones a year after taking a closer look at their "duopoly." It's now consulting on the launch of a market investigation into the tech giants' market power in mobile browsers, as well as into Apple's cloud gaming restrictions. In addition, the CMA has launched a separate investigation into Google's Play Store rules — the one that requires certain app developers to use the tech giant's payment system for in-app purchases, in particular.

The CMA has concluded after its year-long study that the tech giants do indeed exhibit an "effective duopoly" on mobile ecosystems. A total of 97 percent of all mobile web browsing in the UK is powered by Apple's and Google's browser engines. iPhones and Android devices typically come with Safari and Chrome pre-installed, which means their browsers have the advantage from the start. Further, Apple requires developers to make sure their iOS and iPadOS apps are using its WebKit engine to browse the web. That limits the incentives Apple may have to invest in Safari, the CMA said.

The agency also pointed out that Apple enforces policies that prevent cloud gaming apps from being available to download from its App Store. Under its rules, cloud gaming services would have to individually submit each playable game for review and approval if they want to be listed. The company eventually carved out an exception, but only to make services like Xbox Cloud Gaming available on iOS devices through a browser.

In its announcement, the CMA explained that the lack of intervention would allow the tech giants to maintain and even strengthen their hold not just over mobile browsers, but also over mobile operating systems and app stores. Their duopoly could stifle competition and limit incentives for individuals and other companies to innovate and develop new products and technologies for those markets.