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Apple and Google mobile ecosystem dominance under scrutiny by UK antitrust regulator

Are customers losing out or paying more due to iOS and Android ruling the mobile playing field? That's what the CMA wants to find out.

Apple and Google are the two big players in mobile software.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For many years, Google and Apple have been the two biggest and most dominant names in mobile ecosystems globally, but the UK's competition regulator is now asking whether this duopoly is offering phone users the best deal.

On Tuesday, the Competition and Markets Authority, the country's antitrust regulator, announced that it is "taking a closer look" at iOS and Android. This isn't akin to a full probe, it's just a precursor in which the CMA will consider whether there is enough evidence that the two companies might be stifling competition to justify opening a formal investigation.

"Apple and Google control the major gateways through which people download apps or browse the web on their mobiles -- whether they want to shop, play games, stream music or watch TV," said CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli in a statement. "We're looking into whether this could be creating problems for consumers and the businesses that want to reach people through their phones."

The CMA is specifically searching for evidence that Apple's and Google's dominance in the market is stifling competition, or that it could be resulting in people paying higher prices for devices, apps and other services.

Apple and Google didn't immediately respond to request for comment.

This closer scrutiny comes as a result of a post-Brexit push by the UK to investigate the actions of tech giants through its newly established Digital Markets Unit. Previously it had relied on the EU's Competition Commission to fulfil this role, however it's still working with the European regulator as the two agencies conduct simultaneous investigations into potential ad data abuse by Facebook. The CMA is also investigating Apple separately over App Store developer terms.