back to article UK's antitrust watchdog is very angry and has written a letter telling Apple and Google how angry it is with them

The UK's antitrust regulator fears Apple and Google have a "vice-like grip" on mobile apps and browsers, which freezes out competitors and gives folks a crummy deal. In a blunt assessment, the Competition and Markets Authority's department of what-took-you-so-long noted that Brits pretty much get their smartphone apps from …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    While the CMA is shaking a stick at Google, it shouldhave a nose around the Manfestv3 plans

    They should easily come within the scope of limiting competition and innovation.

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    I kind of stopped reading...

    I kind of stopped reading half way through as I knew what the rest of the article would say, but, unless I've missed some context, is this actually true : "that Apple only lets you use Safari on its handhelds"

    I have Firefox on both my iPad and iPhone with Safari purposefully never really getting a look in - and have tested many other browsers that I downloaded.

    As I said though, I may have missed some context or meaning.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: I kind of stopped reading...

      You should have kept reading to the end.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I kind of stopped reading...

        @Headley_Grange

        And maybe you could have explained to Aristotles what he had missed.

        A bit of absolutely non original snark letting him know that you knew the answer without explaining is just wrong.

        1. Pedantic
          WTF?

          Re: I kind of stopped reading...

          I'm Sorry! Somebody misunderstanding a point is kind'a human. Somebody who admits they couldn't be arsed to read the last bit of a short article, but whines that thay might have missed something, deserves some snarking! For god's sake, would have been easier to read the reast than write the comment!

          Unless of course I take the view that so much of the world "wants to be spoon fed everything", rather than put any effort in at all! in understanding something properly! Oh! wait I doo! Okay! Hobby horse "No X" has had it's unexpected early morning gallop, back to the stable for breakfast!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I kind of stopped reading...

      Firefox on iOS, is just a skin, it uses the underlying Apple WebKIt rendering engine not Firefox's own Gecko engine, so what looks like Firefox on iOS/IPadOS is pretty much, a customised skinned/themed version of Safari. As the Bootnote states.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Depends on why he's using Firefox

        Most people use a different browser because they prefer the UI, compatibility with extensions they want to use, features that allow bookmarks to be visible across multiple devices, etc. not because of the rendering engine. In fact, outside of the more techie crowd at places like The Register few consumers even know what that is, or will care once they know.

        If his reasons for switching didn't include the rendering engine then he's getting all the benefit he wants out of running Firefox on iOS despite that one limitation.

        1. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: Depends on why he's using Firefox

          Surely the rendering engine has a direct impact on extension compatibility?

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Depends on why he's using Firefox

            Not necessarily. Most people use extensions to block ads/scripts or change the menus (i.e. bring back something Firefox has "helpfully" removed)

            Neither of which would be affected by whether the browser is using Webkit or Blink or whatever.

    3. Philip Storry

      Re: I kind of stopped reading...

      What you've missed is that all browsers on iOS are just skins over the Apple Webkit rendering engine.

      Apple does not allow third party rendering engines on their non-desktop platforms. Alternative web browsers are just skins with a little functionality (synchronisation, other features) added.

      This would be less of an issue if Apple were still leading with their webkit engine. In the early days of the iPhone they definitely were, but since then they seem to have de-prioritised webkit development. New features are slow to arrive and often incomplete or buggy. Bugs linger for far too long. And Apple have a few standard excuses for this which people are tired of hearing.

      Here are two decent summaries I found with a quick search:

      https://httptoolkit.tech/blog/safari-is-killing-the-web/

      https://infrequently.org/2021/04/progress-delayed/

      Both of them make reference to the Web Platform Tests dashboard. I checked that to ensure that their arguments were still valid, and was surprised to see it now looks pretty good for Safari:

      https://wpt.fyi/compat2021?feature=summary&stable

      It's on 90, 1 point behind Firefox and 5 behind Chrome - not bad, eh? So surely those earlier links are outdated?

      But look at the graph below the figures. That sudden huge lurch forwards! Webkit had languished in the high 60s/low 70s for ages, and has suddenly jumped up - can anyone really think that there aren't bugs in those newly implemented features? Does anyone really want to make an argument that this is a sign of healthy, safe development for webkit?

      The sudden recent improvement doesn't negate the points web developers have been making about webkit holding them back. Indeed, it bolsters them - now they have a large number of features that they may need to look at implementing, whilst knowing that they're new enough that they may be too buggy to implement. Not an enviable position. So most won't bother, and webkit will continue to hold back web development.

      And that's why Apple's webkit-only position worries so many people. It's not healthy, and there's no good reason for the restriction. If Chrome or Firefox could use their own engines on Apple's devices, things would be much better.

      (Disclaimer: I am not a web developer, I just know/work with web developers and am reflecting their views.)

    4. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

      Re: I kind of stopped reading...

      If you think you have Firefox on your iThings then you probably need a whole load of education

  3. Philip Storry
    Angel

    Ironic?

    Page 21 of the interim report [PDF] details how Apple ensures non-Safari browsers on iOS must use its WebKit engine, and even then are disadvantaged by the operating system. The overall goal seems to be to make web apps less attractive to use, and native apps obtained from Apple's app store more appealing.

    Huh. I find that quite ironic, given that the original iPhone had no app store and we were told that everything would be delivered via the web...

    It's almost like the sudden influx of a 15% cut of all sales when they released an SDK and app store (alongside the iPhone 3G) was addictive for Apple.

    The "web first iPhone" definitely didn't last very long, did it? One model and OS version. Was the original iPhone a rush job and shipped incomplete knowingly? Or was the success of the app store a genuine surprise that required a change of history for Apple?

    As for the finding of the report - surely the Holiest of Holies and Purest of the Pure couldn't possibly be putting preserving its profits ahead of providing practical productivity for its customers?

    (I shall no doubt now be corrected by those who bask in the Reality Distortion Field...)

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Ironic?

      I think it was a chicken and egg problem. They could not have third-party developers building apps for the iPhone before releasing the first iPhone. So the first version could essentially only contain their own apps, but could be used by developers to build apps for the second phone, with enough time to be sure it was a success. Jobs being a control freak probably contributed to this.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Ironic?

        Also back in those days we (or at least Jobs) thought of a phone as principally a phone.

        Imagine if some buggy Microsoft app on an iPhone caused it to drop a call, or make the phone unable to call 911? That would be the end of the market - a phone that couldn't make calls would be a disaster, rather than a bootnote story on el'reg

        1. chr0m4t1c

          Re: Ironic?

          >Imagine if some buggy Microsoft app on an iPhone caused it to drop a call, or make the phone unable to call 911?

          You don't have to imagine it if you had a WinCE phone, it was quite normal for the one I had to ring for an incoming call but not display any buttons to answer or reject the call.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ironic?

      @Phillip Storry

      I don't bask in the "reality distortion field", I make a good amount of coin by using it.

      I won't argue with the rest of your comment. There is no point in wasting my time on it as I'm off to the Albert to meet my mates

  4. Valeyard

    Microsoft over in the corner still nursing the whip marks from bundling IE with windows wondering why it was the only one singled out

    1. Phones Sheridan Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      They have returned to form. In Windows 10 there's 1 selectable option for you to tell it that you want to use Chrome and not Edge. In windows 11 I've counted 11 so far, and I probably haven't found them all. Each time Edge pops up, I have to figure out what called it, have a google for the fix (because MS haven't documented it) then go hunt down this setting and change it, and hope that Edge hasn't reset the defaults for all the other settings when it fired up, which it has twice so far, but I'm sure that's unintended teething issues for MS to fix in a later patch, and isn't at all a deliberate attempt to get people moving back to Edge.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Teething issues. Yeah, right.

        Have you seen the reports of Win 11 popping up dire warnings should you dare to choose other than Edge? Or the 'edge://' URLs for which they are fighting to block the blockers?

        I am so failing in my efforts not to look smug.

      2. Valeyard

        I'm out of the loop on windows but it wouldn't surprise me, as soon as I saw windows 8 I shifted from Linux being an occasional-use OS for techy projects to my only OS

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Apple and Google may face "legally enforceable codes of conduct"

    I'm sure they have plenty of lobbyists and lawyers working out the most publicly palatable way of saying "Nice country ya got there - shame if all your smartphones stopped working".

  6. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    Fairness

    To be fair to Google (that hurts) it's very easy not to use their bundled apps on most Android devices. And they certainly don't do that stealth crap that Apple do of making you think you have a choice of browser when you really, really don't.

    It's kind of sad that the likes of Firefox play Apple's game by providing "Firefox" when it's pretty much just a skin wrapped around Safari. If you were a provider of a popular we browser wouldn't you boycott Apple and iOS and make a lot of noise about it until Apple sorted themselves out? I certainly would.

    Apple are much, much more prescriptive than Google but the fanbois (and goirls) buy the bullshit without question. Which is also sad.

  7. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    Joke

    Corporatese

    "We’re committed to... blah, waffle rhubarb."

    Tighten that one's tie some more, it's still able to speak.

    1. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: Corporatese

      @Greybearded old scrote "We’re committed to... blah, waffle rhubarb."

      Corporatese and its cousin Politicalese the ability to say so much in reply to a question without ever answering the question. ;)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Huffing and Puffing

    The CMA report reminds me of nothing so much as the proverbial Letter to the Times.

    If it is used as a basis for antitrust actions against Apple and Google for their "vice-like grip on mobile apps and browsers" then I'll be pleased.

    And surprised.

  9. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Well....

    If the BBC hadnt been so damned antiBritish it is possible apple would not have had all the free 'this is the first smartphone' misinformation from them and perhaps Symbian wouldnt have been killed off. It of course wasnt helped by Nokia employing the 'burning platform' moron and killing off their Symbian offerings and also killing Nokia as a result.

    1. Cynical Pie

      Re: Well....

      Given the entire UK media said exactly the same thing at the time how exactly is this the BBC's specifc fault?

      Rupert... is that you?

  10. Cynical Pie

    Next to Useless

    Given the CMA and their predecessor, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission are next to useless this will die down and nothing further will happen.

    Case in point early 90s they looked into the ferries to the Isle of Wight after the 2 main providers collaborated to put a new company out of business despite it running a route neither operated.

    The MMC agreed what had happened was effectively a monopoly (yes I know by definition a monopoly is usually 1 company but it isn't always the case) but as the new company was now defunct they said was no point them taking the matter further.

    Since then ferry services have got far worse and it will come as no surprise that the decline in service is matched by an increase in price. In effect its more expensive to cross the Solent per mile than the Atlantic in the Queen Mary 2!

  11. msobkow Silver badge

    I think it could be much worse. They could be cross with them instead of "angry." From all the movies I saw as a kid, "cross" is something very severe in British society... :)

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