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US government calls for changes to iOS and Android, says Apple and Google block innovation

Among its recommendations, the government wants to see mobile ecosystems upon to alternative app stores and payment systems

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A new report from the US government has called for lawmakers and agencies to compel changes to both Apple and Google's mobile platforms, deeming the tech firms' current practices to be harmful to competition and consumers.

In 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Competition around this subject, with the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration publishing its findings yesterday.

Spotted by MobileGamer.biz, the report says the current policies on iOS and Android not only harm developers, but also impact consumers "by inflating prices and reducing innovation."

The 50-page report frequently cites arguments made by Epic Games in its own antitrust cases against both Google and Apple, as well as the issues Microsoft and other companies have faced in trying to bring cloud gaming subscription services to iOS.

It even points to Meta's struggles to bring its Instant Games service to iOS, due to Apple classing the "store-like" interface as a breach of its policies regarding alternative stores on its platform.

The report made several recommendations that aim to improve competition and innovation on mobile, including.

  • Increased resources for US antitrust agencies, such as the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission
  • Measures that allow users to set third-party apps and alternative app stores as defaults, and to delete or hide pre-installed apps
  • Prevention of platform holders from using confidential business data gained through third-party apps to then support their own competing app
  • Prevention of platform holders from preferencing their own apps in an anticompetitive manner, such as making their apps top of search results
  • Enabling users to download or install third-party apps and alternative app stores via other means, rather than the Google Play Store and Apple App Store (while still allowing for "reasonable privacy, security and safety precautions")
  • Allowing third-party web browsers to have full functionality and better integration with the device and operating system
  • Barring platform holders from requiring all app developers to use their platform's in-app payment system, and forbidding developers from notifying users of purchases that can be made from their website
  • Greater transparency around the app review process on each platform
  • Enabling tools and standards that make it easier for developers to develop for both iOS and Android simultaneously

The report also calls for further study by Congress and relevant agencies into

  • More ways to improve competition on mobile ecosystems
  • Claims of unfairness and fear of reprisal for any developers who question the platforms' systems and restrictions
  • Best practices for sideloading apps
  • Technical limitations against gaming and streaming app subscriptions, such as update requirements and billing issues

Back in November, UK regulator the Competition and Markets Authority launched its own investigation into Apple's restrictions against cloud gaming services on iOS.

Meanwhile, the EU's Digital Markets Act is putting pressure on mobile platform holders to enable the sideloading of apps and prevent them from blocking payments via third-party systems.

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