Android reportedly sparks FTC antitrust probe of Google


The Federal Trade Commission is looking at complaints that Google Inc. uses its Android operating system for smartphones to favor its search and services at the expense of rivals, according to people familiar with the matter.

The FTC’s examination of Android-related issues is in its early stages, and it isn’t clear the commission will allocate significant resources to mount a detailed probe. The FTC hasn’t contacted Google GOOG, -2.21% GOOGL, -2.25%  to ask questions related to a probe of Android, according to one person familiar with the matter.

FTC officials have held meetings recently with app developers and other providers of online services who have complained about Google’s control over Android, one person familiar with the meetings said. Among the questions the FTC is exploring is whether Google uses Android to enhance its lead in online search, this person said.

Smartphone makers are free to not use Google’s licensed Android operating system. But to get access to the Google Play app store and other services that enhance Android phones, they have to agree to put Google’s search service prominently on the devices.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, head of Android, defended its arrangements with smartphone makers in a blog in April, after European officials launched their own investigation. Lockheimer said Google’s agreements with manufacturers ensured that Android phones would work well when people first bought them, by getting basic services like email and maps preinstalled and functioning harmoniously.