Apple Weighs Letting Users Switch Default iPhone Apps to Rivals

Yolanda Curtis
February 21, 2020

In other words, if you set Pandora as your default music app, any time you said "Hey Siri, play Backstreet Boys", the music would automatically start streaming from Pandora rather than from Apple Music.

Users of Apple products know the company runs a tightly controlled ecosystem. The most important two are the internet browser Safari and Apple's Mail app. Unsurprisingly, most users might ditch those for Google's Chrome and Gmail but plenty of other options are available as well.

Potentially yielding some bitterly-contested ground, Apple is thinking about allowing its users to replace their default essential apps like Safari, Mail, and Apple Music with third-party apps, Bloomberg reports. As it stands, Apple doesn't allow users to replace pre-installed apps like Safari and Mail with third-party services, opening it up to scrutiny from lawmakers investigating antitrust violations.

In the same vein, Apple is considering letting third-party apps like Spotify stream off of its HomePods. If Bloomberg's report is correct, it's possible that Apple is trying to get in front of the situation and make changes to default app policies before being forced to by legislators.

European music streaming service Spotify also filed a complaint to the EU's antitrust regulated in March, saying that Apple's strict rules for the App Store gave an unfair advantage to Apple Music, a rival to Spotify.

Apple had previously responded to Spotify's antitrust complaints by accusing it of wanting all the benefits of a free app without being free.

In November 2019, USA lawmakers grilled Apple on - among other specific issues - its unwillingness to let users uninstall Safari; its insistence that Safari is the default browser which iPhone web links are opened in; and on the inability of rival web browsers to deploy their own web browsing engines when running on Apple's operating system. Under the plans, users would be able to select a default app for handling emails, web browsing, and music. Apple Music has 60 million users, and it's only going up.

The change is not being considered due to slow iPhone sales, as the company's smartphone sales were reportedly a key reason their holiday-quarter revenue beat expectations on Wall Street. If Apple chooses to go forward with the moves, they could appear as soon as later this year via the upcoming iOS 14 software update and a corresponding HomePod software update, the people said.

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