Following criticism that Apple provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products, the company may finally give rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads.
Apple has been reporedly discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to Bloomberg.
Apple is not allowing users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry.
Currently, rival browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox and mail apps like Gmail and Microsoft Outlook have lacked the status of Apple’s products. For instance, if a user clicks a web link sent to them on an iPhone, it will automatically open in Safari. Similarly, if a user taps an email address -- say, from a text message or a website -- they’ll be sent to the Apple Mail app with no option to switch to another email program.
Apple is also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify Technology SA, on HomePods, the report added.
Apple’s closed system to prohibit users from setting third-party apps as defaults was questioned last year during a hearing of a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust panel. Lawmakers pressed the issue of whether iPhone users can make non-Apple apps their defaults in categories including web browsers, maps, email and music.
Keeping users tethered to Apple’s services is important to Apple as the growth of smartphone demand slows and sales of music, video, cloud storage and other subscriptions make up a greater share of the iPhone maker’s total revenue.
Last year, Spotify submitted an antitrust complaint to the European Union, saying Apple squeezes rival services by imposing a 30% cut for subscriptions made via the App Store. Apple responded that Spotify wants the benefits of the App Store without paying for them.
Now, Apple is working to allow third-party music services to run directly on the HomePod, said the report. Also under discussion at Apple is whether to let users set competing music services as the default with Siri on iPhones and iPads.
Apple declined to comment.
We have to wait until the upcoming iOS 14 software update and a corresponding HomePod software update to see whether Apple will eventually choose to go forward with the moves. Apple typically announces major new iPhone and iPad software versions in June, and releases them in September around the launch of new iPhone models.