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Apple may let users ignore iPhone’s default apps in favour of others

An antitrust panel from the US House of Representatives had written to Apple last year, asking for “executive communication” relating to default apps on iPhones. (Photo: Reuters)Premium
An antitrust panel from the US House of Representatives had written to Apple last year, asking for “executive communication” relating to default apps on iPhones. (Photo: Reuters)

  • Apple has often faced questions for not allowing default apps to be changed on its platforms
  • Many have contended that Apple is putting third party developers at a disadvantage.

Apple is reportedly considering allowing iOS users to change default apps on the platform with third party options. That includes apps like Safari and Mail, which are made by Apple and have remained the default options for browser and email on iPhones since the introduction of the App Store back in 2008.

The move would allow iPhone users to access apps like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to browse the web, while Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and others could serve as the default email apps. The company is apparently also considering opening its Homepod speaker to third party services, including Spotify which is a major rival for the company’s own music streaming platform, Apple Music.

The Cupertino, California-based company has often faced questions for not allowing default apps to be changed on its platforms. An antitrust panel from the US House of Representatives had written to Apple last year, asking for “executive communication" relating to default apps on iPhones.

The company has also faced other antitrust suits, including one from Spotify, over how it imposes a 30% commission for apps that sell services through its App Store.

Apple isn’t the only tech giant facing questions antitrust allegations though. The US Justice Department has also been looking into Google’s online advertising tools in a separate antitrust case. The Android maker had also been found guilty, by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) of misusing its dominance in India to keep device makers from using alternate Android versions in June last year.

On its part, Apple had started allowing users to delete its own pre-installed apps on iPhones with the launch of iOS 10 in 2016. So, instead of putting unused apps into a separate folder, users could simply delete them from their phone. That Apple doesn’t allow default apps to be changed would pose a problem here too.

For instance, if you delete the Mail app and then click on an email address somewhere, the phone would prompt an error instead of opening a different email app. Allowing users to change default fixes that problem, something Android has allowed for a long time.

Furthermore, given how popular iPhones are, setting an app as default on them automatically increases its user count or daily active user base. If every link a user clicks on an iPhone opens on Safari, Apple could count that towards its daily active user (DAU) count. Many have contended that by not allowing default apps to change, Apple is putting third party developers at a disadvantage.

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