If there’s one Android feature iPhone users have universally longed to have, it’s the ability to pick new default apps. On iOS, it’s Apple’s way or the highway when it comes to apps like Safari and Mail, but a new report from Bloomberg offers hope that Apple might be softening its stance.
According to well-connected leakster Mark Gurman, Apple is “considering” whether to let users change the default apps on iOS devices. That’s hardly a sure thing, but even the possibility is a huge change of heart. Since the earliest days of the iPhone, links and email addresses have opened in Safari and the default Mail app, respectively. Even if you delete Mail, it merely asks you to redownload it when you tap an email address, without providing an option to use another app like Gmail or Outlook.
Presumably, this would be an iOS feature available to all devices compatible with iOS 14, and not tied to Apple’s new iPhone. On Android, Google has long let users pick default apps over Google’s own services and apps.
Additionally, the report says Apple is mulling over whether to allow Spotify to stream directly on its HomePod smart speaker. While users can stream Spotify songs to their HomePod using AirPlay on the iPhone, asking the speaker to play something using Siri will default to Apple Music, with no way to change it.
In recent years, Apple has slowly been loosening its grip on iOS, allowing things like third-party keyboards and giving developers more access to Siri, but it’s drawn a hard line at default apps. That stance has drawn the ire of users and developers and has led to an antitrust lawsuit against the company’s App Store practices. A report in the Wall Street Journal also outlined Apple’s seemingly weighted search results.
Additionally, Apple’s refusal to allow third-party default apps was part of a U.S. House of Representatives antitrust panel hearing last year that also included Facebook, Amazon, and Google.
Opening up the iPhone and iPad to default apps from third-party developers is seemingly an inevitability, so it’s not a total surprise that Apple would want to get in front of any litigation or regulation. Still, opening the iPhone to third-party apps would represent a massive shift in the company’s policy.