Apple Could Allow Users to Change Default Apps in iOS 14


Apple is working on functionality to allow users to change their default apps in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. The company is also considering allowing rival music services to stream directly on the HomePod.

As per a new report by Bloomberg, Apple is finally considering opening up iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 to allow third-party apps to be set as default apps. Such a change could potentially allow users to set Chrome as their default browser instead of Safari, and even replace the default Mail and Calendar apps in iOS. Although users can currently delete Apple's first-party apps in iOS, there is no global setting that allows the operating system, and installed apps, to use third-party apps as defaults.

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On HomePod, which has not sold as well as Apple would have liked, Apple is planning to allow third-party music services like Spotify and Pandora to stream music directly. Currently, users can use an iPhone, iPad or Mac, to stream music to HomePod via AirPlay, but it is not as convenient as asking Siri to play music from Spotify on Apple's smart speaker. Meanwhile, competing smart speakers like Google's Nest Hub support music streaming from third-party services like Spotify.

Although users have been asking for functionality to change default apps since a long time, Apple has only now started considering such a change. The timing for this consideration is very important as Apple is facing antitrust investigations from the United States and the European Union. In the United States, Apple has been questioned by the Congress from anti-competitive changes to iOS, which theoretically cripple functionality for third-party apps and products, while giving Apple's own services an edge over the competition. In the European Union, Spotify filed an antitrust complaint against Apple, accusing them of charging 30% cut for App Store subscriptions, while providing reduced functionality to third-party developers at the same time.

Ever since Apple Music launched, Spotify's app has seemed like a second class citizen on Apple's platforms. Apple Watch, Siri and HomePod have been not allowed Spotify to function as well as Apple Music's app, due to limited API access. Similarly, Apple has restricted NFC on iPhones from being used by third-party payment providers. Even the ultra-wideband chip in iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro cannot be used by Tile, a competitor to Apple's future AirTag location tags, which would benefit from Apple's restrictive hardware access.

As Apple continues to work on its own services and products, that compete with offerings by third-party developers on its platform, it will have to provide a level playing field to justify the 30% cut that it takes from App Store subscriptions and purchases. The company cannot hide behind excuses like 'privacy' and 'security' to hold back competitors on its platforms.

Now that complaints are piling up against Apple for anti-competitive behavior, iOS 14 might be the release where the company would try to resolve these complaints. Apple already has enough on their plate to fix with iOS 14. iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 were buggy releases and users still report issues to this date. The company changed its development process to make sure that stability and performance are the primary focus of the upcoming software updates, which would be announced at WWDC 2020. The company will be aiming to support all iPhone and iPad models with iOS 14, that were compatible with iOS 13 and iPadOS 13.