In a major change for Apple’s iPhone, the next iteration of the operating system — iOS 14, coming this fall — will let users set third-party email and browser apps as the defaults, in place of Apple’s own mail and Safari browser apps.
In Apple’s nearly two-hour keynote Monday kicking off the virtual 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference, executives didn’t mention that as among the new features for iOS 14, which includes an array of new usability and privacy enhancements.
During the WWDC20 presentation, it was announced that the next iPad operating systems (iPadOS 14) would support the ability to change default email and browsers apps. It turns out that the same will be true for iOS 14. In a list of features for iOS 14, as spotted by Engadget, Apple confirmed that will be an option for iPhone users: “Set a default web browser and email app that launch when you click a link or want to compose a new mail message.”
That means, for example, with iOS 14, an iPhone user could set Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook as the default email program, or Firefox or Chrome as the browser. The iOS 14 operating system will be released this fall as a free software update for iPhone 6s models and later.
It’s not clear whether Apple may allow users to set other third-party apps as the defaults — like setting Spotify to be the default music player instead of Apple Music, or switching to Google Podcasts instead of Apple Podcasts. Apple representatives declined to comment on whether this was in the plans.
The move comes as Apple has been under growing criticism for allegedly anticompetitive behavior with respect to the App Store and how it does business with app developers. Last week, the European Union formally opened an antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store business practices, including its 30% “tax” on all transactions and requiring apps to use the in-app purchasing system. The EU probe follows a complaint last year from Spotify. The regulator also is looking into Apple Pay.
A Bloomberg report earlier this year said Apple was “considering giving rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads” by letting them set third-party default apps for mail and web browsing, as well as “opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services after criticism the company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products.”
Meanwhile, Apple didn’t specifically announce changes to HomePod, but a slide displayed during the WWDC keynote included said the smart speaker would be adding “third-party music services,” which would presumably allow the devices to natively stream from such services as Spotify.