Apple is considering giving rival apps more prominence on iPhones and iPads and opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services after criticism the company provides an unfair advantage to its in-house products.
The tech giant is 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, said people familiar with the matter. Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn't allowed 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.
The web browser and mail are two of the most-used apps on the iPhone and iPad. To date, 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 open in Safari. Similarly, if a user taps an e-mail 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 e-mail program.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations.
Apple's closed system to prohibit users from setting third-party apps as defaults was questioned last year during a House antitrust hearing. Lawmakers pressed the issue of whether iPhone users can make non-Apple apps their defaults in categories including web browsers, maps, e-mail and music.
Being a default app on the world's bestselling smartphone is valuable because consumers are subtly coaxed into using this more-established software rather than alternatives. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.