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Apple And Google’s Secretive iPhone Deal Suddenly Exposed

Apple and Google used to be friends. More than friends in fact. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt used to be on Apple’s board and even appeared on stage at the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

If you are an Apple fan, you probably already know this, and you know that today, Google and Apple are fierce rivals. One of the biggest areas of contention is the Google Android ecosystem, which late Apple CEO Steve Jobs claimed had ripped off the iPhone entirely, and caused the initial rift between the two Silicon Valley giants. 

And in Fact, while everyone talks about the Apple Facebook privacy battle, the iPhone maker is also directly targeting Google with its ads and largely successful privacy stance.

Apple and Google famously compete across the mobile ecosystem, with Android and iOS, and in the browser market with Chrome and Safari. Now Apple Maps is acceptable, it competes with Google Maps, and of course Gmail and Apple Mail are rivals too. 

One thing Apple has always been without is a search engine, and you may, or may not know that the default search engine on Apple’s Safari browser is Google. That means every time you search anything on your iPhone, including via the Siri voice assistant, you go through Google by default. That deal is worth a huge amount of money, and it’s growing.

Analysts at Bernstein predict the payment from Google to the iPhone maker could surge to $15 billion this year, from $10 billion in 2020, 9to5Mac reports. As Google tries to outbid Microsoft for the coveted slot, they think it could even reach a whopping $18 to $20 billion in 2022.

Apple also offers built-in support for privacy-focused browser DuckDuckGo, and recently rolled out support for eco browser Ecosia.

The Apple Google deal has garnered attention of regulators, who say it just isn’t fair to rivals. There has even been talk of Apple launching its own search engine, or buying a privacy-focused one such as DuckDuckGo. But this wouldn’t necessarily be better for Apple: the current agreement gives Apple revenue Google generates through the iPhone.

What to do

So what does this mean for you as a user? Actually, it’s not huge for your everyday privacy. Apple’s Safari includes tracking prevention; as a user your real concern is Google’s browser, Google Chrome.

As Zak Doffman, my STC colleague, states in this week’s discussion: “Apple would say Safari blocks trackers, and that it works with DuckDuckGo which orders the tracker list. While Google is generating revenue from SEO and ads, it is not generating revenue via cross site tracking [via Chrome]—which you don’t get with Apple [Safari].”

But there is an issue on principle: You are using Google services by default within Apple’s iPhone ecosystem, and although you have a choice you might not be exercising it.

If you care about privacy, it’s always a good idea to limit the Google services you use, and avoid being part of Google’s privacy-limiting ecosystem—especially on your iPhone.

So why not try an alternative iPhone search engine such as DuckDuckGo? That will help reduce your reliance on Google and limit its market dominance, which is never going to be a bad thing.

What do you think?

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