During the ongoing Department of Justice’s antitrust suit against Google, Apple’s senior vice president of ML and AI strategy, John Giannandrea, testified and revealed a new feature in iOS 17 related to the iPhone’s default search engine. This feature could potentially have implications for Apple’s multi-billion dollar default search engine deal with Google.
Apple, although not named as a defendant in the case, is involved in the lawsuit due to its agreement with Google. Google pays Apple billions of dollars each year to maintain its status as the default search engine on Apple’s devices. The DOJ believes that this deal contributes to Google’s overall abuse of power in the search industry.
During the hearings, Giannandrea pointed out that iOS 17 introduced a new setting that allows users to choose different default search engines for normal Safari browsing and Private Browsing. Although Google remains the default for both settings, users now have the option to set different defaults for each mode. The new option can be found in the Settings app, under Safari, and then selecting “Private Search Engine.”
This new search option in iOS 17 had gone mostly unnoticed during beta testing but is now available to the general public. Apple seems to consider this feature as a significant aspect of its deal with Google. Giannandrea’s testimony is expected to be crucial to the case, given his background at Google and his current role at Apple.
Other Apple executives, including Eddy Cue and Adrian Perica, are also set to testify in the antitrust suit. Apple had previously argued against their testimonies, but the court disagreed and allowed them to participate.
It remains to be seen how this new search engine setting in iOS 17 will affect the ongoing antitrust suit against Google. As the trial continues, it will be interesting to see if this feature will have any impact on the outcome or if it raises further concerns about the dominance of major search engines in the industry.