Privacy-focused Apple Search makes sense in these times

Apple Search on iPad Pro (2020)
Apple Search on iPad Pro (2020) (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

It's looking increasingly likely Google Search is about to lose a prominent place on Apple devices. If correct, it couldn't come at a better time when privacy and security remain top issues around the world.

According to Coywolf and Jon Henshaw, Apple has already hired search engineers to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning to more of its services and apps. At the same time, the company's Applebot web crawler has been working feverishly in recent months on crawling websites. Both points suggest an Apple-designed web-based search engine could soon be launching for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Currently, Google pays Apple approximately $7-$8 billion per year to be the default search engine on multiple platforms. That sounds like a lot of cash until you consider Apple's market capitalization has recently passed $2 trillion.

With privacy continuously in the news, now might be the perfect time for Apple to make a change. Back in June, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said Apple should purchase the DuckDuckGo search engine and end its long-standing agreement with Google. For the most immediate transition, moving from Google to DuckDuckGo makes the most sense.

However, this probably isn't the direction the company is taking. When the world's largest company enters new product markets, it typically starts from scratch.

Instead, I expect Apple will ditch Google Search as the default as soon as it can contractually, and replace it with a native solution. Under this scenario, Apple Search would become the default search engine in Safari on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. To keep regulators happy, however, Apple will likely keep Google, DuckDuckGo, and Bing as alternative solutions that are easy to change by users.

An internal change tells a bigger the story

For internal searches in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, users can type a query in Spotlight Search and tap on a result that will open Safari and display search results from Google. In iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, however, Spotlight Search returns search results that bypass Google, allowing you to visit those sites directly.

If this is already on the menu for internal searches on iPhone and iPad this fall, I see no reason it won't also get extended to web searches. Whether Apple Search happens when iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 launch to the public (probably as early as next month) isn't known. Most likely, Apple will hold off on making a change until a future iOS/iPadOS 14.x update arrives.

What say you? Let us know in the comments below what you think about a possible Apple Search product.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

  • There is no way they will end their agreement anytime soon. Billions in revenue each year wont be replaced with SIri saying "Here's what I found on the web."
  • I agree. Siri is so crap for anything complicated.
  • I just go to Yahoo and search there. I never use google for anything.
  • Even with their market valuation, losing 7-8 billion per year is no small amount and apple isn't going to just up and end it for their in house version (which if anything like maps, will be a hot mess for a few years before it becomes somewhat decent replacement).
  • Haven’t used anything by google in many years. Go Duck Duck Go!
  • Not even YouTube?
    Not even followed a link by somebody?
  • What doesn't make sense? Alienating the 95-99% of iOS users that don't hate Google (but instead regularly use Gmail, YouTube, Google Search and Chrome ... you are aware that the vast majority if iOS users own Windows PCs and not Macs right?) by returning decidedly inferior search results.
  • Apple is not going to get rid of Google as the default search engine. First of all, Google pays Apple billions for the privilege. Second, the Google search engine is still vastly preferred by most users. And third, if you don't want to use Google, you can easily change to something else in iOS right now.
  • Author complains about Google and privacy.... proceeds to have multiple Google apps on his iPad.... Come on man.
  • Multiple? I see Google Chrome there. Regardless, thanks for reading.
  • As long as they keep the option available for the user to make Google the default search engine, I don't care if they use Alta Vista. Whatever makes them feel like they're saving the world from the Big Bad G people. (Because Apple is certainly not like Google in any way shape or form. /s)
  • >When the world's largest company enters new product markets, it typically starts from scratch.
    Umm.. siri was not built from 'scratch'. Apple maps I believe was though.. and we all know how that went lol