- Google asked Apple to include pre-installed software as part of the antitrust trial, hoping to have a search app or experience associated with Google on iPhones.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook was not very interested in the idea, noting that they had different strengths when it comes to software.
- The specifics of how the deal would look were not discussed, but it could have included pre-installing the Google app or having a search bar widget on the home screen.
Google Pixel phones and iPhones, as different as they may be, have one thing in common: Both don’t include any pre-installed software from third-party vendors. That’s not the case for all the best Android phones out there and definitely isn’t true for Windows laptops, but it’s something you could always rely on with Apple hardware. We’ve learned that Google asked Apple to change just that as part of the big antitrust trial concerned with Google’s search dominance.
The revelations come as part of evidence from the courtroom, springing from an email chain summarizing talks between Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook (via The Verge): “When discussing how to encourage search, [Pichai] spoke about the fact that this is what we do — people trust us to get this right and trust us with the content of what they are searching for — and weaved in them considering us building an app or other experience that people associate with us and connect to us (vs. flowing through Siri/suggest.)” Tim Cook didn’t seem to be too interested at the time, though: “Tim listened but did not react to this specifically other than noting we had different strengths.”
In court, Pichai was asked to share insight on the motives behind this suggestion. He explained that the talks were part of annual discussions surrounding revenue sharing for search, with Apple noting that the revenue didn’t meet its expectations. Pichai made clear that his suggestion was just an explainer on what worked well for Google on other phones, with the company saying that it sees increased search use that way. This would also benefit Apple due to the way the default search deal for iOS is set up.
Pixel phones come with the Google Search bar baked into the launcher
It didn’t become clear how exactly the deal would have looked like during the proceedings. The Google app could simply be pre-installed and visible as an icon on the default home page, or it could have tighter system integration like it does on Google Pixel phones, where the search bar is embedded right in the launcher and not removable. Given that Apple supports widgets nowadays, it’s also possible that you would have seen a search bar widget on the home screen, just as it’s the case for third-party Android phones upon unboxing. Since the talks apparently never extended to specifics like these, it’s just educated guesses.
Apple has never pre-installed any third-party apps on its iPhones so far, though the company previously closely collaborated with Google on some of its self-made apps. Before Apple Maps was launched, the company worked with Google on a custom version of Google Maps for iOS. An Apple-made release of YouTube also used to be pre-installed on iPhones. Both of these apps were removed with iOS 6 in 2012. In YouTube’s case, the decision was reportedly made by Google itself according to MacRumors, wanting to “take back control of our app.”