Apple has quietly increased its efforts to develop its own search technology (Google Search Alternative) for iPhones, according to a report by The Financial Times, as regulators scrutinize the multibillion-dollar payments that Google makes each year to ensure that its search engine is installed as a “default search tool”.
When iPhone users with iOS 14, the latest iPhone software, type a query into the search window, Apple now shows its “own search” results instead of Google’s. It also displays auto-complete style suggestions, highlighting how it is learning from users’ most common search queries. However, few are likely to have noticed the change.
The United States Department of Justice launched a case last week about payments that Google makes to Apple to be the iPhone’s default search tool.
The Department of Justice cites public estimates saying that Google pays Apple between $8 billion and $12 billion per year to be the default search engine on Apple products.
An in-house search offering from Apple would provide the company with a Google search alternative should authorities decide to block the partnership.
The Department of Justice case has added urgency to Apple’s search efforts, according to the Financial Times, which cites search marketing experts who say the company’s Applebot a web crawler used to build a database of online material has become more active recently.
Apple has recruited a number of search experts in recent years. The Cupertino-headquartered firm hired Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea, in April 2018 and Apple has also been posting “job adverts” for search engineers relatively frequently.
The FT said Apple declined to comment. Apple and Google did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.