Apple mulls letting users replace Safari, Mail, other default apps on iPhone and iPad

Apple executives are mulling whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on iPhones and iPads, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, Bloomberg News‘ Mark Gurman reports, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg News:

Replace iPhone default apps? image: Apple's Safari icon
Apple’s Safari icon
Since launching the App Store in 2008, Apple hasn’t allowed users to replace pre-installed apps such as these with third-party services. That has made it difficult for some developers to compete, and has raised concerns from lawmakers probing potential antitrust violations in the technology industry… The company currently pre-installs 38 default apps on iPhones and iPads, Bloomberg News has reported, including the Safari web browser, Maps, Messages and Mail…

The Cupertino, California-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify Technology SA, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations… Also under discussion at Apple is whether to let users set competing music services as the default with Siri on iPhones and iPads, the people said. Currently, Apple Music is the default music app. If the company changes the arrangement, a user would be able to play music from Spotify or Pandora automatically when asking Siri for a song.

MacDailyNews Take: We’d endorse creating the ability to replace default apps on iPhone and iPad with one big caveat: Security and privacy must not be compromised. The vast majority of users would still use Apple’s apps, but the ability to choose to make third-party apps as defaults would not only give users more power, it would alleviate many antitrust issues for Apple.


  1. I personally would welcome this. As much as I love my iPhone and the simplicity of it, I pretty much leave Mail unopened in favor of Gmail, and usually only Safari gets opened when my son wants to look something up – I almost always go to Chrome. There are times when I’ve wished that there were an option for an app like Facebook to open in Chrome, rather than only open in Safari.

  2. I would replace Mail with Spark, but I’d never use Chrome of Gmail as a default. I try to avoid Gmail at all costs, but I have one account for when I absolutely have to have it or I don’t want to give my Apple mail address to someone. Safari works great for me and I find it easier to set up to work the way I want it to.

    1. Mail is the most annoying Apple app that I would like to replace, but then I wonder how long Spark or other options will be around. What are the chances a 5-year-old company will be around in another 5 years? Despite the frustrations with Apple you can be reasonably sure that their core apps will be around for a generation or more without the headache of backing up and migrating from shuttered services.

  3. When MDN says that “security and privacy must not be compromised,” that means that we do not want third party apps to undermine/circumvent the security and privacy protections built into iOS and key Apple built-in apps – Mail, iMessage, etc.

    The problem is that Google and Facebook (among others) cannot be trusted. All Google products are personal data vacuums, and Google has repeatedly demonstrated that it is more than willing to violate and bypass Apple’s rules protecting user privacy.

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