Apple distances itself from Google even more in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite

The new Spotlight search in Yosemite (photo: Roberto Baldwin/ The Next Web)

The new Spotlight search in Yosemite (photo: Roberto Baldwin/ The Next Web)

Apple and Google aren’t the good friends they used to be thanks to the rise of Android as the iPhone’s main competitor. Ever since Apple axed Google Maps in iOS 6, it has been clear that Google’s days in Apple’s software are numbered.

The hardest Google service for Apple to replace is undoubtedly search. Siri is slowly becoming its own search engine of sorts that draws from multiple services like Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia, but Google has remained the standard for traditional web search.

In iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Google is still set as Safari’s default search engine. But with the introduction of more search partners in Apple’s new software, it’s hard to believe that Google search will enjoy its prominence for much longer.

At last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple replaced Google with Microsoft Bing as the search engine powering Siri. Web searches that are trigged through Siri still go through Google search, but that’s only because it’s the default option in Safari—for now.

In Safari on both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple has added a third search option for users: DuckDuckGo, a service that prides itself on protecting users’ privacy by not tracking searches. That’s the opposite approach of Google, which has recently had to amend its extensive user tracking behavior in the EU due to a new “right to be forgotten” ruling.

(photo: Roberto Baldwin/ The Next Web)

Powered by Bing (photo: Roberto Baldwin/ The Next Web)

Bing has replaced Google as the default search option in Spotlight

In OS X Yosemite, Spotlight gets supercharged with an Alfred-like interface that is also integrated into the Safari menubar. Web searches in the new Spotlight are powered by sources like Wikipedia and Bing. Google is also an option, but its results are displayed under the other sources. Bing has replaced Google as the default search option in Spotlight on iOS 8 as well.

The only thing keeping Google as the default search option in Safari is likely a contract Apple signed several years ago, according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land. Google’s Eric Schmidt said that the company had renewed its search partnership with Apple back in 2011.

It will be interesting to see how Apple manages its search partnership with Google going forward. A lot has changed since Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt shared the stage to announce Google Search and Maps in the original iPhone. Before he died, Jobs famously threatened to wage “thermonuclear” war on Android for stealing Apple’s ideas.

During the WWDC keynote Monday, Google’s name was not said once by anyone onstage. The only attention that was paid to the search giant at all was by Tim Cook, who slammed Android. He said that nearly half of iPhone customers in China switched from Android last year. “They had bought an Android phone by mistake,” quipped Cook. “But then they sought a better experience and a better life. So they decided to check out iOS.”

For Apple, it’s becoming clear that “better” means less Google.

  • http://www.designstrategies.com Len Williams

    I changed my default search engine in Safari to Bing about a year ago. I find the results better for my needs.

    • San Diego Dave

      Was this on your Mac or iPhone? I tried switching to Bing on Safari for iPhone and the layout of the results page was terrible. It was very cramped, ugly, and offered fewer options (you couldn’t select “news” instead of web at the top, for example).

  • Ric Killebrew

    Actually Google was mentioned once onstage Monday

  • Steven

    Happy to see I can finally have DuckDuckGo set as my default search.

  • Kevin Kuo

    I used bing before. It’s good, the interface is more dynamic than Google, but it sometimes it doesn’t get what I’m searching for. Linus would know.
    I hope that if Apple implemented Bing as default, they would include a way to change it back to Google.

  • David

    I just hope if Apple ever does change search engines (or develop their own) that it will be able to link direction results in web searches to the Apple Maps application and not some other web based directions (Google, Yahoo, etc)

  • ScrittoreSabino

    It is not just the defaults of choices that have changed here. Although that in itself is huge, because it is tangible proof the Cookie was good to his word, when he said Apple would be more open.

    I think you may have alluded to this, but I am not sure. This is more than just a changing of defaults here or there and adding another option like DuckDuckGo. What Apple seems to be very methodically and deliberately doing is bigger. They are attempting to shift and change behavior.

    Spotlight has been physically moved from the fart top right corner. It is now smack front and center. Right in your face with a big and visual display. I believe in the process of weening themselves from Google as a company, Apple discovered a few things for itself. Apple being Apple, doesn’t just look at the simple basics – What is the default search engine.

    Apple went further and decided to study habit and behavior. They realized Google is the middle man for too many unnecessary things/searches. A large percentage of people’s searching aren’t deep dives and research ,but quick lookups, phonebook style, or quick reference. Apple is seeking to change behavior to cut out the middle man for this portion of search. It is not true search, and it is totally unnecessary to go to Google for such small things. Yet people do it out of habit. Having worked in online retail, we know this very much to be true, and we are always trying to find ways to bypass Google, so we don’t have to pay for click-through. Retailers would much rather have a direct connect.

    Apple is all for this as well. They learned this via iOS and Apps. The setup of iOS and apps, being direct roots to the intended destinations – retailers, wiki, yelp, movies, weather etc. brought light to the fact that we had become accustomed to automatic Googling, as a start point. Apple is seeking to change that entire mentality.

    It would not be overnight. However, iOS and it’s App centered world had already shown Apple they can and have bypassed Google. It is not and will not be the start point for search, unless you are intending a deep search. But it will never be an auto-start point again, if Apple has its way.

    Spotlight is their new paradigm. Along with this is Siri, also sans Google. This surrounded by a world of Apps. So you minimize Google to only absolute need. Which, quite honestly make sense. This may just be the start. I am somewhat suppressed that they have not already made deeper ties and integration with Wolfram Alpha, IMDB, Yelp, trip advisor, dictionary.com, etc. There has been some of this, but I thought it would have been even deeper by now. It has deepened, but I think this will ramp up further.

  • Eitot

    I think the author overlooks the significance of the changes Apple is going to bring to Spotlight. It doesn’t just replace Google with Bing, but takes over some key aspects that are currently part of Google’s hybrid search (i.e. integrating content into organic search results). The strength of Google Search is that it draws content from different sources, not just websites, making it a perfect access point for Google Now to reply with all sorts of information to an increasing number of natural-search requests. By integrating different services into Spotlight, Apple is in fact taking on Google more directly, rather than just switching to Bing. It removes the need to actually use a search engine, when your operating system does everything already and integrates it more intelligently. This could prove to be an exciting development down the road.

    • San Diego Dave

      Agreed. I can easily see “Spotlight Search” or just “Spotlight” becoming its own standalone, Google-replacing app/search engine (on iPhone as well as Mac).

      But given the disastrous rollout of Apple Maps, I think they’re going to take their time and make sure it’s near-perfect before we see a big release.

  • disqus_7XunpanFgK

    I’m glad Apple is using inferior search engines, maps and the like. Ensures their customers get inferior information and directions, which leads to a poorer experience and fewer customers.

    • San Diego Dave

      Meh. At this point I think Google’s status as “best” in these areas is more taken for granted than actually provable. Was Apple Maps bad at first? Sure. But I’ve been using it exclusively for a year and I love it. And people forget that Google maps had a LOT of problems in the beginning. As of 2006-7, it got me lost so many times (in Los Angeles of all places!) that I always opted for Mapquest instead.

      The same is true of search now. Google is good, but the others are just fine for most people’s needs, especially with a smart phone. If you made Bing the default search engine used by every app on the iPhone, most users wouldn’t notice or have anything to complain about. Google has to perpetuate the idea that it’s the best search engine or it’s life blood (ads) will quickly evaporate.

  • iFreek

    The article is incorrect, the right quote is: “nearly half of Apple’s customers in China in the past six months came from Android”.

    • acslater017

      Yea otherwise that would have been hundreds of millions of new customers practically overnight….

    • http://www.alexheath.me Alex Heath

      Whoops! You are correct. I’ve updated the article to reflect that.

  • ScrittoreSabino

    It is not just the defaults of choices that have changed here. Although that in itself is huge, because it is tangible proof the Cookie was good to his word, when he said Apple would be more open.

    I think you may have alluded to this, but I am not sure. This is more than just a changing of defaults here or there and adding another option like DuckDuckGo. What Apple seems to be very methodically and deliberately doing is bigger. They are attempting to shift and change behavior.

    Spotlight has been physically moved from the fart top right corner. It is now smack front and center. Right in your face with a big and visual display. I believe in the process of weening themselves from Google as a company, Apple discovered a few things for itself. Apple being Apple, doesn’t just look at the simple basics – What is the default search engine.

    Apple went further and decided to study habit and behavior. They realized Google is the middle man for too many unnecessary things/searches. A large percentage of people’s searching aren’t deep dives and research ,but quick lookups, phonebook style, or quick reference. Apple is seeking to change behavior to cut out the middle man for this portion of search. It is not true search, and it is totally unnecessary to go to Google for such small things. Yet people do it out of habit. Having worked in online retail, we know this very much to be true, and we are always trying to find ways to bypass Google, so we don’t have to pay for click-through. Retailers would much rather have a direct connect.

    Apple is all for this as well. They learned this via iOS and Apps. The setup of iOS and apps, being direct roots to the intended destinations – retailers, wiki, yelp, movies, weather etc. brought light to the fact that we had become accustomed to automatic Googling, as a start point. Apple is seeking to change that entire mentality.

    It would not be overnight. However, iOS and it’s App centered world had already shown Apple they can and have bypassed Google. It is not and will not be the start point for search, unless you are intending a deep search. But it will never be an auto-start point again, if Apple has its way.

    Spotlight is their new paradigm. Along with this is Siri, also sans Google. This surrounded by a world of Apps. So you minimize Google to only absolute need. Which, quite honestly make sense. This may just be the start. I am somewhat suppressed that they have not already made deeper ties and integration with Wolfram Alpha, IMDB, Yelp, trip advisor, dictionary.com, etc. There has been some of this, but I thought it would have been even deeper by now. It has deepened, but I think this will ramp up further.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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