Apple may soon let you choose third-party apps instead of defaults like Mail and Safari

And possibly swap Apple Music for Spotify on HomePod, too.


If you’ve ever tapped an email link on an iPhone or iPad and cursed the Gods of Cupertino that the Mail app opens and not Gmail, you’ll appreciate how big today’s news out of Bloomberg is — that Apple’s considering allowing users to set non-Apple apps as the default ones on iOS devices. Allegedly the company is also considering allowing better Spotify integration with its HomePod smart speaker. The changes could arrive in iOS 14 and via a firmware update for the HomePod.

It’s probably not out of the kindness of Cook’s heart — If Apple does relax its grip, it’s unlikely to be because it’s finally bowing to pressure from users or suddenly feeling magnanimous towards third-party app developers. It’s more likely a preemptive move to head off the various antitrust allegations and scrutiny it faces in various markets. Remember when Microsoft got punished for forcing Internet Explorer on PC owners? It’s that sort of incident Apple’s probably trying to avoid.

Whatever the reason, we’ll take it — Our chief gripe about Apple’s HomePod is how it handles Spotify. Instead of letting us set the world’s finest streaming service as the default for the HomePod like we can on our Google Home setup, we instead have to use Spotify on our MacBook, iPhone or iPad and then push audio to the HomePod via AirPlay. Which is not the seamless future we were promised.

Bloomberg speculates that relaxing restrictions on third-party apps on the HomePod could help Apple boost sales of the device, which continues to lag far behind Google and Amazon’s sector-dominating smart speakers.

We understand Apple’s desire to keep its garden walled — The data gleaned from services like maps are a new form of currency, and services account for an ever-growing share of the company’s revenue — but we’re also glad to see pressure from regulators to build a few doorways. Apple’s hardware already demands users pay a premium, being draconian about which services we can use on that hardware should’ve been outlawed long ago.