Is Apple's war against Google hurting iOS?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Is Apple's war against Google hurting iOS?
One of the first quotes from the biography of Steve Jobs to really catch fire was when he allegedly said that he would wage "thermonuclear war" on Google because of he perceived Android to be a copy of Apple's iOS. Of course, Jobs had a tendency to exaggerate anything he perceived to be "stealing" of Apple's ideas while simultaneously ignoring any times Apple did the same to other companies. The "thermonuclear war" was certainly an exaggeration, but Apple has been systematically distancing itself and iOS from Google for quite a while now. 

At first, Apple made a couple subtle changes to the system, which didn't actually remove any Google features, but rather removed Google's name. As it stands now, only the search box in Safari carries the name Google. Apple started out by changing the name of Google Maps to simply Maps, and the search box from the home screen doesn't mention Google, it simply says "Search the Web". But, since then Apple has been taking direct aim at Google products within iOS. 

Direct attacks

The first direct attack came in the form of Siri. With the introduction of Siri, searches initiated by voice didn't pull results from Google, but instead pulled from sources like Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha, and others. So, each Siri search directly took away from Google traffic. For all of the hype about Siri being a voice command personal assistant, one of the main aims of the product from Apple's point of view was to take away from Google search. 

This was especially noticeable in the fact that Siri was not a fully matured product at launch. Apple has a reputation for holding features until they meet certain internal standards, but it's hard to believe that Siri met those standards. Right out of the gate, Siri had lost functionality from its original incarnation as a standalone app. Then after the launch of the iPhone 4S, there were issues with the Siri servers, which went down multiple times leaving the product completely useless. And, even now there are quite a few users that continue to be disappointed with the voice recognition of Siri as well as the inaccurate responses to queries that the service gives. 

Siri was a necessity for Apple to have a killer marketing feature for the iPhone 4S, but it definitely felt rushed and not up to the standards that Apple usually sets for itself. We certainly expect Siri to get better with iOS 6, but the service has been in desperate need of updates, but hasn't really gotten much because of the nature of iOS updates and the strict yearly cycle that Apple adheres to. 

The next shot was one that was a long time coming. We had seen the evidence that Apple was building its own Maps application through a number of acquisitions, and the product is finally coming in iOS 6. We have known for a while that it would be pretty well impossible for Apple to be able to match the functionality found in Google Maps with its own offering. But, we've also known that Apple doesn't have to match Google, because for whatever reason, Google Maps never got any updates with each iteration of iOS. No one is sure whether it was Apple or Google to blame for the lack of updates, but it does mean that Apple has a lower bar to reach as far as the functionality that its users might expect. If Apple can do well enough, maybe users won't even really notice the change, especially since Apple had dropped Google from the Maps name a long time ago, as we mentioned. 

The latest removal

The latest move is one that's generated a lot of buzz as it came out recently that Apple has removed YouTube from the latest version of iOS 6, and that the app has been confirmed to not be baked-in to the OS any more. The big difference here is that unlike the other changes that Apple made to rid itself of Google products, there is no replacement ready for YouTube. We may very well hear about a deal that will have Vimeo baked-in to iOS, but that seems somewhat unlikely. There is a definite possibility that at least part of the decision to remove YouTube was an attack at Google, and part of the plans to remove Google from iOS, but we expect Apple's reasoning (and certainly any official explanation) to be closer to Google's "decoupling" of apps from Android. 

One of the earliest moves that Google made in order to make updates faster was to "decouple" apps like Gmail, Maps, and YouTube from the Android system. This meant that while Google Apps were still pre-loaded on devices, updates for these apps could be pushed out through the Android Market rather than waiting for a full system update. 

Apple doesn't have anything like this, and if an app is going to be updated through iTunes rather than as part of a full system update, the app won't be pre-loaded onto devices. Just like Google Maps for iOS, YouTube for iOS has been in desperate need of an update as both apps steadily fell farther and farther behind their Android counterparts. This is why, it seems reasonable that Apple will just say that the YouTube app will be better as a standalone app than as a core piece of iOS, because the app will be able to get regular updates from Google, and Google has already promised to make YouTube available through the App Store.

The damage done

The trouble with this reasoning is the same trouble we've run across with Google Maps, and alternative browsers on iOS: because of the system limitations, only core Apple apps can be the default handler unless specifically coded by the developer, as Google showed. This means that even though Google will be releasing a standalone Google Maps app into the iTunes store, which could very well be far more feature-rich than the built-in Apple Maps option, it will never be able to handle address links, or requests to Siri for directions. Those will always be routed to Apple's Maps. 

As yet, it's unclear if these same sort of limitations will be placed on YouTube now that it is no longer a core app of iOS. Until now, any links to a YouTube video on iOS would be directed to the YouTube app, but that may not be the case in iOS 6. This would be incredibly frustrating for iOS users, because YouTube is more than just a Google property, it is an Internet staple. There are other video services around, but none really compare to YouTube, and the proliferation of YouTube links makes it hard to avoid. 

After all of this work by Apple, the only Google service that's left as a core part of iOS is the search box in Safari, but right now Apple doesn't really have much of a way around that. With Microsoft pushing Windows 8 tablets and Windows Phone as hard as it can, regardless of market size, Apple isn't too likely to start supporting Bing. That's just choosing the less threatening competitor, it's not a real solution. Apple could switch Google search to something less popular, like DuckDuckGo, but it's hard to imagine casual users accepting that change. 

Apple has always claimed to be a company that was ultimately concerned with the user experience and providing the best experience possible; but, in general, Apple's desire to be rid of all things Google seems to be coming with some pretty big issues for users. Siri has had performance issues, and every time it fails to understand, or fails to find a relevant answer to a question, it still defaults to a Google search. Apple Maps looks like an okay first attempt, but the beta hasn't compared well with Google, and it's unclear whether it can deliver what users expect from a maps app. 


And, when we get right down to it, that's the real problem with all of this: what the users expect. The main reason why Apple is having so many PR problems with Siri is because all of the ads that we see for the product show something that doesn't come close to the reality of using the product. Apple needs to be very careful to manage expectations with iOS 6, but managing expectations, and quelling rumors is not something that comes naturally to Apple, because those things feed into the company's hype machine.  

Casual users have come to expect certain features in a Maps app. Regardless of whether there is Street View, users expect a certain level of street detail, and especially those who have been using Google Maps a lot will be expecting a very extensive database of places, complete with reviews. Users have also come to expect YouTube to not only be a core app of the system, but to be integrated and handle links for YouTube. As yet, we don't know if Apple can meet those expectations, and the company certainly isn't doing anything to manage user expectation. 

It will be nice to get versions of each of these apps that gets updated regularly, but this whole plan by Apple seems to be rife with the potential to backfire. If Apple continues to push towards ridding its system of Google products, it needs to have quality replacements ready at each step. Siri hasn't quite been good enough, but it still uses Google as a fallback. Apple Maps won't have that luxury, and YouTube has no real replacement. 

If users expect a certain level of functionality that isn't there, we could see a pretty vocal dissent, which could lead to more people moving to Android. But, if that looks to be the case, we also could see Apple loosen its grip on default apps on iOS. Remember, Apple eventually gave in and went with Intel for its computers, which in turn allowed for Windows to run on Apple systems. That was considered heresy by the faithful at the time, but it was necessary to allow Apple to continue to thrive as a hardware company, despite the competition with Microsoft (not to mention that the marketing of "the best Windows computer is a Mac" was brilliant). Eventually, Apple may come to realize that mobile is very similar. It's not worth banishing software to the App Store if it hurts the hardware sales. And, whether Apple likes it or not, Google is a great software company, and it makes products that people use, even if they don't use Android.



1. wendygarett unregistered

once again nice article Michael... The war always motivate android too to get rid of being ios wannabe ...

10. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

ICS and the Holo UI was a big leap! agree, nice article! Apple is really some sort of ''combiner'' in the industry. they take the best and assemble them into their own product. Screens from LG/Sharp, Processors from Samsung, GPU's from PowerVr, Camera from Sony and all... Google really played a role in iOS functionality. i think Apple shouldn't have become this dependent. that fact stops them from being innovative and by the time all companies draw their services away, Apple will lose it's feet and crumble down to ashes. --- in which I hope they do so considering their attitude lately.

30. Smartest-Man

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 03, 2012

It's off subject, but I just wanted to say, Wendy Garrett is fine. I agree great article.

107. lyndon420

Posts: 6861; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

You're right. She is very easy on the eyes.

124. doublehammer

Posts: 75; Member since: Aug 07, 2012

The chick in the pic is definitely a hotty. However, this being the internet and all, I would say "wendy" is the dude on the left. lol.

141. Astro551

Posts: 46; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

gotta love google image search. the actor's name is Elly Tran :P (it's a picture of her with another movie actor)


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Copying the market leader seems like the safe marketing decision and will invariably get u a piece of the market, but there is no way to win by being the copycat. Answer for Android: keep the clone version and work at keeping pace with Apple, while you engage in serious design effort to create something new from the ground up. This will give you continuous money flow and market presence while prepairing for the day you can leap into the front. If your redesign fails, you atleast maintained your current position which should eventually slows down there innovations in this market.

4. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

you can still get all the google apps and services from the app store so i don't want apple to add a default youtube app, i am happy with its removal

16. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

You'll be happy with every YouTube link directing you to the mobile website rather than the app?

21. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

At this point Michael, it seems that is what most iOS users would prefer. This is of course due to the fact that the YouTube app for iOS was HORRIBLE and at this point the mobile site is actually better. If iOS users had any idea how nice the Android YouTube app is they would not want to be redirected to the mobile site. I think Apple is gambling heavily on the idea that iOS users never look outside the iOS walls so they have no idea what they are missing.

31. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

i also use the galaxy nexus which is updates to jb.....i just don't like youtube default apps, i think its better to download those from the app store or the play store so that we can update, change and delete the app whenever we want....i use the apple products because they have better apps in the app store and i got a nexus because i feel that sticking to a single os makes life boring

25. Savage unregistered

There is an alternative for that. Apple needs to be able to set defaults. If I click on a Youtube link, it should give me the option to set the Youtube app as default. What prevents this from happening is iOS and its limitations which need to be overcome.

34. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

you always have an option to jailbreak your phone, you can restore it whenever you wants to keep things as simple as possible so is u want android like ui, multitasking and more then you gotta jailbreak......the jailbroken ipad is really cool, you can run all android apps on it as well, u can get side by side multitasking and much more

28. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

no, i will be happy with every youtube link directing me to google's new youtube app from the app store, the current youtube app is boring, the new youtube app will have some extra cool stuff

33. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

Michael's point is that due to current iOS limitations it will not be possible for a YouTube link to direct you to the app unless the app is an iOS app, which will no longer be the case. Unless you are referring to your Galaxy Nexus in which case i'll shut up now.

47. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

maybe apple will allow users to integrate it to the OS just like facebook, twitter and ibooks apps, the current ios limitations are for the ios5 and it will have the default youtube app forever.....i use both android and ios devices and i won't sell either of those, unlike most of the others who buy one of the two and criticize the other ........and i prefer the ios only because both google and apple are working for it.....even if apple removes default google apps, i will get them from the app far as android is concerned, i think that is people feel that iphone is too expensive then they can get a galaxy nexus which is pretty cool for its price.....people say that other android phones have better specs but i never noticed the advantage of higher specs, my iphone always outperformed my friend's galaxy s3 in performance, apps and games but yes,the screen is small, i think a 4 inch screen would be the best,s3 is just too big...... the galaxy nexus gets updated even before the galaxy s3 and it runs apps as good as my friend's s3 even though its $300 cheaper.....i think that those who want to get a new phone should choose the iphone 5 or the galaxy nexus...existing ios/android users can't change their os because if they do so, then they will have to leave all the apps and games that they have purchased previously....i am eagerly waiting for the iphone 5 and the next nexus phone

138. sansam100

Posts: 13; Member since: Jun 11, 2012

It is possible coz while on safari there is an option to open PDF file on PDF reader which is a third party app


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Michael Heller your article is, are, proficient...... keep it up.

52. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

hey, its srk's fan once again, which phone do u use? android phone? or nokia?


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Big SRK fan. S3 oneX Nokia 8800 carbon Arte. And you?

55. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

ipad 1,3........iphone3g, 4s and planning to buy the iphone 5........the galaxy nexus s and the galaxy nexus.......and also my nokia 5800...i have used ios and android but this one was my first touch screen phone and i love it :)

88. theBankRobber

Posts: 682; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

All I hear is a bunch of whining coming out your mouth.

126. thebest

Posts: 231; Member since: Jul 08, 2012

oh shut up........i don't like to stick to a single os, i am not a fanboy and i don't want to be an unpaid promoter of any os.....infact, i am also thinking of trying windows 8 now.....everyone should do that before telling good or bad about any os

91. Martine

Posts: 102; Member since: Oct 20, 2011

Micheal, You are simply the best here. Ray and Alan should really learn from instead writing bogus copy and paste articles every time

6. Jobes

Posts: 364; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Great article Michael, Apple cannot expect to go thermonucular without fallout. To remove YouTube.... I can hear the screams already.

7. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

The war Apple started against Google/Android reminds me of the war Germany once started against the old USSR. Extremely successful at first, but in the end led to their ultimate destruction...

8. Jobes

Posts: 364; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Germany was doing swell till they decided to fight on multiple fronts.. wonder what Apple is doing..

18. MeoCao unregistered

Haha, but the result of that war is a prosperous Germany and extinction of USSR. Joking aside, we can see that Apple became too arrogant and tries to use lawsuits to discredit competitors instead of improving their OS. They take users for fools that can be deceived by their theatrics.

23. tedkord

Posts: 17452; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

That was not the result of that war. The fall of Russia and the rise of a prosperous Germany had to do with one embracing freedom, the other embracing draconian tyranny and closed walls. Now, some uncanny parallels can be drawn from this to the current Android/iOS war as well.

37. MeoCao unregistered

Was democracy in Germany possible w/o the defeat of the old Germany? And victory in WW2 made the Soviets believe they were right and made any change to the system impossible. So I think Apple's victory in mobile war over Nokia and RIM is fitting analogy to the Soviet victory in WW2 with Google playing the role of democratic forces. Totalitarian Apple will be defeated. LOL

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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