• This update, to iOS 14, is Apple’s latest step towards its own search function to rival Google, the Financial Times reported.
  • Google has been the iPhone’s default search engine for more than 10 years.
  • But Apple’s partnership with Google is under threat from the US Department of Justice, whose landmark antitrust case aims to break Google’s grip on search engines.

Apple is quietly building a rival to Google’s ubiquitous search engine, the Financial Times reported Wednesday, just as the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) landmark antitrust suit aims to break Google’s grip on worldwide search queries.

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Users who downloaded iOS 14, the latest iPhone operating system, noticed that Apple now shows its own results when users search on their home screen. Clicking on links takes users directly to the website in question, rather than through another search engine.

Google has been the iPhone’s default search engine for more than 10 years. The DOJ claims Google has paid Apple up to $12 billion a year for the arrangement the deal is central to its antitrust case.

Should the DOJ block future deals, Apple would need an alternative search engine for its phones.

This isn’t Apple’s first move into the world of search engines. In April 2018, the company hiredJohn Giannandrea, who was formerly Google’s head of search and one of its most powerful people, to work on its AI services.

Apple also frequently posts job listings for search engineer roles, the FT reported.

Apple did not immediately reply to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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Google has described losing the Apple deal as a “code red” scenario, the DOJ lawsuit, filed October 20, claimed. The deal brings in around half of Google’s US site traffic, the DOJ said, and as much as 20% of Apple’s profit.

“Google is a monopoly under traditional antitrust principles and must be stopped,” Ryan Shores, associate deputy attorney general, said at a press conference for the landmark DOJ case on October 20. “We are asking the court to break Google’s grip on search.”

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, alongside Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, face a Senate panel Wednesday as lawmakers push to repeal or rewrite the legal protections they say shield tech giants from accountability. These are frequently referred to as Section 230.