If you prefer Google Maps over Apple Maps, iOS 14 could be a must-have upgrade for your iPhone. That’s because Apple is purportedly looking into allowing smartphone owners to change a number of system defaults. So, rather than always opening directions in Apple Maps, emails in the Apple Mail, or podcasts in the Apple Podcasts app… iPhone owners will be able to set their own favourite third-party alternative, like Google Maps, Microsoft Outlook, or Pocket Casts, respectively.
There’s a lot to like about many of the Apple-designed apps that come preinstalled with your iPhone – not least because they allow users to access a vast array of features as soon as the phone is out of the box, there’s no need to trawl around the App Store for a good half hour to find a suitable calendar app, for example. However, they’re not always right for all users.
According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, Apple is now looking to address one of the most longstanding complaints about its hugely-successful mobile operating system. Mail, Maps and Safari will be some of the apps that can be changed in the Settings app in the next major revision of the operating system, which will be branded iOS 14 provided that Apple sticks with the same naming convention that it has maintained for the past 13 years.
Bloomberg also reports the Cupertino-based company could loosen its restrictions on music apps so that third-party streaming services, like Spotify, Deezer and TIDAL, could become the default provider picked by Siri.
The fundamental change would also allow Spotify subscribers to buy the Apple HomePod smart speaker, which is currently limited to Apple Music (or an old school iTunes library) for those who want to request tracks or playlists using their voice. Of course, other services can be played on the speaker – but only if you’re willing to pull out an iPhone and use AirPlay 2.
While Android phones have always allowed you to change the default providers to a third-party equivalent to Google’s own services, Apple hasn’t afforded its users the same choice. The iPhone manufacturer has always argued that its approach helps to keep iOS secure.
But while it’s true there are less security scares for iOS users than those running Android, developers argue the policy makes it much harder for their applications to compete with Apple’s defaults.
For example, when tapping on any address in the operating system loads-up Apple Maps – it takes real dedication to copy the address and navigate to Google Maps, paste the postcode and start navigating. With iOS 14, users could change the default in the Settings app and then tap on any address to head to their preferred navigation software. And that’s it.
According to Bloomberg sources, these changes “are still under discussion or early development” so could still change.
We’ll likely find out how those discussions went when Apple’s annual developer conference, known as WWDC, comes around in June. The conference, which is now so popular that Apple had to introduce a ballot system to prevent tickets selling out in a matter of minutes, allows developers to get access to Apple engineers and learn about new developments coming to iOS, macOS, iPadOS, tvOS and watchOS before the launch of the final versions in the autumn.
This helps developers make the necessary changes so there are no compatibility issues. Apple will likely offer a first-look at iOS 14 in June – and confirm whether you’ll be stuck with its default apps for another year, or whether you’ll be able to pick your favourite competitor.