Apple prides itself on protecting user data. Google, the default search engine on all Apple products, notoriously tracks users to tailor their advertisement experiences - so why doesn’t Apple have its own data-protective search engine to align with these company values?
Some Apple products and services have already stolen the limelight from Google, and they’re willing to pay up if it means quelling Apple’s urge to overshadow their real money-maker: The search engine.
Google paid $15 billion to Apple in 2021 alone to remain the default search engine on Safari, justified by the AdWords revenue they bring in originating from search queries on Apple devices. The more successful Apple becomes, the more cash Google forks over to the sleekly designed, ever-growing company.
Apple has gained customer loyalty since it released the first iPhone in 2007. The functional touch-screen and full scope of internet access in an all-in-one device set the company apart from competitors and revolutionized the smartphone industry. In 2021, Apple experienced 92% brand loyalty from customers, meaning that most iPhone users will continue to use these devices exclusively as they evolve.
There are 113 million iPhone users in the United States alone, and Apple has already dabbled in utilizing search engine tools to keep users Apple-engaged, including the Spotlight search feature.
Users can swipe down and search for something like the score of a football game without having to leave the iPhone home screen. The score will appear without redirecting users away from their iPhone screen, unless the user chooses to read more information, which they can do through the link provided beneath the stats.
iAd was Apple’s first attempt at a programmatic ad network, which failed in 2016 because of data limitations and a lack of demand. Apple Search Ads was a solid replacement for the failed network when it emerged in 2016.
Apple Search Ads allows advertisers to place their products at the top of app store search results. Progressively, Apple will allow for more ads within their apps. The tech giant has already implemented advertisements on apps like Apple News and Stocks. With a search engine on the rise, Apple will expand the use of advertising across its platforms.
Apple already generates $4 billion in annual revenue from its ad business - but the company wants to grow the segment into the “double digits.” In Q2 2022, Google’s revenue reached $69.7 billion, with $56.3 billion coming from Google advertising products like AdWords search ads. If Apple holds a candle to the success of Google advertising on its platform, Apple’s ad revenue will quickly approach its double-digit goal.
Creating a search engine wouldn’t be the first time Apple revamped a Google concept - take Apple Maps, for example. Apple ditched Google Maps to invest in their own version. An Apple search engine isn’t left-field at all; it’s just another diversion from Google products and a new addition to the Apple universe.
Apple knows how to keep users engaged with its products and services. There’s a fitness tracker, clock, calendar, wallet, weather app, podcasts, music streaming, news and more built into Apple products, leaving little room for apps of similar varieties to veer traffic away from Apple-centric apps. A search engine would provide a new outlet to keep this centricity across its devices.
While Apple will not formally announce the search engine until it’s ready, the answers are in the job listings. There’s been a "notable uptick" in the App Store provider’s efforts to recruit talent to its Ad Platform unit since the beginning of 2022.” There are 600+ Ad Platforms jobs open.
Apple is explicitly searching for a senior manager for a Demand-Side Platform (DSP) in its ads platforms business. A DSP is an automated way to purchase and manage online ads - and what’s a huge component of search engines? Ads.
A DSP is a core part of an ad tech stack for any company aiming to earn more media dollars. It’s far from surprising for a company like Apple, which makes it difficult for independent companies to grow within their platforms, to make a move like this, as said in a Digiday article.
The rumor of a DSP only 18 months after slamming down on notoriously user-data-driven platforms like Google and Facebook's ability to track data across apps with new privacy features in IOS 14 was a bold move on Apple’s end.
Steve Jobs dedicated himself to maintaining user privacy, and this ‘ask app not to track’ pop-up feature honors that. While the new privacy approach provides users transparency, it impacts small businesses and free apps that rely on targeted ads as a stream of income.
The redirection of external applications’ advertising does not mean Apple will stop using advertisements in their own apps anytime soon. If anything, we will see more paid ads on our Apple devices than ever.
As a result of Apple’s new privacy features, Facebook experienced a $10 billion loss in 2021, forming a wall of tension between the two massive companies. The update also impacted the revenues of Google, Snapchat, YouTube, and any other company that relies on targeted ads from advertisers as a revenue source.
Search engines thrive off of tailoring search results or ads to users based on user search history, web activity and app activity, which starkly contrasts Apple’s dedication to privacy. Apple will undoubtedly use these same methods to supply behavior-based ads as a part of their DSP ad inventory.
Maor Sadra, CEO & co-founder of INCRMNTAL, expressed her concerns in an Ad Exchanger article.
“I am curious about what privacy-by-design would mean in terms of targeting capabilities and how Apple will match the performance of other DSPs,” Sadra said.
If Apple follows a similar approach to its Apple Search Ads platform, paid advertisements will create a breadth of monetary success. Apple uses search and download history to provide more relevant ads to users in the App Store and whom users read and follow to tailor Apple News ads. If users enable location tracking, targeted ads will be geographically relevant to the user. Users can change how Apple tracks their data for advertising in settings.
While an Apple Search Engine might not gain as much traction as Google, at least in its beginning phases, its appeal lies in simplicity and eliminating friction. Even if Apple takes 10% of users from Google, this is still a significant loss on Google’s end.
Blogger and previous Microsoft employee Robert Scoble predicts Apple will announce their search engine in the WWDC showcase in 2023.
According to a TechRadar article, Scoble explained the information is “based partly on conversations with sources and partly on deduction.”
"This is the most expensive product launch of all time [sic]," he added.” He’s not wrong. Scoble acknowledged the search engine rumors and Apple predictions in a Twitter thread after the 2022 WWDC showcase.
An Apple search engine will undoubtedly affect Google’s monetary success by shifting the default search engine on Apple products to an Apple-owned one. Still, the shift will involve much more than revenue.
30,000 SEO agencies in the US alone have built their businesses around a Google-based algorithm, and the emergence of a new search engine from another tech giant could drastically shift how companies use SEO. An estimated 45% of small businesses use or have used Google Adwords to grow their business. Businesses of all sizes credit their growth to being found in search.
The consumer decision-making process will change overnight for nearly every consumer in the world with the emergence of the Apple Search Engine. The technological landscape of the entire world, not just the business world, will be impacted.