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Apple’s AI Chief Has Announced iOS 17 Update Gives Users Choice of Search Engine

Former high-ranking Google executive John Giannandrea recently highlighted a significant alteration in the latest iPhone software update, iOS 17, which was unveiled on September 25. This update introduces a noteworthy change that allows users to opt for a search engine other than Google when navigating in private mode.

In the wake of growing privacy concerns among users, Google, the tech behemoth, has found itself under increased scrutiny from the public regarding issues of user choice and competition within the search engine market.

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The iOS 17 software release has introduced a pivotal feature by adding a second setting that empowers iPhone users to seamlessly switch between Google and alternative search engines. This development was emphasized by the head of Apple’s artificial intelligence division during his testimony in a federal court in Washington as part of the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

This newly added feature simplifies the process of changing search engines with a single tap, a move aimed at addressing concerns surrounding Google’s alleged monopoly in online search. This issue has gained prominence in light of the U.S. government’s antitrust lawsuit, which contends that Google has been unlawfully maintaining its dominant position through agreements with web browsers and mobile device manufacturers, including Apple.

Initially, Google refuted these allegations, asserting in its opening statement that users can easily switch search engines in a matter of seconds. However, Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO of rival search engine DuckDuckGo, testified on September 28 that Google’s default status on browsers is perceived as a barrier to users changing their preferences, citing a convoluted process.

Furthermore, Google’s default position as the search engine in Apple’s Safari, the web browser for Apple devices, is a result of contractual obligations between the two tech giants. As part of this arrangement, Google shares a portion of its advertising revenue with Apple, although the exact sum remains confidential. According to reports, the Justice Department has indicated that Google pays Apple an annual amount estimated to be between $4 billion and $7 billion.

Giannandrea clarified in his testimony that Google will continue to be the default search engine for Safari in private mode, which does not store browsing history. However, the new update offers users the flexibility to choose from a range of search engines, including Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia, for their private browsing experience.

John Giannandrea, currently leading Apple’s AI division, previously worked at Google from 2010 to 2018 in the role of Senior Vice President of Engineering. In his current capacity, Giannandrea is spearheading machine learning initiatives at Apple and driving AI-powered endeavors for the company.