How Apple’s casual search engine Siri is containing Google search on iOS

Steve Jobs used to defend his “thermonuclear” option against Android by stressing how Apple did not enter the search space while Google had decided to challenge the iPhone with its Android.

Jobs’ words no longer hold true. With Siri, an AI-driven personal digital assistant, Apple has begun slowly but surely eating into Google’s significant search traffic coming from iOS devices.

As such, Siri is emerging as a key tool for casual search on iOS devices. And with iOS 6, Apple is expanding her reach with new alliances, making it easier for users to bypass Google, especially for local search…

Since the original iPhone had gone on sale five years ago, Google has remained the default search provider for iOS devices. You could argue that Google still provides the best search experience on the iOS platform and you’d probably be right.

But a lot has changed in the Apple-Google relationship in years past.

When last October Siri came along, she changed how users think about local search (to its credit, Google is thought to be readying a Siri-like personal assistant for Android devices code-named Majel).

And with Apple Maps replacing Google Maps in iOS 6, all options are now on table.

As you know, Apple taught Siri a few new tricks in iOS 6 through partnerships with the social network for user reviews Yelp, movie reviewer Rotten Tomatoes and restaurant reservation service OpenTable.

These content providers gain a lot by providing service to Siri and all of them also compete directly with Google.

As Reuters notes:

Much more than just a clever feature, Siri is emerging as a key tool for what some in the industry call “casual search” – quickly finding routine information such as a restaurant location.

This is so true and Google must be worried as hell.

Rather than compete with Google on keyword search – which would mean battling algorithms refined by the millions of searches performed every day – Apple is taking a different tack by focusing on a subset of the search universe that users are mostly likely to scour while they are out and about.

That includes restaurants, movies, sports, business listings, maps and locations – where quick, digestible bite-sized results are desired, rather than the more involved research that users perform with Google.

Here’s Jeff’s nice video overview of Siri in iOS 6.


Now, that’s not to say Apple will remove Google search from iOS in the foreseeable future, though at some point it certainly becomes a viable option.

The Apple-Google search deal will probably expire soon.

If the iPhone maker strikes a default iOS search deal with another provider, it would strip Google away of ample search traffic.

First cracks in the partnership began showing in May 2009, when TechCrunch reported that Bing might replace Google as the default search engine in iOS 4.

The talks fell apart, but Apple added the option to utilize Bing search to iOS 4.

Some time later, Apple goes on to extend its existing Google search agreement. Google’s Eric Schmidt said as much in an interview with Charlie Rose of BusinessWeek in September 2010 (emphasis mine):

Apple is a company we both partner and compete with. We do a search deal with them, recently extended, and we’re doing all sorts of things in maps and things like that.

We all know when the maps deal with Google expires: in fall when iOS 6 is slated to launch with Apple Maps.

This fall will also mark two years since Schmidt suggested Google would remain the standard search provider on the Apple hardware for some time to come.

Apple also reportedly cut a major deal with China’s dominant search engine Baidu, which includes revenue sharing. In iOS 6, users now have four search providers to choose from: Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Baidu.

Exactly how much is Mountain View paying to Cupertino for search traffic from iOS devices is anyone’s guess for these agreements are kept largely secret, but we might find out once Apple talks to the Federal Trade Commission.

Educated guesses are in the ballpark of a hundred million bucks annually (probably accurate) to as much as a billion dollars just last year alone (that number is likely bogus).

With the Apple-Google search deal probably expiring this fall – and in light of Apple supplanting Google Maps with its in-house solution – don’t think for one second that Cupertino isn’t looking at Yahoo! or Microsoft

Yahoo! is in financial dire straits and likely not interested to outbid Google.

Microsoft is an entirely different story.

They’re already present as an option in iOS and becoming the default choice would be a major win for Redmond and a huge setback for Mountain View.

The Windows maker probably won’t even have to match Google’s offer because Apple isn’t in it for the money – a few hundred million bucks is peanuts to them.


Come on, for average people search is just a box they can use to look up information – they cannot even figure out how to change their default search provider.

Would you mind if Apple changed default search provider in iOS?

I’m interested in hearing your perspective so chime in with your thoughts down in the comments.