If iOS 7 was Jony Ive flexing his design muscles, the unveiling of iOS 8 at the World Wide Developer Conference can best be thought of as Apple beefing up its existing apps in an attempt to retake the iPhone home screen.
The narrative that has emerged in the last two years was that Google made the best iOS apps, bar none: Gmail is better than Mail. Chrome is superior to Safari. And Google Maps made Apple Maps look, well, let’s not go there. iMore once went so far to declare the iPhone one of the best Google phones on the planet.
For iPhone users, the breadth of software options is indisputably to their benefit. Google, after all, doesn’t make its billions off Android alone; ad revenue is generated when people click around inside Google’s services, even on an iPhone. It is in Google’s best interest to be on as many screens as possible.
The presentation at WWDC, however, ties together Apple’s ecosystem and integrates its default software on a deeper level that, in many ways, might make users want to use Apple’s apps again. One such feature on iOS and Mac devices is called Continuity, which aims to make jumping between Apple products a little more seamless. One feature, called Handoff, allows users to jump in between Apple devices to pick up right where they left off mid-task. If you were writing a message within the Mail app, for example, you can switch to your MacBook Air and continue writing your email with a sentence half-written.
Or take messaging. In iOS 8, when you’re in iMessages, one of the more compelling new features is the ability to share your location with friends with a self-destruct timer a la Glympse, the ephemeral location-sharing app. The catch is you’re defaulted to using–you guessed it–Apple Maps. It’s a deeper level of integration within the iPhone that Google Maps simply doesn’t reach.
There are other examples pointing to an Apple ecosystem attempting to minimize Google’s presence in subtle ways: Apple now allows DuckDuckGo as the default search platform within mobile Safari, which, interestingly, doesn’t track a user’s footprint across the web like Google does. Spotlight on your phone can now pull up news and results from places nearby from Apple Maps and Yelp. And Siri even steals Google Now’s hands-free input–just say, “Listen, Siri.”
Indeed, Apple has always given preferential treatment to its own applications–so the fact that opening a link inside a Mail message kicks you over to Safari should hardly come as a surprise. But when Apple unceremoniously gave Google Maps the boot as its default mapping application and removed YouTube (ostensibly as part of Steve Jobs’s “thermonuclear war” on Android), it has been on a mission to phase Google out of its homescreen entirely. With iOS 8, the company merely takes things one step further.
Your move, Google.