Apple’s hardware used to run on an infamous “tick-tock” cycle. One year we’d get a big design overhaul – the “tick” – followed by a conservative, iterative update – the “tock” – the year after. That cycle looks dead as far as hardware is concerned, with Apple now tending to keep more-or-less the same design for several years at a time.
But software is a different story, and Apple’s operating systems seem to have adopted this up-and-down approach instead. iOS 11 had plenty of exciting new features (tick) but was full of bugs – so iOS 12 focused on boring-but-important things like performance and stability (tock). History may now be repeating itself, as last year’s iOS 13 arrived with a bunch of new stuff but some pretty big issues almost unheard of from Apple. The latest reports expect iOS 14 to right the ship once again, with another tock year devoted to making sure everything works as it should.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to in iOS 14, though. A report from Bloomberg suggests a change of strategy from Apple that could bring about something users have been asking for since the dawn of the iPhone: the ability to change the default apps in iOS 14.
Apple has historically kept a tight hold on its suite of default apps. Though third-party alternatives are available on the app store, you can’t switch from Apple’s own fare when it comes to the default apps for a task. Web links will always open in Safari, even if you favor Firefox or Chrome. Email addresses always link to the stock Mail app, never Gmail or Outlook. And so on.
The report suggests Apple will soon allow users to change these defaults.
It’s not just default apps that would be affected by this kind of change of heart – there are even whispers that a future update could allow Apple’s HomePod speaker to directly integrate with Spotify. Currently, you can ask the speaker to play any song from Apple Music and Siri will gladly comply, but to play from another service like Spotify you have to load it up on another device and stream to the speaker via AirPlay – an altogether more involved processed.
Android devices have long had the ability to switch these defaults around, but Apple has resisted following suit. If this Bloomberg rumor – attributed to “people familiar with the matter” – is true, it will be a real win for all users. Apple has been criticized in the past for its tight restrictions in iOS, and opening up customization to allow third-party apps more prominence would be a great step in the right direction.
We’ll have to wait until Apple’s WWDC event in June for more concrete details.