Apple exec touts hidden iOS 17 search engine setting during Google testimony

John Giannandrea, Apple’s senior vice president of ML and AI strategy, took the stand this week to testify in the ongoing Department of Justice antitrust suit against Google. During his testimony, Giannandrea specifically pointed to a little-known new feature in iOS 17 related to the iPhone’s default search engine.

Apple has found itself involved in the DOJ’s lawsuit, which is focused on whether or not Google abuses its position in the search engine industry. Apple is not named as a defendant in the case, but the multi-billion default search engine deal between it and Google is one of the key aspects of the trial.

As we’ve covered in the past, Google pays Apple billions of dollars every year to retain its status as the default search engine on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The DOJ believes that this deal could play a key role in Google’s overall abuse of power in the search industry.

As reported by Bloomberg, during hearings on Thursday and Friday, Giannandrea pointed out that iOS 17 added a new setting that allows users to choose two different default search engines on their devices. One of the settings is for normal Safari browsing, while the new second option is specifically for Private Browsing.

Google is still the default for both of those settings. The difference is that you now have that added layer of granular control to set different defaults for both Safari browsing modes. You can find the new option by going to the Settings app, choosing “Safari,” then looking for the new “Private Search Engine” option. You can choose between Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia.

This feature largely flew under the radar during iOS 17 beta testing over the summer. iOS 17, however, is now available to the general public and Apple seems to think the new search option is a key aspect of its deal with Google.

Giannandrea’s testimony is believed to be of particular importance to the case. Prior to joining Apple in 2018, Giannandrea worked at Google for eight years and served as the company’s senior vice president of engineering for search.

Apple’s Eddy Cue and Adrian Perica are also set to testify as part of the case. Apple had argued that there is no need for Cue, Giannandrea, and Perica to testify in the case, but the court disagreed.

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