a small change with a big effect

This Could Be the Feature That Finally Makes Me Switch to iPhone


March 16, 2020 Tech By

I am an extremely long-time Android user. The last time my main mobile device was Apple-made was when I was rocking a jailbroken, second-generation iPod Touch in 2008. But over the years, my commitment to Android has been waning, and a rumored feature that may be coming to iOS — the ability to set third-party apps as your default for browsing and mail — could just be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.

The potential upcoming feature, according to Bloomberg’s historically on-point Apple reporter Mark Gurman, is a small one, but one that speaks directly to my interests. Basically, instead of forcing you into Apple’s default mail app when you try to send a message, or into Apple’s Safari browser when you click a link in another app, Apple may finally let you swear off its default apps entirely. It’s another step down the path that the historically walled-garden Apple has been walking down for years, following in Android’s footsteps by, for instance, finally allowing third-party keyboards back in 2014.

I originally swore off Apple devices for the same reason I jailbroke my old iPod Touch: I found Apple’s walled garden approach to software annoying in practice and offensive in principle, so I opted for Google’s far more hands-off approach. But more than ten years down the road — post-Snowden, post-Cambridge Analytica, post-endless high-profile privacy scandals of all sorts — my priorities have substantially shifted. I’ve become much more interested the protection of my personal information than I am in some abstract commitment to app choice. And that kind of privacy is something that Apple is kind of uniquely suited to provide.

Apple’s ever more explicit focus on privacy isn’t necessarily altruistic. It’s an outgrowth of the company’s business model, which is based around selling services and hardware as compared to a company like Google, which fundamentally makes a lot of its bones by targeting ads. But that doesn’t mean the privacy isn’t there. Apple’s software features increasingly lean towards on-device processing that make sure your data doesn’t need to leave the phone. What’s more, features the let you hide your email are increasingly appealing to me, along with the company’s steadfast opposition to helping law enforcement get through its encryption.

But the way the iPhone, for now, still pressures you into Apple’s own browser and email apps has always stuck in my craw, both philisophically but also practically, as a pretty committed Firefox user. It’s kept me from making a big jump that is otherwise more and more appealing with every passing day. If this is true, maybe I’ll finally bite the bullet and make a change.

Today in Gear

The best way to catch up on the day’s most important product releases and stories. Read the Story
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Eric Limer

Eric Limer is Gear Patrol’s tech editor. A resident of Weehawken, NJ, his current obsessions include mechanical keyboards, mechanical pencils and Formula 1.

More by Eric Limer | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email
Start Your Week
with Daybreak
Productivity hacks, coffee recommendations, workweek style inspiration and more.

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.