Why Apple Lets You Choose Your Music Service

You can finally use something other than Apple Music

Key Takeaways

  • The iOS 14.5 beta let you set a default music app to use with Siri.
  • Apple may be trying to allay antitrust accusations by opening up its built-in services.
  • Many third-party music and podcast apps can be chosen.
black iPhone showing Spotify on wooden table next to apple watch and AirPods
Cezar Sampaio / Unsplash

Next time you tell Siri to play a song, it might offer you the option to play it with Spotify, Deezer, YouTube Music, or another non-Apple music app. 

In iOS 14.5. Apple has added the option to set third-party music apps as the Siri default. Any time you use Siri to play a song, album, or songs by an artist, it will use your chosen service instead of Apple Music. This comes a few months after Apple made it possible to change the default web browser and email apps on iOS. What’s going on? Why is Apple being so generous?

"My guess is that it could have something to do with the recent antitrust discussions," music producer Marcus Wadell told Lifewire via email. "This might be a way for Apple to let some of the dust settle on the issue."

Apple and Antitrust

The EU and US are both eyeing Big Tech companies like Apple and Amazon, assessing whether their practices impair market competition. In Apple’s case, this comes down to the App Store, and its built-in apps like Safari, Mail, and Apple Music.

Prior to iOS 14, tapping a web link would open Safari, and tapping a "mailto" link would open the Mail app. In iOS 14, Apple made it possible to set third-party defaults instead. With Apple Music, the lock-in comes via Siri: If you tell the voice assistant to play a song, then it does so using Apple Music. You’ve been able to specify other services by naming them in your spoken request, but you could never set a default.

"Being able to change your default ‘phone’ app to something like WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom would open up the Apple garden quite a bit."

That’s changing. Users of the iOS 14.5 beta report that Siri now asks you which music service it should use. The first time you use Siri to request music, it pops up a list of possible candidate apps. If you choose Spotify, report users, Siri may ask for permission to access your Spotify account.

Open Up

"If you're a Spotify user already, it makes your iPhone experience that much better," says Wadell. "It could get rid of little annoyances like your phone auto-connecting to your car Bluetooth and blasting a song from Apple Music."

And it’s not just Spotify. According to a thread on Reddit, this new feature picks up on many music and podcast apps you may already have installed, including Deezer, YouTube Music, Apple’s own Podcasts app, the Books app, and Castro.

This is a welcome change. The iPhone and iPad are becoming more powerful and capable, yet we still don’t have the same amount of control over our mobile computers that we have on our laptops and desktops.

iPhone showing Siri's various music and podcast audio app options

Things are slowly opening up, though, as we can see. For instance, whenever you choose to share something in iOS—a link, a photo, and so on—a row of icons appears at the top of the share sheet, with suggestions of your most recent recipients. This used to only show mail and iMessage contacts, but since iOS 13, any third-party messaging app can register to show up here—Telegram and Signal are two that have added this feature.

Messaging apps can also announce incoming messages via AirPods Pro, just like iMessage.

So, what’s next? How about the phone part of the iPhone? Could that ever happen?

"Being able to change your default ‘phone’ app to something like WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom would open up the Apple garden quite a bit." says Wadell.

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