Google’s Payment to Apple for Search Dominance Under Scrutiny

Recent findings indicate that Google may be paying Apple between $18 billion to $20 billion annually to ensure it remains the primary search engine on iPhones. This information, originally highlighted by the financial advisory firm Bernstein, emphasizes the significant monetary relationship between the two tech giants. Initially, the 2021 estimates suggested that Google’s payment to Apple was around $10 billion, but new data has raised this figure considerably.

Key points:

  • Google’s annual payment to Apple for search dominance is estimated between $18 billion to $20 billion.
  • These payments account for approximately 14-16% of Apple’s yearly operating profits.
  • Google dedicates about 22% of its total ad revenue to its traffic acquisition costs (TAC), of which Apple likely receives nearly 40%.
  • The Department of Justice (DoJ) estimates Apple’s income from the Information Services Agreement (ISA) with Google at around $10 billion, though this number comes from external sources.

Antitrust Case Challenges the Deal

The Department of Justice is actively pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against Google in Washington, alleging the company holds a monopoly over search and search advertising. One primary area of focus in this case is the Information Services Agreement (ISA) between Apple and Google, which stands as a potential testament to anticompetitive behavior.

Case implications:

  • Experts believe there’s a possibility Google may lose the case, endangering its valuable agreements with Apple and other partners like Samsung and Mozilla.
  • The final ruling in the antitrust case against Google is not expected until 2024, and an inevitable appeals process might prolong the matter.
  • However, Apple could, in theory, collaborate with a different search engine or maintain its agreement with Google outside the US borders.

Potential Outcomes and Future Scenarios

If Google’s deal with Apple faces termination due to the lawsuit’s outcome, it might lead to a few potential scenarios:

Choice for users:

Apple might introduce a “choice screen” for users, allowing them to select their preferred search engine. This would not only provide users with flexibility but also grant Apple an opportunity to introduce its search engine without inviting regulatory scrutiny.

Apple’s command over advertising revenue:

With control over its vast installed base generating approximately $60 billion in ad revenues, Apple could still levy a commission in the range of 25-30% for access to search advertising revenues.

Potential acquisitions:

Interestingly, it was revealed in the trial that Microsoft once contemplated selling its Bing search engine to Apple. If this had come to fruition, Bing might have replaced Google as the default search engine on Apple’s devices.

The Broader Implications

While the immediate spotlight is on Google and Apple, this case is a representation of the broader questions surrounding big tech companies and their market dominance. These dynamics highlight the ongoing debate about the role and reach of major tech entities in shaping digital ecosystems and the way users interact with the online world.

Industry Repercussions

  • Other tech companies may be motivated to re-evaluate their agreements and partnerships in anticipation of similar scrutiny.
  • Smaller tech startups and new entrants in the market may find opportunities if the antitrust suit results in a more leveled playing field.
  • Advertisers and marketers might need to adjust their strategies if Google’s dominance sees any reduction, leading to changes in ad pricing and placement.


The collaboration between Apple and Google is of significant economic value, with billions of dollars exchanged to maintain Google’s search dominance on Apple devices. However, with the ongoing antitrust suit against Google, the future of this partnership remains uncertain. As the tech world awaits a verdict, the potential consequences for both companies and their users are a subject of intense speculation. For more detailed insights on this topic, you can refer to the original article published by The Register.

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