There are reports coming out of China that Apple will add Baidu as a default search option on iOS. The angle some are taking argues this is further evidence of Apple’s efforts to marginalize Google on iOS. However a better explanation is that it’s a rational move to offer access to China’s largest search engine. Baidu has greater than 80 percent search market share in China.
If accurate Apple’s decision is very analogous to when the company introduced Yahoo and Bing as default search options on the iPhone a couple of years ago. Indeed, it would be strange for Apple to exclude China’s most popular search engine from the default options.
According to Flurry Analytics, China is now the largest market in the world for iOS and Android device activations, having surpassed the US last month.
Macquarie Capital estimated recently that Google made just over $1.3 billion in paid search revenue from its default position on iOS devices. However Google paid $1 billion of that back to Apple according to Macquarie’s analysis.
There’s no comparable amount of mobile revenue at stake for Google in China at this point. Android is also selling extremely well in China, which could offset any traffic losses from a user shift to Baidu on the iPhone. It’s not clear, however, what percentage of Chinese Android handsets use Google as the default search engine. I would assume the majority.