Court documents reveal Google's payments to Apple increased to an eye-watering $20 billion

  • Google paid Apple $20 billion in 2022 to be Safari's default search engine, per court documents.

  • That's a $2 billion increase compared to the reported amount Google paid Apple in 2021.

  • The deal is key evidence in a US antitrust lawsuit that says Google has an illegal search monopoly.

The price to be the default search engine on iPhones, iPads, and Macs has apparently gone up.

Newly disclosed court documents from the Department of Justice's antitrust case against Google said the tech giant paid over $20 billion in 2022 to secure itself as the default search engine on Apple's Safari browser.

That's at least $2 billion more than the reported price it paid Apple in 2021. According to the court documents, Google paid Apple around $18 billion that year, surpassing $1 billion every month.

Public disclosure of the documents is a big deal because both parties have kept quiet about the exact dollar amount of the arrangement and the numbers have also been excluded from SEC filings.

At the trial last fall, Apple execs were cryptic about the payment and said Google spent "billions" on a deal with Apple. A witness later accidentally said Google paid 36% of the revenue it earned from search ads through Safari.

The $20 billion deal with Apple is a key piece of evidence in the DOJ's landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google. Since 2005, the agreement has required Apple to set Google as Safari's sole default search engine on its devices, according to the court documents.

It's been a very valuable deal for Apple. In 2021, Bernstein analysts estimated that Google's payments to Apple made up about 15% of the iPhone maker's operating income.

While Google has been paying Apple to be the default search engine on Apple devices since 2002, the value of the deal has increased significantly. In 2014, Google was paying $1 billion, per court documents filed in a separate case involving Oracle.

The court documents say that in search, Google and Apple seek to "work as if [they] are one company."

An email from Don Harrison, Google's president of global partnerships and corporate development, said in 2018 that Tim Cook's "overall message to Google was 'I imagine us as being able to be deep deep partners,'" and "deeply connected" at the point where Apple's services end and Google's begin, according to the court documents.

As one of Apple's biggest smartphone competitors, the deal also reveals a complex relationship between the two tech giants. Court documents said that Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, at one point, the company "continued to have moments of tension" with Apple as they competed over rival products.

Representatives for Google and Apple didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's requests for comment ahead of publication.

Closing arguments in the antitrust case against Google are taking place this week, with the Justice Department arguing that Google is illegally dominating the search-engine market. Google has denied the allegations.

Apple is also fighting its own antitrust lawsuit that accuses the iPhone maker of illegally maintaining a smartphone monopoly by making its competitors' offerings worse, allegations that Apple has denied.

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