Apple has hundreds of millions of active devices across the globe. People using those devices need to search for stuff online so the default search engine on those devices gets an enviable traffic source. This also means that Apple can charge a lot of money to make any search engine the default on its devices.
Google already pays an obscene amount of money to Apple to be the default search engine on its devices. However, Microsoft was reportedly trying to sell Bing to Apple, but it appears that the fruit company wasn't interested.
Apple makes a ton of money from Google to let it be the default
Bloomberg reports that Microsoft and Apple executives met as recently as 2020 to discuss a potential sale of Bing. The talks, which included top executives like Apple's Eddy Cue, never went beyond the initial phase as the company wasn't keen on pursuing the idea.
Apple charges Google a lot of money to keep it as the default search engine on its iPhones and iPads. According to some estimates, Google pays more than $20 billion to Apple per year for this privilege. In return, it gets massive amounts of traffic from Apple's devices. The report mentions that this was one of the reasons why Apple wasn't too interested in buying Bing. It's also said that the company had “concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google in quality and capabilities.”
Microsoft's executives were aware that they were fighting an uphill battle here. They believe that Apple only entered into discussions so it could extract more money from Google. “It is no secret that Apple is making more money on Bing existing than Bing does,” Microsoft’s Mikhail Parakhin told a US District Court this week during an ongoing FTC lawsuit against Google.
That's not something that you can fault Apple for, though. It makes more than $20 billion per year for nothing more than allowing Google to be the default search engine. Why would the company lose that source of pure profit just to own a search engine?