How to Choose the Default Apps on the iPhone

can you choose default iphone apps?
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Apple is famous for limiting the customization options that it offers to iPhone users. For instance, every iPhone comes with a pre-installed set of apps that can't be deleted. Those pre-installed apps not only can't be deleted, but they're the default app used for each feature. 

But what if you prefer to use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps for getting directions? Can you choose the default apps on your iPhone?

How Default Apps Work on iPhone

The word "default" means two things when it comes to apps on the iPhone. It means apps that are pre-installed and apps that are used for common tasks. In terms of the second meaning, which is what this article is about, default apps are the ones that are always used to do a certain thing. For example, when you tap a link to a website in an email, it always opens in Safari. When a website includes an address and you tap it to get directions, Apple Maps always launches.

Of course, there are many different apps that do the same things. There's Google Maps for navigation, Spotify for music streaming, or Chrome for web browsing. Any user can install these apps on their iPhone. But what if you prefer to use Chrome instead of Safari every time or Google Maps instead of Apple Maps? What if you want that link you tap on in an email to open in Chrome every time?

For Most Users: Bad News

For most users looking to do that, I've got bad news: It's not possible. You can't pick your default apps on iPhone. As mentioned earlier, Apple doesn't allow users certain kinds of customizations.

One of the customizations that it blocks is picking your default apps.

Apple doesn't allow this kind of customization because it wants to ensure that iPhone users all have a similar experience with a baseline level of quality and expected behavior. By requiring its apps be the defaults, Apple knows that every iPhone user will have a similar—and similarly positive, it hopes—experience of using the phone.

The other reason that it sets its apps as the default is that that brings Apple more users. Take the example of the Music app. By making it the default music app, Apple has been able to attract over 13 million paying customers to its Apple Music service in about one year. That's over US$100 million in monthly revenue. If it allowed customers to set Spotify as their default, Apple would likely lose some percentage of those customers.

So, while it's not necessarily the perfect experience for all customers, not letting users choose their default apps serves some very well and certainly serves Apple.

For Jailbreakers: Some Good News

There is one way to change at least some default apps: jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking lets users remove some of the controls Apple places on their iPhones. If your phone is jailbroken, you won't be able to change every default app, but you can change a couple:

  • Maps app: MapsOpener lets you set Google Maps as your default
  • Browser: BrowserChooser lets you change your default web browser to a third-party browser.

While these options may seem appealing, it's important to remember that jailbreaking isn't for everyone. It can require technical skill, damage your iPhone, void its warranty so Apple will no longer provide support, and even open your phone up to viruses.

There are arguments in favor of jailbreaking, but just be sure you know what you're getting into before you do it.

For the Future: Hope

If you're not willing to jailbreak, but still want to choose your default apps, there may be some hope. In Sept. 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Buzzfeed that letting users delete some pre-installed apps was "something we are looking at." If Apple were to allow that, it would have to let users choose their default apps, too, since something would need to replace the deleted app.

Since that interview, there hasn't been a lot more official conversation about this. However, Apple will reveal the major features of the next version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 10, in early June.

It could be that, at that time, we'll learn that all iPhone users will soon be able to choose their default apps.