Android and iOS have become similar in the past ten years, but there are still some fundamental differences that set them apart. A big advantage of Android is the ability to set default apps — and this feature has been available for a long time now.
This allows you to seamlessly use third-party apps for email, SMS, web browsing, etc. The same thing isn’t possible on an iPhone.
However, this can also make the Android system a little more confusing for those not familiar with settings default apps. So let’s run through some of the common issues people encounter.
Default Apps on Android vs. iPhone
On an iPhone, if you click an email address, iOS will open Apple’s default Mail app — even if you have Gmail, Spark, or any other email client installed. If you click on a phone number, only the default Phone app will open and not a third-party dialer app like TrueCaller. It’s the same story when you open a shared location on an instant messenger or click a URL anywhere, those actions will only open Apple’s homegrown apps (Apple Maps or Safari, respectively).
On Android 6.0 and above, when you click any action that can be executed by more than one app installed on the phone, a prompt asks you to choose the default the first time. The next time you perform the same action, it’ll automatically open the app you chose the last time.
For example, say you clicked an email address for the first time and you have Gmail and Outlook installed; it’ll ask you which app you want to associate with that action. If you choose Gmail, then clicking on any email address in the future will open Gmail by default.
What If You Accidentally Chose the Wrong Default App?
This has happened to many of us, but fear not, it isn’t too hard to undo a default app choice you’ve made.
On Android 6.0 and above, go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps. Here, you can choose what the default browser, calling app, SMS app, and launcher should be. If you want to change the default settings for something beyond these, go to Set as Default in this menu.
Now, you’ll see a list of all the apps installed on your phone. Tap on the app that you don’t want opening by default and click the Clear Defaults button.
What If You Don’t Want to Set Any Default Apps?
Consider this scenario: you download images often but sometimes want to view them in Gallery, while other times want to edit them using an app like Pixlr. If you set your Gallery as the default, you’ll have to use the share button to open the downloaded image in Pixlr each time.
There is a way you can choose which app to open each time. Go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps > Default app selection and choose Ask before setting default apps. Now, it’ll prompt you with a selection menu whenever you perform an action for which a default isn’t set. You can either tap the app once and click Just Once, or simply double tap the app.
This way, you can choose which app to open each time, and you won’t have to worry about defaults.
Open the Website or Open the App?
Several businesses today have a mobile-optimized website as well as a dedicated app.
For example, you could have the Flipkart app installed even though the ecommerce site is also accessible via the web browser. So by default, after installing the app, clicking a Flipkart link will open the app directly (this is called deep-linking). This is true for most Android apps that also have a mobile website today.
If you want a choice between opening the mobile site or the app whenever a link is clicked, go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps > Set as Default. Here, choose the app name, then click Go to supported URLs and choose Always ask. Now, you can choose between opening the link in either the web browser or the app.
The Case of In-App Browsers and Deep Links
Many apps today have in-app browsers. In-app browsers open a link within the app you clicked it in, instead of the default browser set on your Android phone. Apps like Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Gmail, and several others employ in-app browsers as an easy way click on a link, check out the content and return to using the respective apps.
The problem with in-app browsers is that they will only open the web version and do not automatically open the app despite it being installed. For example, say you click an Amazon link on Twitter: it’ll open Amazon’s mobile site in the in-app browser and not the Amazon app installed on your phone. This is less than ideal because there’s a chance you aren’t logged into the mobile site, but are logged into the app. For example, ever clicked a Facebook link, only for the mobile site to open up and ask you to log in?
To prevent this from happening, we recommend that you turn off in-app browsing in any app that supports it. This way, when you click an Amazon link on Twitter, it’ll momentarily open the browser, only to realise an app is installed and jump to the app instead. Same goes for clicking an Instagram link in Facebook. You should be able to turn it off in settings menu of most apps, here are the steps for some popular apps:
- Twitter — Swipe open the menu from the left, then click Settings and Privacy > Display and sound and uncheck Use in-app browser.
- Facebook Messenger — Click the tiny profile photo on the top right, and scroll down to deselect Links Open Externally.
- Slack — Click the three-dot menu, go to Settings > Advanced, and uncheck Open web pages in app.
- Telegram — Swipe open the menu from the left, click Settings, scroll down, and deselect In-app browser.
It should be pretty easy to find this setting in any relevant app. By the way, if you’re worried that doing this will open too many tabs in your browser, hitting the back button when you’re done will close the tab automatically.
And if you’re the kind who likes to keep tabs open instead of using a read it later service, just use the Recents button (the square in the navigation bar) to go back to the previous app, and the tab will stay open.
Did This Work for You?
We hope you’ll master the art of maneuvering default app selections on Android and take advantage of this wonderful ability that iPhone users can only dream of today. Once you have everything set how you like it, your Android experience can become much more fluid.
Which of these features did you like the most? Are there any other tricks not mentioned here that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.