Search engines are becoming ever-more integrated into mobile operating systems, but you can still change your default search engine on your smartphone or tablet. You don’t have to stick with the search engine the device manufacturer chose for you.
As services are integrated more deeply into each operating system, changing your search engine is becoming more difficult. For example, there’s no way to change the default search engine used by Google Now, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana.
Android is the most open, so it’s easiest to change your search engine on an Android device.
You’re probably already using Chrome for Android. To change your search engine in Chrome for Android, open the Chrome app, tap the menu button, tap Settings, and tap Search engine. Choose from among the search engines in the list — Google, Bing, Yahoo!, AOL, and Ask are all options here. When you search from Chrome’s location bar, it will use your chosen search engine.
There’s no way to add more search engines to Chrome. Even search engines you add to Chrome on your PC aren’t automatically synced to Chrome for Android. To use a different search engine that doesn’t appear in the list — DuckDuckGo, for example — you’d have to install an alternative web browser like Firefox for Android and use it instead.
Firefox for Android makes it easy to add a search engine from any website — just long-press a search field and add it.
Download the app, long-press your home screen, and add the widget. You can also long-press the Google search widget and remove it from your home screen. If you’re using the Google Experience Launcher, the Google search widget is part of your launcher and can’t be removed — you’ll have to use a different Android launcher to remove the search box.
iPhone & iPad
The iOS version of Safari allows you to change your default search engine. Open the Settings app, tap Safari, tap Search Engine, and choose your desired search engine. On iOS 7, you can choose between Google, Yahoo, and Bing — Google is the default. Searches you perform from Safari’s address bar will use the search engine you choose here.
You can’t add additional search engines here. To use a different search engine as your default, you’d have to install an alternate web browser or similar app. For example, let’s say you really wanted to use DuckDuckGo — you could install the DuckDuckGo app and use it instead of Safari.
Windows 8 and Windows Phone
You can change the default search engine for the touch-first version of Internet Explorer on Windows 8, but Microsoft hid this option well. You can’t actually change your default search engine from within the Internet Explorer app. Instead, you’ll need to head to the desktop, open the desktop version of Internet Explorer, and change your default search engine in it. The Windows 8-style version of Internet Explorer will use the same search engine you choose on the desktop.
It’s usually possible to change your default search engine on Windows Phone, too. Open the Internet Explorer app, tap the menu button, tap Settings, tap Advanced Settings, tap Default search provider, and select your desired search engine. Microsoft is beginning to remove this option on some new Windows Phone devices, so you may be forced to use Bing instead of Google.
Amazon Fire OS
You can also change the default search engine in the Silk browser on Amazon’s Fire OS — used on Kindle Fire tablets and Amazon’s Fire Phone. Open the Silk browser, swipe in from the left edge or tap the menu icon, tap Settings, tap Search Engine, and choose your preferred search engine. Fire OS defaults to Bing, but you can also choose Google or Yahoo! instead.
Smartphones and tablets provide fewer options than desktop operating systems here. You can usually only choose from a handful of default search options — generally Google, Bing, and Yahoo! — in the default web browsers on these devices.
If you really want to use a different search engine, you may have to download a dedicated application for that search engine and use it instead of the device’s built-in web browser.
Image Credit: Paulo Ordoveza on Flickr