How to Choose Your Default Applications on an iPhone or iPad

Apple tries to stop it, but there are ways to change your default apps on iOS. You can use your favorite browser, email client, and mapping app instead of Apple’s own apps.

You can forcibly change your default apps by jailbreaking your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, but that’s not the only way. In fact, it’s not even the recommended way — unless you really want to jailbreak for another reason.

The Jailbreak Method

Okay, let’s just get this one out of the way. The one way to truly change your default apps is to jailbreak your device. Once you have, you can install Cydia tweaks that let you choose your preferred browser, email client, and mapping app.

Unless your’e driven completely mad by iOS’s limitations, we don’t really recommend jailbreaking — not just for this reason, at least. Jailbreaking introduces more problems to deal with and prevents you from upgrading as quickly as you might like to. Most people probably shouldn’t jailbreak, just as most won’t want to root their Android phone.

Pick Apps That Give You a Choice

Many apps have worked around this limitation by providing a built-in option that allows you to select your favorite browser or email app. For example, if you use Flipboard, you can head into its Settings screen, tap Browser, and choose Chrome or another browser. Flipboard will then open links in the browser you choose instead of Safari.

Developers have had to work around iOS’s lack of support for choosing system-wide default options by adding support for this to each individual application. You’ll need to check the settings on each different app you use and choose your default apps there, if the app supports it.

Apple is perfectly fine with developers offering this option, but it’s a mess. They should just allow users to choose a default app system-wide to save everything’s time and sanity.

Use Apps That Work Together

Apps can launch other applications, so some developers have taken advantage of this to build ecosystems of apps that work well together and use each other as the defaults.

Google’s iOS apps are the star of the show here. Let’s say you have Chrome, Gmail, and Google Maps installed. When you tap a link in the Gmail app, it will open in the Chrome app. When you tap a map link in Chrome, it will open in the Google Maps app. And, when you tap a business’s email address in the Google Maps app, it will open in the Gmail app.

If you want to change default apps because you really prefer Google’s services, try just using as many of Google’s apps as possible. They’ll work together and allow you to avoid the standard iOS apps as much as possible. If you use third-party apps, hopefully they offer support for choosing your own preferred apps.

Use the Share Sheet

iOS 8 introduced support for extensions to the system “Share” sheet. In any application that offers a Share button, you can tap the Share button and open the content in any app that can add itself to the share sheet.

Take Pocket, for example, By default, Pocket simply opens web pages in a built-in web browser. Let’s say you wanted to open links in an external browser instead. You’d tap the Share button, and then tap More to bring up the Share sheet. Apps can declare support for web pages and become a Share target, so you could probably enable your favorite app’s Share extension and have it appear in the list.

Pocket also has an integrated “Chrome” share button. Many apps include support for common third-party apps like Chrome and Gmail, making it easy to use your preferred app instead of Apple’s default one.

ios share sheet

“Open In” Bookmarklets for Safari

The Safari web browser supports bookmarklets — small scripts that can be saved as bookmarks, but which run a script on the current page when you tap them. iOS also offers an URL scheme that lets Safari launch third-party apps. In short, it’s possible to make a bookmarklet you add to Safari that will then open the current page in Google Chrome. If you prefer Chrome to Safari, you could add this bookmarklet to Safari. If an app ever makes you go into Safari when you tap a link, you can tap the bookmarklet and take that link straight to Chrome.

Here’s an “Open in Chrome” bookmarklet you can use. Install it as described on the page. You can then tap the Bookmarks icon in Safari and tap your “Open in Chrome” bookmark to send the current page to Chrome. If you prefer another browser or app, you may be able to find or create a bookmarklet that does something similar for it!


Apple now allows you to change your system keyboard and gives the full speed of Safari’s Nitro JavaScript engine to third-party browsers — not to mention its new extension system! The ability to choose a preferred web browser and email client feels like the missing piece of the puzzle here, and is long overdue.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.