How To Set The Default Apps In Android

If you have multiple apps on your Android device that do the same thing, it’s possible to set the one you use most frequently as the default app. Also, most phones come with a set of preinstalled apps (for example, Chrome), but if you have a different preference, you can change that. This tutorial shows how to change the default apps in Android.

Good to know: you can also learn how to change the default account for Contacts on your Android.

Setting Default Apps on Android via Settings

Modern Android devices allow you to modify default apps for key apps – such as Phone, Contacts, or Browser, directly from the Settings app. Follow the steps below if you have an Android 9 (or above) device. We’re using a Pixel phone with Android 13 for this tutorial.

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android device.
  2. Navigate to “Apps.” (On some devices, you may need to look for “Apps & notifications.”)
Tapping on "Apps" in Android Settings.
  1. Swipe toward the bottom until you find the “Default apps” option, and tap on it.
Selecting "Default apps" in Android Settings.
  1. On Samsung phones, you’ll have to tap on the three dots in the right corner on the “Apps” page, and select “Default apps” from there.
  2. Select an app from the list (which includes only native apps). For this example, we’re selecting the “Browser app,” which is currently set to standard Chrome. By the way, you can spice up your browser by adding Chrome webpages and bookmarks to the home screen on Android.
List of apps native apps for which you can set defaults on Android phone.
  1. Tap on your preferred browser. (You’ll see a list of all the browser apps you’ve installed on your device.)
Selecting another default browser on Android.
  1. Press the back button to save the changes.
  2. Our default browser is now the Kiwi browser.

Tip: learn how to check what numbers you blocked on your Android device.

Opening Links

While you’re there, you can also check how your phone handles links. For instance, you can have a link to a news story open directly in the BBC app (if you have that installed).

  1. In the “Default apps” window, press “Opening links.”
Tapping on the "Opening links" option under Default Apps.
  1. Make sure that “Instant apps” is enabled at the top. This allows users to open web links in instant apps if supported. If you’re not familiar with instant apps, they are lightweight versions of apps that are accessible on your Android device without the need to be fully downloaded and installed.
Enabling "Instant apps" toggle under Opening links on Android device.
  1. Select your desired app from the list.
  1. Toggle on the “Open supported links” at the top, if it’s not already enabled. If the option is off, links will be opened in your browser.
Enabling "Open supported links" for app in Android Settings.

FYI: learn how to organize contacts on your Android phone for improved efficiency.

Setting Default Apps on Android When Asked

What if you want to set a default app for the times you open PDFs or ebooks on your Android device? You can do that by following the steps below.

  1. Tap on a PDF or another file you want to open on your Android device.
  2. The Android system will select what it considers the most suitable app for the job. If you agree with its selection, press “Always” on the pop-up at the bottom to ensure PDFs will always be opened with that app.
Selecting "Always" in "Open with" prompt on Android.
  1. You can also opt for another app, with alternatives listed at the bottom.
  2. The next time you try opening a file with the same extension, your phone will suggest that you open it using the app you previously selected.
Change Default Apps Always Prompt
  1. If you’d like to make the app the default from now on, tap “Always” once again.

Tip: learn how to sign a PDF on your Android device.

Setting Default Apps via a Third-Party App

If you’d prefer to set all default apps on your Android in one place, you may want to install a third-party app, such as Better Open With.

  1. Download and install the Better Open With app on your Android phone.
  2. Open the app to find a list of various types of files and apps you can configure. Select something of interest from the list. We’re opting for “PDF Files” in this example.
Selecting "PDF Files" in Better Open With app.
  1. Select the preferred app from the list of options (apps you have installed on your phone). Tap the “Star” to make it a preferred app.
Starring preferred app in Better Open With app.
  1. Tap on “Countdown time for this file type” at the bottom to set the time before a preferred app will be launched for this file type.
  2. Set it to the lowest value, which is “1.”
Setting custom countdown time in Better Open With app.
  1. Also, make sure to check the “Start preferred app without showing list,” and hit “OK.” Without this option enabled, you will see the full list of available apps to open a file and will need to select the Better Open With app from that list before the file is opened.
  2. The first time you try to open a file type, you’ll need to select “Better Open With” from the menu at the bottom. Remember to press the “Always” button.
Opting to open file with Better Open With app.
  1. Try opening a PDF file. It should open using the app you’ve selected in Better Open With.
  2. If you can’t see Better Open With as your first option, reset the default status of the app shown using the tutorial below.

Tip: did you know that your Android has a Reading Mode feature? Learn how to use it.

Resetting the Default Status for an App

If you’ve realized you made a mistake when you set the default apps in Android, or simply don’t want to open a certain file type using the apps you initially selected, you can easily reset the default status.

  1. On your Android phone, go back to “Apps,” and tap the “See all XX apps” option.
Tapping on "See all apps" button under Apps in Android Settings.
  1. Select the app you’ve set as default.
Selecting app to reset default preferences in Android Settings.
  1. Tap “Open by default” on the “App info” page.
Tapping "Open by default" option for app in Android Settings.
  1. Scroll down and press “Clear default preferences.”
Tapping on "Clear default preferences" button for app in Android Settings.

Revoking All Changes

Do you regret some of the changes you made when set some apps as the default in Android? Don’t worry, as you can reset all the settings you’ve modified.

  1. Open the Settings app, and navigate to “System.”
Tapping on "System" in Android Settings.
  1. Go to “Reset options” at the very bottom.
Tapping on "Reset options" in Android Settings.
  1. Tap on “Reset app preferences.”
Selecting "Reset app preferences" option in Reset options.
  1. Tap on the “Reset apps” button in the pop-up that appears. Note that doing this will reset all preferences for default applications, in addition to disabled apps, background data restrictions for apps, battery usage settings, and more.
Tapping "Reset apps" in pop-up via Android Settings.

FYI: need to make your keyboard bigger on Android? Learn how to do so quickly.

You can change almost anything on your Android device to suit your personal preferences. If you want to keep tweaking your smartphone, read through this list of top-notch Android live wallpaper apps that will help your device stand out. You may also want to get up to speed on how to customize your Android lock screen.

Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Alexandra Arici.

Alexandra Arici
Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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