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How to change default apps in Android

Keep your phone in check! Make sure it uses the right apps for the right processes.
August 16, 2021
Google Pixel 4a upper half of display with apps 2
David Imel / Android Authority

It’s a problem you might run into regularly. You tap a file that you really want to open with a particular app, but for some reason, Android keeps opening it with some application you couldn’t care less about. That’s because you’ve got the wrong app selected for that type of file. You’re in the right place, however. In this brief guide, we’ll walk you through the process of changing default apps on Android.

Read Next: 5 Android settings to level up your mobile game

Editor’s note: These instructions were put together using a Pixel 4a running stock Android 11. It’s a great device to base any guide on but some steps might be different, depending on the device and software you use. 

How to manage default apps

The process used to be much more complicated, but Google has turned managing default apps into an effortless task. It’s baked right into the settings. Just go into your Settings app, select Apps & notifications, click on Advanced, and then go into Default apps.

From there, you can pick your default browser, call redirecting, caller ID, digital assistant, home launcher, phone, and SMS default applications. You can also go into Opening links to edit individual apps on your phone.

Step-by-step instructions to manage default apps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android phone.
  2. Go into Apps & notifications.
  3. Hit Advanced.
  4. Select Default apps.
  5. Pick the apps you want for each option.

Manage defaults as you go

The Android operating system uses a pretty slick concept called “implicit intent.” Basically, if the user or an app calls for the device to do something like “take a picture,” the operating system will look for an app that can get the job done. If more than one option exists, and no default has been selected (or if a new possibility has been installed since the last time a default was set), then Android will ask the user which app they would prefer to use. This makes the process of setting default apps easy and intuitive.

Next time you open any link or action, and Android gives you options for which app to use, select your preferred default app. You can now select Just once or Always. Select Always if you want to make that app the default one. The operating will remember your preference from then on.

The only issue with doing this is that sometimes people accidentally set a default app they didn’t intend to. You can follow the steps in the previous section to change your preference. Once you get to the Default apps section, go into Opening links. Find the app you want to change your preferences for and go into it. You’ll get all the options you need there.

Step-by-step instructions to manage defaults as you go:

  1. Open a link to a website or action you want to set a default app for. I’m using BestBuy as an example.
  2. Android will ask you which app you want to use.
  3. You can pick to use this app Just Once or Always.
  4. Pick Always to set it as the preferred method.

More: Common Android problems and how to fix them

Nuclear option: Reset all default apps

If you can’t quite figure out which app default is giving you fits and the option to choose a new default isn’t appearing no matter what you do, there’s still hope!

However, bear in mind that going through with this procedure will also enable all disabled apps, reset any app notification options, remove any background data restrictions or permission restrictions placed on specific apps. You won’t lose any data, but if you play around with your apps’ settings a lot, you might have to do a fair amount of reconfiguring to get things back to how you like them.

If you’re ready for an app settings reset, go into your Settings app. Select Apps & notifications, and tap on See all apps. Hit the three-dot menu button in the top-right corner. Tap on Reset app preferences. Confirm by tapping on Reset apps.

Step-by-step instructions to reset default apps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Android phone.
  2. Go into Apps & notifications.
  3. Tap on the See all apps option.
  4. Hit the three-dot menu button.
  5. Tap on Reset app preferences.
  6. Confirm by selecting Reset apps.