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Apple, why can't we set more default apps besides email and browsers?

Iphone 12 Pro Review
Iphone 12 Pro Review (Image credit: iMore)

Ever since Apple debuted the iPhone back in 2007, we've pretty much been limited to Apple's stock apps when it comes to what launches by default. Even when the App Store launched in 2008 and opened the floodgates to thousands of applications from third-party developers, we never had an option to change what apps launch by default for things like email, calendars, web browsers, music, and more.

However, that started to change once Apple released iOS 14, and things began to look up. We were finally given the option to change our default email and web browser on the best iPhone and iPad. On top of finally being able to customize our Home screens with custom icons and widgets without requiring a jailbreak, iOS 14 really was a substantial software update.

While these are good first steps, it's been almost a year, and we still have no other progress made. iOS 15 is looming just over the horizon, and we've yet to hear anything else about more options for changing default apps. For many of us, we'd like the option of not using the native Apple apps, so this is something that Apple should address sooner rather than later.

People want more options

Iphone 12 Pro Ios 14 Custom Hero

Iphone 12 Pro Ios 14 Custom Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

So far, even with the iOS 15 developer and public betas available, it seems that the only options for changing default apps continues to be email and web browser. With a whole plethora of great email apps and web browsers to choose from, this is fantastic.

I personally hate using the default Mail app, and much prefer using Spark for my email needs on my iPhone 12 Pro, iPad Pro, and Macs because of the feature set. However, I continue to use Safari as my default browser, but there are plenty of fantastic alternatives, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and more (I have these as backup browsers when something doesn't work in Safari).

But the point is that people like having options. If the default Mail app and Safari work perfectly for you, then that's great. However, these don't work out all the time for everyone, for whatever reason, and we all have our own preferences. Giving us the option to use our favorite email client and web browser is definitely a step in the right direction, but what about for everything else?

For example, there are many amazing third-party camera replacement apps on the App Store, such as Halide, Camera+ 2, ProCamera, Manual, and more. These apps have so many more advanced and powerful features than the native Camera app that is built-in to the iPhone, which you can even access from the Lock Screen and Control Center. The only reason I primarily use Apple's Camera app is that it's the fastest option, but I dislike how barebones it is compared to other apps out there. I personally would prefer to use something like Halide when I need to take photos, but since Apple doesn't let us change the default camera app, I often forget to use it. I would love to switch to a different default camera app from the Lock screen or Control Center (or perhaps one for each).

Other areas that would benefit from the option to change the default app would be calendars, reminders or to-dos, navigation, photos, notes, and more. I never use the native Calendar app — I would much prefer to always launch Fantastical when I need to do anything with my calendars. I'd also much prefer to use something like Google Maps or Waze rather than Apple Maps when pulling up directions.

The point is, we like to have options and not always be constrained to what Apple offers by default. It would make it a lot easier when it comes to quickly tapping for the camera or on actionable text, like addresses. Apple needs to step it up and give us more choice on what we want as default apps.

Apple is taking its sweet time

In iOS 14.5, we were expecting to set a default music app, at least with Siri, but that turned out to be false. Instead, we just got the option to set a preferred music service for Siri, which isn't quite the same as an actual default app. Instead, this preferred music service option just helps Siri recognize your listening habits for better recommendations over time, as well as making sure that it opens up the audio source with your chosen app. However, it doesn't guarantee that it will always open in that app.

I mean, this was a step in the right direction — a baby step, but a step nonetheless. However, it's honestly disappointing that we still don't have a proper way to set an actual default music app, especially if someone prefers to use Spotify over Apple Music, for example.

And again, the launch of iOS 15 is just around the corner, and there's been no other word about changing more default apps. I honestly think Apple is just taking too long with this, and I wish that there were more default app choices in iOS 15. After all, it seems that iOS 15 is mostly about refining the foundation that iOS 14, so I don't see why Apple couldn't have given us the option to set a default music or podcast app (without Siri) or even change our camera.

I hope that some more choices are added in a future release — after all, Siri audio preferences came in an incremental update). I also hope that it comes sooner rather than later, but I won't hold my breath for that. I mean, it took 14 iterations of iOS before we could change app icons, after all.

Do you want more options for default apps on iOS?

Have you changed your default email and web browser on iOS? Do you want to see more options for setting default apps on iOS? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.

4 Comments
  • I absolutely agree. Fantastical for combined calendar and task duties; Nine or Outlook for email; Google Maps... for maps, and so on. This would be a nice bone to throw to the developers, as well as mollifying frustrated users.
  • I'll second that.
    Been using Fantastical and Outlook for a while now.
  • I'm sure there a lot of people who don't care. They just use what comes with it. I'm sort of a dissenting voice. The simplicity and integration you get with iOS and iPhone and the rest of Apple is what draws me there. No I don't actually like Mail. I use Outlook, but I haven't bothered to make it default. I don't find it difficult to put Outlook on first home screen and click it. Not that often I need to access mail from another place in the OS. Not a big issue for me. I use Safari on my Apple devices, Edge on my Windows ones, Chrome on my Android. They all work fine. As far as camera apps, a major point in the article, stick the icon where it is front and center. If you are trying to grab a fleeting moment the built in app does fine. You probably aren't going to be futzing with fancy settings at that point anyway. If you are going to be doing deliberate photography, launch the app you want to do it in. If you are looking for choice, there is a simple solution, Android.
  • Can you share the glittery gold wallpaper with us?