How to Set or Change Default Apps in Android

It happens every day. You're using your Android phone, you tap on a link in an email or download an attachment and the phone pops up a dialog box asking you which app you'd like to use to complete the action. If you select the wrong app and hit the Always button in that dialog box, you may be stuck opening all of your PDFs in the wrong viewer or editing Google docs in the browser rather than the Google Drive app indefinitely. Fortunately it's easy to change the default app for launching different types of URLs and files.

Unfortunately, unlike Windows, Android does not provide a complete list of default apps for you. When you launch a file or link, that's when you will either be prompted to choose an app or taken directly to the app it's already associated with. Different types of URLs can be assigned to different apps, so tapping on a link to can open the IMDB app instead of a browser. If you've already set a default app for something, you can remove that setting so Android prompts you to make a choice the next time you launch that file/link.

How to remove an Android default app setting

  1. Navigate to Settings. You can launch Settings by tapping its shortcut in the apps menu or pulling down the notification drawer and tapping on the Settings icon.
  2. Enter the Apps menu. On some phones it will be called Application Manager or something similar.
  3. Swipe over to the All apps list.
  4. Select the app you want to remove as default.
  5. Tap Clear Defaults.

Now the next time you launch the link/file type that app was associated with, you will be prompted to choose a default app again. Note that you clear all defaults for an app at once. So if you choose Clear Defaults on the browser, you clear it as default for all of the links it was associated with.

How to see a list of current default apps

Though Android doesn't provide a complete list of file and link types, a third-party app called Default App Manager provides a list of current defaults and helps you set defaults for some major file/link categories. The app has two tabs: Category Wise and All Defaults.

The Category Wise tab shows general categories such as Browser, Calendar, Camera and Email, along with the name of whatever app is currently set as default for them. If a file type has no associated app, Default App Manager will list it as having no default. To set or change a default app in Default App Manager:

  1. Tap a category (example: Email).
  2. Tap Clear Default to remove the current app, if there is one. You will then be transported to Android's built-in app menu, where you have to tap Clear Defaults for that app and then hit the back button to return to Default App Manager.
  3. Tap Set Default. A dialog box will appear asking you to complete the action.
  4. Select the app you want and tap Always.

Unfortunately, the categories on Category Wise don't include more granular links such as URLs, which could potentially launch their own apps (ex: Amazon, IMDB). The All Defaults tab in Default App Manager shows all default apps, no matter the category. You can undo an app's defaults from this menu by tapping the Clear button, which then takes you to that app's info screen where you can hit the Clear Defaults button.

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