Changing Default Apps on the iPhone

No, you can't — unless you jailbreak your handset

Illustration of a person unable to move the Weather app on their iPhone

Lifewire / Derek Abella

Apple is well-known for limiting the ways that iPhone owners can customize their phones. For example, every iPhone ships with a set of on-board apps, some of which you can't delete and others of which are mandatory default apps.

The content that follows applies to iOS 12 through iOS 10.

How Default Apps Work on iPhone

The word default means two things when it comes to apps on the iPhone. First, it means apps that are installed as part of a factory-original iOS installation. Second, default apps are the ones that are always used to do a certain thing. For example, when you tap a website link in an email, it always opens in Safari. That makes Safari the default web browser on your iPhone. When a website includes a physical address and you tap it to get directions, Apple Maps launches because it is the default mapping app.

Of course, there are many different apps that do the same things. Google Maps is ​an alternative app for navigation, many people use Spotify rather than Apple Music for music streaming, or Chrome for web browsing instead of Safari. Anyone can install these apps on their iPhone. But what if you want to always use Google Maps instead of Apple Maps? What if you want links to open in Chrome every time?

You Can't Change iOS Default Apps

For most people looking to change their default iPhone apps, we've got bad news: It's not possible. You can't pick your default apps on iPhone. Apple doesn't allow people to make certain kinds of customizations. One of the blocked customizations is picking your default apps.

Apple doesn't allow this kind of customization because it wants to ensure that all iPhone users enjoy a similar experience, with a baseline level of quality and expected behavior.

The other reason that its apps are the default is that doing that brings Apple more users. Consider the Music app. By making it the default music app, Apple has acquired over 35 million paying customers for its Apple Music service. That's over US$350 million in monthly revenue. If it allowed customers to set Spotify as their default, Apple would likely lose some percentage of those customers.

For Jailbreakers: Some Good News

jailbreak iphone
image credit: erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

There is one way to change at least some default apps: jailbreaking. Jailbreaking removes some of the controls Apple places on their iPhones. If your phone is jailbroken, you won't be able to change every default app, but you can change a couple using the following jailbreak apps:

  • Email: ​​MailClientDefault10 lets you make Gmail, Outlook, Spark, or Inbox your default email app.
  • Maps: MapsOpener lets you set Google Maps as your default.
  • Browser: BrowserChooser lets you change your default web browser to something other than Safari.

While these options may seem appealing, jailbreaking isn't for everyone. The process requires technical skill and it could damage your iPhone or void its warranty so Apple will no longer provide support. Jailbreaking can even open your phone to viruses.

For the Future: Hope for Default Apps

Apple's tight control​ over the iPhone and its software will probably never completely go away, but it's getting looser. While it used to be impossible to delete the apps that come with the iPhone, in iOS 10 Apple made it possible to delete some of these apps, including Calculator, Home, Watch, Reminders, Stocks, and more.