How to Set and Clear Default Apps in Android

A few simple steps can save on frustration

Smartphone apps

zhijian Huang/Getty Images

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? Chances are, you have more than you can count on two hands. It's possible you might have close to 100, in which case it might be time to do some spring cleaning. Anyway, with so many apps competing for attention, you likely have several apps to choose from when tapping on a URL, opening a file, viewing a video, using social media, and more.

For instance, if you want to open a photo, you'll have the option to use the Gallery app (or another image app you've downloaded) always or just once. If you choose Always, then that app is the default. But what if you change your mind? Don't worry, that's your prerogative. Here's how to set and change defaults at your whim.

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Clearing Defaults

In the past, there were a ton of different ways to clear defaults, depending on your phone's manufacturer and the version of Android that you were running. While some of these might still be out there, current versions of Android offer a single simple and direct way to clear out defaults on a per-app basis.

  1. Begin by opening your Settings app.

  2. Scroll down and find Apps & notifications. Select it.

  3. In this section of your device's settings, you'll find a bunch of options to control how your phone handles the apps installed on it. The top portion of the screen will be occupied with a list of your recently opened apps. Directly below them, you'll find the option to Open all apps (or, "See all # apps" as in the screenshot below). Tap it to see the full list of apps on your device.

  4. Now, you'll arrive at a huge list of apps on your device. Depending on the version of Android on your device, you may see system apps here too, making the list much longer than just what you've installed. That's somewhat annoying, but don't worry. You can still easily scroll through the list.

    Apps & notifications, See all 41 apps, swipe down on Android

    Locate the app that you want to clear out the defaults for and select it.

  5. On the page for your app, you'll see the options to uninstall or stop the app near the top. Below them, you can see all sorts of information about your app and its relation to your device. In that list of information, find and tap Open by default.

  6. You'll arrive on a screen where you can see all the default actions associated with your device. Towards the bottom, you'll see a section for Other defaults. These are the ones that you've set by selecting Always when asked which app to use by Android.

    If the app is set as the default for some actions, you'll see You've chosen to launch this app by default... and Clear Defaults will be highlighted. If not, you'll see No defaults set, and Clear Defaults will be grayed out.

    Press Clear Defaults to clear out the default actions that you set.

  7. After you clear out the defaults, the page will refresh, and you should see No defaults set with Clear Defaults grayed. All the default actions that you set for that app are now cleared, and you can assign them again.

    Open by default, Clear Defaults, No defaults set

Setting Defaults

Most newer smartphones let you set default apps in two ways. The first one is probably very familiar to you. You tap on a link or try to open a file and get an array of apps to choose from (if applicable). As mentioned earlier, when you select an app, you can make it the default by selecting "always," or you can select "just once," if you want the freedom to use another app in the future. If you want to be proactive, you can also set up default apps in Settings

On all current versions of Android, it's become very simple to set the default apps on your device. The Settings app provides a quick common interface to easily set which apps you would like to handle common tasks.

The exact options you have will differ slightly based on the version of Android that you're running and your device itself. It's also important to keep in mind that certain manufacturers may install their own defaults and give you only limited capability to change things.

  1. Open up your Settings app.

  2. Scroll until you see Apps & notifications. Select it when you do.

  3. This section of your device's settings lets you modify a lot of how your device manages your apps. It's also the same place where you can uninstall unwanted apps. You'll also see the controls to handle notifications from your apps here too.

    In this case, though, you're looking for something in the Advanced section. Tap to expand it.

  4. Once the Advanced section opens up, locate Default apps, and select it.

    Apps & notifications, Advanced, Default Apps in Android Settings
  5. On the Default apps, you can see a series of default app categories. You can choose your default web browser, phone app, SMS app, and more here. Select a category to change by tapping on it.

  6. The screen will shift to show you all the available apps in that category that you can make the default along with the current default app. Tap the circle next to you app you'd like to make the default to select it.

    Browser app, Firefox radio button in Android settings
  7. Now, you can hit the back arrow in the upper left corner to return to the previous page. You should see your selected app listed now as the default.