Should You Change the Default Email App in iOS 14?

You can do it, but Apple sure doesn’t want you to.

Key Takeaways

  • You can set a new default browser and/or email app in iOS 14.
  • All third-party browsers—even Google Chrome—use the same Webkit “engine” as Safari.
  • Non-Apple email apps are more useful than non-Apple browsers.
iOS 14's App clips, home screen, and app library
Apple 

In iOS 14, instead of Apple’s Mail app launching every time you tap an email address, you can choose Spark, Outlook, Gmail, or another mail app to take over as the default. This has many advantages, and a few downsides.

Before now, whenever you tapped an email link on your Apple device, it would launch in Mail, even if you used a different mail app like Gmail. Worse, whenever you’d use the share sheet to email something from within another app, you’d get the standard iOS Mail window. So, even if you never used the built-in Mail app, you had to configure it, just to use the share feature. That’s all in the past—now you can set an email app to take over everything. But should you bother?

“Nope, because I hate most email clients” La Stampa reporter Andrea Nepori told Lifewire via message. “Plus [Apple’s Mail app] has learned some of my common actions, so it’s faster for me.”

How to Set a New Default Email App or Browser in iOS 14

Picking new defaults is pretty easy, but Apple has done a good job of hiding the settings. It’s almost as if it didn’t want you to know about them. 

To switch your email client, first make sure you have one installed. As of this writing, you can use Readdle’s excellent Spark, Gmail, Outlook, and Hey. Then, head to the Settings app, and scroll down the leftmost column until you reach the app you want to use. It’ll look something like this:

Setting HEY as the default mail app in iOS 14 for iPad

Tap the Default Mail App button, then choose your app from the list. Replacing Safari works the same way. Now, you’ll never have to use the built-in Mail app or browser ever again. Well, unless you encounter one of the problems below. 

Bugs and Other Reasons Not to Switch

Some users have reported having trouble getting the setting to stick, and many others say the system resets to Apple’s Mail and Safari apps whenever you turn your iPhone or iPad off and on again.

“This is almost certainly some sort of bug on Apple’s side,” writes 9to5Mac’s Chance Miller, “because it is affecting email and browser apps from multiple companies including Google, Microsoft, and Readdle.”

These glitches will surely be fixed soon, but there are some other reasons you might want to stick with the defaults.

If you use multiple Apple devices—Mac, iPad, iPhone—then you’re aware of their tight integration. You can, for instance, copy something on one device and paste it on another, seamlessly. 

Safari is part of this integration. Safari syncs its bookmarks and even its open tabs across devices using the same Apple ID. It also uses handoff, which is a way to quickly continue where you left off on another device. If you choose, say, the privacy-first DuckDuckGo browser, you will lose much of this convenience. DuckDuckGo doesn’t share tabs, for example.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re all-in on Google’s Chrome browser, use Google’s bookmark sync, and so on. In this case, you can now use those features in your default iPhone browser, too.

"I wanted to try with Chrome over Safari, but I find it’s not worth it."

Another important point is privacy. Apple’s Mail app doesn’t use any trackers, nor does it share your emails or personal data. You can’t always say the same about third-party apps. Some store your email login credentials—including your password—on their own servers to enable notifications.

All the apps on our shortlist above come from good, trusted developers, and if you’re already in bed with Gmail, then you already know how Google feels about your privacy. Just be aware of potential security and privacy violations.

Should You Switch?

If you’ve never wanted to switch to another email or browser app, then you probably don’t need to start now. Safari is an excellent browser, with great privacy protections.

Apple Safari settings when visiting specific websites
Apple

Also, unlike on the desktop, all third-party browsers on iOS still use Webkit, which is the underlying browser engine that powers Safari. This means that Chrome (or any other browser) is no faster than Safari, nor can it ever be because it’s merely a Chrome-themed window on top of the built-in Webkit engine.

“I wanted to try with Chrome over Safari, but I find it’s not worth it,” says Nepori.

The main reason to switch, then, is for features. Many people already use alternate email apps, and Hey and Spark do a lot more than the built-in Mail app. With this change, you can now fully integrate your email app of choice with the entire system. And that’s a very welcome change.