Android gives you endless ways to customize your phone, from the color and shape of your app icons to your preferred method of navigating the system. This customization extends to your default app for common tasks like making calls and texting. Maybe you’d rather use a web browser with more privacy features or swap Google Assistant for Alexa. You are free to download any app you want and set it as default – it only takes a few steps.
For reference, here are the types of apps you can assign new defaults to:
- Web browser
- Caller ID and spam blocker
- digital assistant
- Home app (aka launcher)
- SMS (chat)
Here are the steps I followed to change the default SMS app on the TCL 30V 5G phone running Android 11 that I’m currently using, but the process is the same for all the apps above. The steps are also the same on a Google Pixel 6.
- Go to Play Store and download the new app you want to set as default.
- Head toward Settings > Apps and under “General” press Default apps.
- Choose the app you want to replace – in my case, the SMS app. On the next menu screen, you will see the current default app along with any other SMS apps you have downloaded.
- Select the app you want to use as default.
These are the same steps you’ll follow if you want to customize your home screen experience with a new launcher. A launcher like Niagara can rearrange your home screen and app drawer so it’s easier to use with one hand. Nova is another popular option for its customization. If you really want to DIY, then a new launcher is a powerful way to change the daily experience of using your phone. To make your new launcher the default launcher, find the Home app selection on the Default apps page.
How to manage links
And while you’re in the neighborhood, you can change how your phone handles links. For example, you can make Google Play Store links open in the App Store itself, rather than in a web browser. You can see which installed applications are configured to open certain links and choose whether the system should do this automatically or ask each time you click on one of these links.
- Of Default app menu screen, touch Open links at the very bottom.
- Below Installed appsselect the app whose behavior you want to change.
- Press (or activate) Open supported links.
- On some devices you may have additional options to have the phone ask if it should open links or automatically open them in the app without asking.
Finally, you can also adjust your preferences for Android’s instant apps feature. Provided you’re using Android 5.0 or later, your device is already enabled to use Instant Apps, which are essentially small versions of full-featured apps that will run without having to download and install them. Some game developers use instant apps so you can try out a game without having to download everything. You will see it if you install and run the Google Play Games app. Some games have an “Instant play” icon next to them which launches the game without installing it.
By default, this feature is enabled and you will see it enabled in the Open links menu page next to Instant Apps. You can take this a step further and enable Instant Apps links in your browser by tapping Instant Apps Preferences and selecting Update web links.
Android Instant Apps seem to be falling out of favor with developers, so you might not come across them in the wild, but activating them via web links doesn’t hurt and might save you from having to download another app a bit. day.