Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Allowing Customization of Default Apps on iOS

Dan Moren, Macworld:

For users, the benefits of choosing default apps is obvious. Right now if you tap a web link in most apps you get taken to Safari, regardless of whether you’d rather use Chrome or Firefox. The same for mail links: if you’d rather compose your messages in Outlook or Gmail, you have to jump through some hoops to make it happen.

Not everybody is going to switch to a third-party app if this happens. Most people probably are probably happy enough with the defaults. But for those folks who want a feature that Apple’s apps don’t currently have — like snoozing mail message alerts or sync between Chrome on iOS and your PC — the choice to use that app as the default should be available.

Since you can now remove Mail, in particular, from iOS, this seems like it should be a natural next step. If you tap on a mailto: link without Mail being installed any more, you get an error message telling you that no apps are installed that can handle that type of link. But that’s awkward, confusing, and only partially true — no apps are available because no other apps are allowed to register themselves as capable of handling mailto: links.

The amazing thing about iOS is that most system apps can easily be replaced without the need for setting a third-party app as the default. I never touch Apple’s weather app, and the only time I don’t use Fantastical to create appointments is when I tap on a data detector and Apple’s default sheet appears. But iOS would be a little better if Mail and Safari — and perhaps Maps and Camera, too — could be swapped out for third-party apps as the defaults for their data types.