Thoughts on default apps on iOS 2012-12-18

On my computer, I can set up a default browser and mail app. Why can't I do that on my iPhone?

Thanks to the great variety of mobile apps I think that default app integration on mobile devices is even more important than on the computer. Here's in particular what I'd like to see:

  • Maps: With the release of iOS 6 many people are looking into alternative maps apps. The default maps app should open when I use Siri to get directions, or when I open a URL that looks like a map. The integration should be even deeper: In any application that uses maps, my favorite mapping service should be used. If needed, developers could specify that they need a map with 3D or with Street View capabilities, and the system could choose the appropriate maps.
  • Calling: Most people use the built-in calling app, but some users might want to use Google Voice. Why can't I have iOS pass all calls to the Google Voice app so I don't have to copy and paste the number?
  • Messaging: If you send a text message over Siri or share a picture, you might want to route it through your favorite messaging app. A lot of people use apps such as WhatsApp or Google Voice to communicate with their friends.
  • Browser: What is the point on using Chrome or Mercury on your phone if links always open in Safari? This is especially important since there is no way to add functionality to Safari using extensions.
  • Mail: Alternative mail apps exists, but they don't integrate well with the system. Apple should provide a way for developers to replace the default mail share sheets. For instance, Gmail users should be able to use the Gmail app seamlessly.
  • Music: Whenever I press the play button on my headphones the Music app starts playing instead of launching Spotify at where I left off. Having to stop it again and switch to my favorite music app is an inconveniece every single time.

Please, Apple, don't force me to use your apps. If the EU didn't let Microsoft offer Windows with their media player[1] and also forced Microsoft to have every user choose their default browser, why is it fine that I'm forced to use Apple's apps on my iPhone? While I think that the EU went way too far with trying to get Microsoft release Windows without a media player and without a web browser, I think the missing ability to choose default apps on mobile devices is far more inconvenient for end users.



Comments (3)

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tubbo says: 2012-12-22

You have to remember that only in the last 1 or 2 years have we seen actual replacements for Safari and Mail. In terms of the Phone app, you're never going to see a replacement. That's most certainly a requirement of your carrier, to have calls routed through them so you pay for minutes. Same thing with Messages, no carriers are going to want a phone on their network that lets people easily send free texts because SMS plans have such huge profit margins.

One thing I do agree with you on is the inability to change to a default music app. Even worse, when I get in my car and its Bluetooth receiver pairs with my phone, it (almost) always starts a song from the Music app even if I was playing Soundcloud or Spotify not moments before. That's annoying, but it's definitely an encouragement from Apple to use iTunes and the App Store for buying and browsing music. Considering that the iTunes store is just a giant advertisement for the iPhone and iPod, I don't think it would hurt THAT much if they allowed us to choose a default music app.

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