Android’s default action system is driving me crazy

use by default - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

There are certain things on Android that drives me nuts, like the app compatibility system. Another one on that list is the way the OS handles default associations for files and actions. Every time you do something that can be handled by a few different apps, it asks you which app to use. Click the home button with several launchers installed, and it asks which one to use. Click a video file, and it asks which video player to use (assuming you have several). When this box pops up, you have the option to check a checkbox that tells it to use that action by default, which you would think would solve it once and for all. Ah, if life was that easy…

The problem is that the OS is designed to reset these associations every time there’s a change to the list of apps that can be associated with an action. If you select which launcher to use by default and then install a new launcher, the whole system resets and you have to do it again. If you uninstall something, even an app that isn’t associated with an action itself but only has the potential to be, that association will be reset. The biggest problem however is that it also treats app updates as new app installs, and – you guessed it – resets the entire thing again.

This means that the more apps you have, the less likely you are to be able to enjoy the association working as it should. With the lack of any approval needed for app updates on Android, a device with a lot of apps on it will often see dozens of updates each week. Not a week goes by that I don’t have to re-associate video files, browser, launcher, and a bunch of other things because one of the apps was updated. It’s driving me insane, and I might as well stop using the “use by default” checkbox as ot frankly isn’t doing much for me at the moment.

The decision to make the OS do this is likely rooted in users accidentally setting the wrong associations or installing new applications as replacements for others and not knowing how to make the association change themselves. That’s understandable, in a way, but if you can’t Google your way to fixing that manually, you really shouldn’t be using Android – it’s in the settings after all, and it even warns you where to change it when you originally set it. Between apps not having the power to create these associations themselves (understandably so) and there being just so many ways you can reset them, this issue is making me feel like I’m using an OS that is simply bugged – and yet it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to. I never thought I’d give Microsoft credit for anything, but at least when you set a file association in Windows, it stays there until another program overrides it or the program is uninstalled – just what you’d expect from a feature that asks you what program to use by default.


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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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