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When I tap on a link in iOS I get a range of different results:

  1. Link opens in a link related app (e.g. The Guardian app for a theguardian.com link)
  2. Link opens in Safari, either (a) with or (b) without a suggestion to open in a link-related app
  3. Link opens in Safari then launches a link related app (without navigating to or using the link to display content) and then bounces back to Safari again
  4. Link opens in an in-app browser in the app where I clicked

Except for 4, which I gather is something that's source app specific and under control of its settings (e.g. an option to "use app browser" or "open links is Safari"), I can't figure out how to control which of other three things happen to any given link. Not only that, but the results are not predictable based on the associated application e.g. sometimes clicking on an amazon.com link opens the Amazon app to the expected location (1) sometimes to just opens in Safari (2) and sometimes it bounces around between the two (3).

How do I control where links open on iOS?


Currently iOS 15.1, iPhone 13 Pro, but this has been going on for years.

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  • If you add three links to the notes app and the select them sequentially are you seeing the browser selection change from hour to hour on links that are not changing?
    – bmike
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 11:27
  • @bmike Generally not (though over longer time frame I think yes). Mostly a given link will have one of the 4 behaviors above (though not necessarily the same for all links from the same domain); but except for 4, I seem to have no control over which of 1-3 happens.
    – orome
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:37
  • All of these behaviors (except 3, which is it's own thing and topic for another discussion) are up to the developer to decide. Most apps provide a setting for opening in Safari app or Safari window within current app. There's no system level setting to choose between these.
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 23:14
  • developer.apple.com/ios/universal-links
    – anki
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 3:34
  • @Ezekiel So no way for user's to control unless each individual app provides one (that works)? And apparently these settings aren't easily found (e.g., they're not among the settings for each app in Settings, but buried somewhere inside each app)?
    – orome
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 16:49

2 Answers 2

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If you don’t have a Guardian app then it will be opened in Safari anyway. So you can delete an app to get links open in Safari or install the app to get links open in the app. It may be not a flexible enough solution, but it is at least controllable to some degree.

In Safari you can decide how to open a specific link (in a browser or in an app) by using "Tab and Hold" gesture.

Screenshot on iPad (same functionality as iPhone) showing how to open a link in Safari or Telegram

Other options will be to use Safari in Private Browsing Mode or lock Safari with Guided Access.

More details on ways to stop Safari from opening links in Apps can be found in the article How to Stop Safari From Launching Apps on iPhone and iPad.

You can also control the usage of in-app browsers in specific apps.

For example in Discord in-app browser is used by default, to control that:

  1. Open the Discord app
  2. Tap on your Profile
  3. In App Settings section, select Web Browser menu
  4. Select between In-App Browser, Safari or Chrome

Web Browser Safari

(Click images to open full size)

You can also configure the usage of an in-app browser in these apps :

  • Gmail
  • Telegram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

More details on how to control the in-app browser in these apps can be found in the article How to disable in-app browser on major apps.

At the moment I was not able to find a way to get centralized control over this behaviour. So I recommend asking that question in Apple Support or writing a feature request to Apple Feedback This way we can influence this feature to be implemented in the future.

-2

An app has been developed that may give you some of the control you desire:

Opener

You can use this action extension to force a link to open in a particular app.

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  • Does that intercept taps on links in apps or on webpages? That’s what I’m looking to control (or at least understand the unpredictability of).
    – orome
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 23:05
  • I hope it wasn't you that downvoted without waiting for my reply. With Opener, you can long-press on a link, then tap Share, then the Share Sheet appears and you tap Opener in the list. Depending on what kind of link you've tapped on, other apps appear in the subsequent list for you to Open In.
    – jasonology
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 23:37

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