iOS 13 finally lets you (kinda) replace Apple’s default apps

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Launch any camera app from the lock screen with this incredibly useful iOS 13 trick.
Launch any camera app from the lock screen with this incredibly useful trick.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In iPadOS and iOS 13, you can kinda replace the stock Apple apps on your iPhone or iPad. For instance, anytime you tap the Mail icon, Spark could launch instead. Or, and this is probably the most useful, when you tap the lock-screen shortcut for the Camera app, you could launch Halide instead.

This isn’t proper app replacement, but it is a pretty wild trick for iOS devices. We use a new feature in Shortcuts to make the magic happen. And for the Camera app, it works great.

Use Shortcuts to replace the Camera app

This trick, discovered/invented/shared by James Tyler on Twitter, uses Shortcuts’ new automations, which appear in iOS 13. Automations trigger shortcuts based on time and location, among other things. But you also can trigger a shortcut when opening an app. My original example was to dim the lights, connect to AirPlay, crank up the volume, and enable Do Not Disturb when opening up a movies app, but this new trick is way cooler.

Shortcuts lets you launch one app in place of another.
Shortcuts lets you launch one app in place of another.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Here’s how it works. You make a Shortcuts automation that is triggered when you open the stock Camera app. When triggered, it opens the camera app of your choice. Halide, for example. In practice, this runs so fast you almost don’t see the Camera app launch and disappear. Here’s the video shared by Tyler, from back in the early iOS 13 beta days:

Works everywhere

Because this shortcut is triggered by the Camera app launching, it doesn’t matter how you launch the Camera app. As you can see in Tyler’s screen capture, it works when you the tap the lock-screen button on an X-series iPhone. But it also works when you use the swipe-left gesture from the home screen, or when you tap the Control Center icon.

Pick any of Halide's shortcuts -- launch straight to the Depth Mode, for example.
Pick any of Halide’s shortcuts — launch straight to the Depth Mode, for example.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Halide is a particularly good candidate, and not just because it’s such a great camera app. Halide also offers several Siri Shortcuts, one of which lets you launch directly to the app’s Depth Mode. One thing to note: Face ID or Touch ID are required to launch the target camera app.

Added automations

Over on Reddit, user iBanks3 used this trick to customize Control Center. Just add in the Control Center widgets you never use, and repurpose them using Shortcuts.

And you’re not limited to just launching a replacement app. If you shoot video, you could add a step to enable Do Not Disturb mode, so phone calls don’t interrupt your shoot. Or, as Tyler suggests, you could set up Shortcuts to launch a different app depending on time of day. It might load the low-light capture app Spectre after dark, for example.

Safari, Mail?

This trick also works for Safari and Mail (or for any other app, for that matter). However, it proves less useful for them. It won’t open a tapped link in a separate app, for example, unless you get fancy with the share sheet and the clipboard. But by then, you may as well just use the regular share sheet shortcuts.

Still, this is pretty wild. I love it.