Auto launch apps when plugging into your Android device

Jack Wallen shows you how to auto-launch applications when plugging in headphones, USB, or power cables with the help of Plug In Launcher.

Plug In Launcher

There are times when you want to plug your Android device in and have an app automatically launch. Plug in your headset and your phone app launches. Plug in your headphones and your music app opens. Plug your device into a USB cord and the file manager launches.

There are plenty of methods for getting apps to automatically launch on Android. Tasker is one such tool, but for some users, it's a bit too much power (and complexity). For more information on Tasker, check out "Automate your Android with Tasker." If simplicity is your goal, there's another option in the Google Play Store called Plug In Launcher. This app makes the set up of auto launching apps (or multiple apps) a no-brainer. With it, you can configure apps to launch when you plug in a power cord, USB cable, or headphones (there's also a listing for a Pro version that will launch apps after you successfully associate the device with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi -- however, this version does not seem to actually exist).

It's not a perfect app, but it might work perfectly for some users. Even though it has a few glitches, it's still worth giving a go. Let's install Plug In Launcher and see just how easy it is to use.


Follow these steps to install Plug In Launcher:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for Plug In Launcher
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Craig Petzel
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing carefully
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

That's it. You should now find a launcher either on your home screen or your app drawer (or both). Tap the launcher, and get ready to set up auto launch apps.


When you open Plug In Launcher, you'll find five "tabs" at the top of the main window (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A
Plug In Launcher running on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.

Only the Power, USB, and Headphone tabs have any functionality. Let's configure a music app to open when headphones are plugged into your Android device. Here's how you do it:

  1. Tap on the Headphone tab
  2. Tap Single app (Figure B)
  3. Tap the Tap here to select app(s) button
  4. Scroll through the list and select the music app to launch
  5. Tap your home button, plug in your headphones, and get ready to rock

Figure B

Figure B
Setting up a music app to auto-launch when headphones are plugged in.

You'll notice an option for Press play on launch. I have yet to find a music player this actually works with (the app claims to work seamlessly with Winamp, which is no longer available in the Google Play Store). Music apps such as VLC -- that happens to be a great player -- offer headset detection and will resume playback when you insert the headset (however, the app itself doesn't open, so using VLC's built-in headset detection in conjunction with Plug In Launcher is much more flexible).

If you're on-the-go often, and you use a headset with a built-in mic, take advantage of this app to launch the Android dialer for quick access to calling contacts (in case you don't like using Google Now for voice activated phone calls). Your best bet is to make sure you have Speed Dial numbers set up (for those frequently called contacts).

No, it's not a perfect app, but with a bit of clever tweaking, you can make Plug In Launcher do some pretty handy tricks. And if the developer would make good on the promise of launching apps when connected to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Plug In Launcher could really make some noise (at least when Tasker seems to be bit too daunting). Of course, if you want more power and flexibility in an app of this category, your best bet is still Tasker.

What do you think of apps, such as Plug In Launcher, that require a bit of creativity and work to rise from possibly handy to really useful? Do you think they should be retained or removed from the Google Play Store? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....