How to switch from iPhone to Android
So you've decided to abandon the iPhone in favor of an Android. What should you expect? How do you migrate your accounts and content from the iOS ivory tower? The quickest way is through the cloud, and New Atlas is here to help.
The bad news: Chores & change required
We'll lead off with the inherent downsides of this transition. There's no way around it: You have to do some housekeeping. Exactly how long your transitional chores will take is hard to say, since it depends on the way you use iOS and your goals during the transition. But the more material you want to transfer – calendar appointments, music, messages, contacts, etc. – the more involved with process will be.
You'll also have to purchase/download all new apps. While many leading apps are available in both iOS and Android versions, purchases don't carry over from one storefront to the other.
Lastly, when you're switching between any hardware manufacturers, many accessories like dongles, adapters and chargers will be rendered useless.
The good news: Change is good, and the cloud is your friend
Once you take the plunge and get over the learning curve, you will probably find the Google family of stock apps and services much more user-friendly than their iOS counterparts.
Unlike Apple's iCloud, which issues each user a paltry of 5 GB of free storage and obliquely maxes it out through default iOS settings, Google Drive starts users off with 15 GB of free cloud storage. And anything you create with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms or Sites does not count toward your total.
With a little bit of know-how (which we'll impart on you) Google's friendly cloud-based services are incredibly helpful during the transition.
What you'll need: A Google Account, a Wi-Fi connection and preferably both phones
If you don't already have a Google account, it's time to get one. You will be prompted to log-in or sign up the first time you use any Google service, and it's easiest to have one set up before the transition process. Sign up at accounts.google.com.
If you already have a Google account, you're already on your way. You can use the same account and services you've already been using.
To undergo the process outlined here, you'll need both phones, a Wi-Fi connection, and a computer. It's not necessary for both (or any) phones to have a cellular data connection, as long as they're connected to Wi-Fi.
If you need to trade in your old iPhone in order to receive your new Android, don't fret. However, you will have to review these instructions and make sure all of your relevant iPhone content is saved to the iCloud (or otherwise exported) ahead of time.
Don't waste time entering names and numbers manually. The easiest way to transfer your iPhone contacts to your Android (and back them up at the same time) is to export them from your phone using iCloud.
For this method to work, your iPhone must be logged into your iCloud account. Chances are high that you're already logged in – the Apple ecosystem makes it nearly impossible not to be – but if you're not, login on your phone under Settings > iCloud.
1. Login to the iCloud (www.icloud.com) from a web browser. Select the Contacts icon on the home page.
2. When you see your contact list, select all the contacts you wish to export.
3. With the contacts selected, click the gear icon on the lower left part of the window.
You'll see a menu – select "Export vCard." This will download a .vcf file, which should have a name like "Sam A. and 116 others". If you don't see a number, double check and make sure all of your contacts (and not just one) were selected before the export.
4. Next, put your Google account to use and login to Google Contacts (contacts.google.com). Note – Google Contacts appears to be getting a facelift, and you may be greeted with a slightly different interface dependent on Google's updates. Still, we don't expect this general process to change much.
Once you login, you will see either an "Import" or "Import Contacts" option in the left column. Click it, and when prompted, upload the .vcf file you've just exported.
After the upload is complete, your contacts appear on screen. When you sign into your new Android with your Google account, your contacts magically become available on the phone. Pretty simple, right? Plus, your contacts are all backed up to the cloud, and you have an additional backup in the form of the .vcf file.
Photos & videos
You have two options for moving your photos from the Apple ecosystem to Google's. The method you should use depends on where your photos are stored. If you're not sure, double check your phone's settings: Settings > Photos and Camera > iCloud Photo Library.
If the iCloud Photo Library is on, you can use a computer and the Google Photos Desktop Uploader. If your photos are stored on your phone's camera roll on the local device, you'll use your iPhone and the Google Photos app.
If your photos are saved in a variety of areas (maybe you've swapped your storage settings so many times you've fractionalized the whole collection) you may need to use both methods in order to do a thorough job.
First option: iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos
To start, download and run the Google Photos Desktop Uploader, which guides you trough through the process.
When you launch the uploader, it will lead you through a series of prompts. Check off all the details pertaining to the source of the photos you'd like to upload. If your photos are saved to the iCloud, they will be in your Photos library, so make sure that option is checked off.
At one point, you are asked to choose an upload size for your photos & videos. Don't be confused by the nomenclature: Here, "High quality" actually means lower quality and smaller file size than "Original". But on the plus side, photos saved in High quality mode don't count against your Google Drive storage limit.
If you've taken most of your photos on your iPhone, the High quality option is the way to go. This setting compresses photos down to 16 MP or smaller, and since all iPhones have a camera resolution of 12 MP or less, file size will not change at all.
On the other hand, you may need to save in "Original quality" if you have lots of DSLR-quality images, otherwise, large files will lose detail. Unfortunately, the full-sized file will count against your Google Drive storage space.
Once you choose "High quality" or "Original quality", your selection becomes the default for all uploads, but you can change this at any time through Google Photo settings.
After you follow the prompts, Google Photos will start the upload process. It can take quite a while for the uploads to finish, so don't be worried if you don't see all of your photos right away. Once the uploads are complete, you can use the Google Photos mobile app to view and/or download all of your photos on your new device.
Second option: iPhone Camera Roll to Google Photos
From your iPhone, you can move all of your photos and videos over to your Google Drive using the Google Photos iOS app. Download it for free from the App Store.
The first time you launch Google Photos on your iPhone, the process begins. Login to your Google Account, choose "Back up & sync" (the data connection is up to you) and then Continue.
Again, you will need to confirm upload size. Here, it's likely safe to choose "High quality." The pictures your iPhone takes are below the 16 MP limit. Once the uploads are complete, you'll be able to view them via Google Photos on any device.
Unfortunately, there's no way to move your iPhone apps over to Android. They're just not equivalents. Luckily, most leading apps are available for both iOS and Android. Several years ago, that wasn't the case, but the Google Play Store has caught up to the App Store in many regards.
You'll have to download and install all of your favorite apps from the Google Play Store one at a time. If you do come across an iOS offering that isn't available on Android, you may be able to find something similar (but not identical) in Google Play.
If you love nerding out over apps, try using the web tool AlternativeTo. You can enter the name of an iOS app, and it generates alternative titles, which you can filter by the Android platform.
To move the contents of your Apple Calendar from your iPhone to an Android, you'll once again be moving data from the iCloud to Google. For the smoothest transition, do this from your computer.
Mac to Google Calendar
If you have an Apple computer, use the Calendar desktop app:
1. Open Calendar on your computer.
2. Select the calendar you wish to export.
3. From the top menu, select File > Export > Export.
You'll be asked to choose a filename and download location. Choose something you can easily find/identify.
4. Once the file is downloaded, log into Google Calendar with your browser.
5. Click the Settings icon (which looks like a gear) in the top right corner of the calendar screen, then choose "Settings" from the submenu.
6. From the Calendar Settings page, click the blue "Calendars" link immediately below the page heading. You will see a list of your calendars and options for adding new ones. Click "Import calendar" (it's next to the "Create new calendar" button).
7. Select the file you just exported from iCloud and click "Import."
Presto! All of the events on your Apple calendar are now on Google Calendar. If you have more than one calendar on Apple calendar, you'll need to repeat the steps above for each one you'd like to add.
Windows to Google Calendar
If you have a Windows computer, you'll have to access your Apple calendar contents through a web browser instead:
1. Navigate to icloud.com and sign in.
2. Choose "Calendar."
3. Publicly share the calendar you'd like to export: In the left column on the screen, click the Share icon (which looks like a wireless signal) next to the name of the calendar. Tick the box next to "Publicly share calendar" and click OK.
4. Once your calendar is publicly shared, a URL is generated for accessing it. You will use this URL to create a file for importing into Google.
5. Click "Email link" on the Calendar Sharing window. E-mail the link to yourself (this way you will have access to the complete URL, and not the truncated version seen on the sharing window).
6. Once you receive the e-mail, copy and paste the URL into your browser's address field – but don't click Enter or Return quite yet.
7. Change the 'webcal' portion of the URL to "http". Then hit Enter/Return.
8. An .ics file will automatically download and save to your default Downloads folder.
9. Follow steps 4-10 from the previous list to import your calendar to Google.
10. For privacy's sake, return to iCloud calendar in your browser. Uncheck the "Publicly share" box in the calendar sharing settings.
If you have an extensive iTunes music library, transfer that content to Google Play Music. You'll have access to your music library on any device, including your new phone.
Once again, a cloud-based solution serves you well here. Google Play Music's library is separate from your Google Drive storage, and you're allowed enough free space for up to 50,000 songs.
If you're a long-time user with several devices using iTunes, you might have to do some downloading in order to transfer your entire library. iTunes saves your purchased content to the cloud, so you can stream or download it from any device. However, your files need to be local – that is, downloaded to your device – before you can upload them into Google.
To download all of your iTunes purchases on your computer, open up iTunes. In the top menu, select Account > Purchased. Click "Not in My Library" to see which songs are not on your current device. In the lower right corner, click the "Download All" button to add them to your local library.
Next, you'll move that entire library over to your Google Play Music:
1. Go to play.google.com/music in your browser.
2. Sign into your Google Account and follow prompts to continue. You do not need a paid subscription to Google Play Music to use the upload features, though you will need to enter payment information so Google can verify your identity/location.
3. Once you're finished signing in, click the hamburger menu icon in the top left corner of the page to expand the menu. Click "Upload Music."
Depending on your browser, you will either see an uploads screen (Chrome) or receive a prompt to download a separate music management tool (Safari, Firefox, others).
4. If you're on the downloads screen, click and drag your music directly from iTunes to the browser window (click and drag to select more than one at a time). You can also click the "Select from Your Computer" button if you're having trouble with the drag and drop method, though you'll need to know the location of your music library files on your hard drive.
5. If you need to download a music manager tool, steps may vary, but the prompts will lead you through it. Eventually, you'll reach an uploads screen where you can drag and drop or manually select files to upload.
Once your files have been uploaded, you can access your music through any device with Google Play Music. On your new Android phone, you can stream music through the app, or download (pin, in Google's terms) songs to hear them offline.
If you want to transfer your text and iMessage history to your new Android phone, you'll have to do some finagling. Some Android manufacturers do have proprietary tools specifically designed to migrate data, including texts, from your old phone (Samsung's Smart Switch service, for example) but these options are not available to all users.
The iSMS2droid (free, with in-app purchases) claims to import your iPhone's messaging history to your Android's messaging app, but it does not work for everyone. You may find it worth a try, since there is not an abundance of alternative solutions.
If you don't need your messaging history to show up on your new phone, but you do want it archived somewhere, you could try the AnyTrans app. It has many applications, and one of them is storing your old messages. You'll be able to access and view your old messages from your computer in .pdf, .txt or .html format.
Once you're done with your iPhone, make sure you turn iMessages off (Settings > Messages > iMessage) – otherwise your texts may end up arriving in someone else's inbox.
Acclimating to your new Android
All Android-running phones have the same core operating system, but individual manufacturers add different skins and software to make their approach stand out from the crowd.
That means there's no one-size-fits-all acclimation guide for Android phones, but there are some things to keep in mind. Check out this guide for things former iPhone users should learn about the Android ecosystem.
If you're thinking about making the switch but you don't know which 'droid you're looking for, take a look at some of New Atlas' reviews on our favorite recent Android phones: