Moving from iOS to Android: your guide

January 13, 2013
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Android Apple

Someday, you’ll look back and tell the grandkids about it. The happiest day of your life. The day everything started to make sense in the world. You were happy. You felt alive and grounded for the first time… maybe ever. Life was worth experiencing, and Sunday mornings seemed surreal.

No, not marriage or kids… not even those pesky grandkids. I’m talking about the day you switched from an iPhone to Android! That day will live in infamy for the rest of your life. You will look back on it with reverence and delight as you gaze off into the distance at the dinner table. Everyone will say “oh, there you go again… dreaming about Android.”

All joking aside (for now), you’ve made a big change in life and it’s time to get you up and going. This article will serve as your reference point to get set-up, answer questions, and dispel myths. Before we go further, your first step will be to sign up for a Gmail account (if you haven’t already). It all starts from there.

What are the differences?

The differences you’ll see between the two will be the interface, mostly. Each has their own OS that operate similarly, but not the same. Things like where buttons are on the screen and such will take a little time to get used to. It’s a layout issue that may be shocking at first, but not for long. The differences here are minimal, so don’t concern yourself with it too much. If you’re considering Android, or have already switched, it’s safe to assume none of it is foreign to you. Manufacturers like HTC or Samsung have their own version of the Android interface, so make sure you know which flavor is right for you before you get involved.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Android is open source, while Apple is not. As you get more involved with Android, you may see some cool screenshots of app icons and widgets you don’t have. That is probably a result of rooting, which is like jailbreaking for Android. While Apple made jailbreaking nearly impossible, Android embraces and encourages it. There are tons of developers and forums available to give you info about it, and I’ll give you some links a little later.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but variety is a major difference. With the iPhone, you basically get the same phone over and over. One company making one phone. With Android, the OS is free for everyone, so anyone can make an Android phone. You’ll get all types of screen sizes, hardware specs, etc., so finding a phone for you is easy. If you’re wondering about the transition being difficult, just know that some very prominent Apple fans have switched to Android completely. If you need  a quick guide before actually making the jump, check out our helpful tips here.

android_vs_apple

Let’s talk about apps, baby

So, in all my iPhone bashing, there is one thing I concede fully: the App Store is better than the Play Store. The reason for that is Apple had the jump on everyone. When the original iPhone came out, it blew everyone away. There was nothing like it, and no other viable digital market for apps, music, movies, etc. Everyone wanted to be part of it, so it grew really quickly and had a ton of content in no time.

Things are not so good for Google. As Android is so very different from iOS, many studios and record companies were cautiously waiting to see what Android would be. Now that Android is taking off and surpassing iOS in many respects, content is increasing. We’re getting more and more media content all the time for Android, so don’t fret. If you have something like Netflix or Amazon MP3, you can download those apps and view your content right on your Android device.

Android makes me app-y

So many apps in this world, so little time. The good news for apps is that many developers are developing apps for both platforms now, or porting their iOS apps to Android. All those apps you love on iOS are probably on Android now. If they aren’t, there is probably one very similar or that accomplishes the same thing.

If I’m recommending apps, I will start with Google. Once you get your phone set-up, check out the Play Store. Run a search for “Google, Inc.” and download as many of those as you don’t have. Another favorite of mine is Field Trip, which is a Google product but falls under Niantic Labs. Field Trip will show you all kinds of cool stuff in the area you’re in, as well as send you notifications on Google Offers in your area.

If games are your thing, Android has you covered. Tons of games in all kinds of genres compose the Android gaming landscape. If you want it, there’s an excellent chance you’ll find it on the Play Store. One thing you now have access to is the very popular game Ingress. If you’re not familiar, Ingress is an augmented reality game that gets you out and about in your city rather than sitting at home. The game is a huge cult hit already, and it’s only in beta testing. Once it is available to the public, look out!

samsung-galaxy-s3-vs-iphone-5-display

How can I get my stuff onto Android?

This could be tough, or even impossible. With the two being so different, some content simply will not transfer. We’ll go over each major area to give you a better understanding of your options. Before you switch, I would strongly suggest you back up anything you have. Losing any content or info in the transition would just plain suck.

Contacts

There are quite a few ways to move contacts onto your new Android device. The most obvious way is to sync your contacts in iTunes to your computer. From there you can use the USB cable that came with your Android device to link to the computer, find the file your contacts are in, and load it onto your phone.

That’s all kind of old school, though. There are easier ways… ways that won’t tether you to a computer. If you use Mac Address Book, you can export the file as a vCard. Once you do that, you can import them into your Gmail account. Of course, if you already use Gmail, life is easy. Once you get your Android phone, you log in with your Gmail account info, and your contacts sync automatically.

There is one last way for those who either can’t or aren’t interested in the first two methods. There is a nice little app called My Contacts Backup that will export your contacts from your iPhone. It acts like the vCard option, so you simply email the file to your Gmail account and import from there. There is a YouTube video for those that need a quick walk-through, also.

Music

Music makes your world go round, doesn’t it? Yeah, me too. Like everyone did a few years ago, I was an iTunes user (let’s keep that on the down-low, ya?). When Google Music came out, I was excited to be fully vested in the Android spectrum. No more iTunes, no more wrangling with multiple devices and cables. I could go all-in with Android, and did so willingly.

But how to transfer it all… that is the quandary. In the beginning, the Music Match system was a simple upload system. It took forever, and I mean that sincerely. It took about 5 full days to upload my library of 5,000 songs. Those were the old days, and now there are new ways.

Since iTunes keeps your music stored locally on your computer, Music Match now has a scan-and-match feature that simply checks out your music collection and gives you the matching Play Music track. If it can’t be found, the upload option is there as well. It may take a while, but the small investment of time now is worth it long term.

Some music is protected by a digital rights copyright, or DRM. Some iTunes music simply won’t load or transfer, so you may have to re-purchase some stuff. For my library, I had to purchase one full album, and it was $10. Not bad, really.

Movies

Well, this will be quick. You’re kinda screwed here. These is currently no way to transfer iTunes movies to your Google Play account. Just about all iTunes movies are DRM protected, so they are just unavailable for transfer. There is conversion software out there, but those often can’t perform the task.

Google Play movies is the slowest to round into shape. The rental aspect of it is nearly nonexistent, and it lacks a lot of content. If renting movies via iTunes is your thing, it simply won’t happen on Android like you want it to right now. Again, content is growing daily, but it just isn’t there yet.

Which Android is right for me?

Click on the image to check out the full version.

From Cupcake to Jelly Bean, Android has come a long way. Key Lime Pie is next!

In our little Android world, there have been many iterations. Originally, they were named after robots (Astro and Bender). Those were alpha testing models which were, let’s say, slimmed down versions of what you see now. Since those two, Android has been named after delicious treats: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean. If you’re considering Android, you’re probably looking at Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. Those two are the latest and, being blunt, first to really challenge iOS for overall smoothness and dominance.

In coming from iOS, you’ll probably want an Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean Android phone, which are both version 4.0 and higher. Finding a newer phone without either of those two is tough, assuming you’re looking at high-end phones. All newer phones run on either of those two, and they are very similar. Jelly Bean has a few minor tweaks, but ICS was a major step forward. Either of those two iterations present the easiest transition for you in terms of layout and appearance. Keep in mind that some manufacturers alter the appearance and interface a bit, so always try before you buy.

Two major aspects of Android

You are an Android user now, so let’s go over a few things to know about the Android world. there is a lot of things to know and educate yourself about, but two major things within our spectrum dominate the landscape. They are both vital to Android, so we should discuss them a bit more.

Rooting

We touched on rooting before, but just know that rooting is a world within the Android world. Rooting is very popular, and has a really great community of people who are there to help. Get involved, learn as much as you like, and if you feel confident about it… go ahead and root your device. Like anything tech related, there will be a ton of differing opinions.

Some think rooting is the only way to go. Quite a few people buy a phone and root it straight away, no fussing with anything else. They do what is called “flashing” a custom ROM, which is like saying they load a specially built version of Android. If you root and flash, you can also load custom themes, which is a custom interface for the phone. Rooting gives you access to change and manipulate your device as you see fit, so make sure you understand what you’re doing before you get into trouble.

Think you want to root your device? Check out CyanogenMod for a new ROM and theme. CyanogenMod is a great place to start, and has a theme builder so you can personalize your rooted device!

cyanogenmod 10

Nexus

The Nexus line is Google’s answer to iStuff. It’s meant to give a little balance to the Android world by providing really great hardware at some great price points. The Nexus is also a pure Android experience, which means you won’t get anything other than Android as Google meant it to be. No manufacturer tweaks or modifications, no apps you don’t want from carriers. It’s Android, pure and simple.

The Nexus line, however, has been mired in availability issues. The recent Nexus 4 launch was an unmitigated disaster, and the Nexus 7 before it was equally as tough to get. Both amazing devices, and both underestimated in terms of demand. Google is fairly new to this eCommerce game, so once they take it seriously there will be no issues. I think after a rough 2012 in terms of selling devices via the Play Store, they’ve learned their lesson.

nexus devices line

Conclusion

The world is now free and open to you, my Android friend. With so much variety and freedom to do as you please, I’d challenge you to find a reason Android isn’t better than iOS. Let me also say that there is room for both operating systems in this world, and I really hope Apple fans are as passionate as Android fans. It’s that passion that really drives each company to succeed.

If you’re looking for a way to get acquainted with Android further, check out the various communities on Google+. It’s a great way to get feedback on any subject. Feel free to pop in and say “Hey, I’m new to Android.” and ask away. This was a primer for getting started, sure, but not the whole story. Android has a lot to offer, and you should definitely take advantage as much as possible.

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