The iPhone switcher's guide: Move from iOS to Android and keep all your stuff

The iPhone switcher's guide: Move from iOS to Android and keep all your stuff

So you’ve decided to switch to Android. We can’t say we blame you—as you’ll soon see, the grass over here is as green as our bots—but we know that starting from scratch can be a scary experience. There’s all sorts of information on your old iPhone that you’re going to want to transfer to your new one, and let’s face it, Apple isn’t exactly going out of its way to help. But we are!

Whatever your reason for getting your head out of the iClouds, we’re here to support you through this difficult break-up. And before you can say “no headphone jack” we’ll have your new phone up, running, and packed with all the stuff you were afraid you’d have to leave behind.

Getting ready

google account

Before you even turn on your new phone, make sure you have a Google account.

Before your new phone even arrives, there are things you can do to prepare. Just as your iTunes and iCloud accounts are the keys to keeping of your iOS devices humming in unison, a Google account is necessary on your new Android phone. You probably already have a Gmail account, but if you don’t, go get one. While you’re at it, you should enable 2-step verification. Your Google account will hold all your personal information, including contacts, calendars, and Chrome passwords, so the more protection you can add to it the better off you’ll be. 

And we’re sorry to say but you’re going to need to turn off iMessage. If your contacts send you an iMessage instead of an SMS text, and you don’t have an iPhone to receive it, it will get lost in the ether. So you’re going to want to tell Apple to stop trying to send them. (You can find the toggle inside the Messages tab in the Settings app on your iPhone.) And besides, you don’t want people to think you’re ignoring them when their lonely message is really just sitting unread on Apple’s servers.

And finally, it’ll also be helpful to sign up for a Dropbox account, if you don’t already have one. There are a number of cross-platform apps that use Dropbox rather than Google Drive as their syncing engine, and one of your old apps will likely need it to transfer your data.

Use your Google Drive

While your iCloud Drive will pretty much be useless the minute you turn off your iPhone, Google Drive can actually help with the transition process. Not only will it be useful in storing and transferring documents, but while we were preparing this guide, Google unveiled a simple backup system right inside its Google Drive iOS app. It won’t bring over everything (and we still recommend following the steps in this guide to ensure a seamless transfer), but if you’re happy with just grabbing contacts, calendar entries, and photos, it’s worth a try.

google drive backups

It’s not comprehensive, but there’s a backup system built right into Google Drive.

To get started, download the Google Drive app on your iOS device and head into the Settings (inside the hamburger menu button). Select Backups and you’ll be taken to a screen where you can choose whether you want to save your contacts, calendar events or photos. Tap Start Backup and it’ll begin running, though you’ll need to keep your phone on and the app open, so it’s best to do it overnight with your phone plugged in.

The Google Drive method works well, but it’s an all-or-nothing situation, so if you don’t want every single calendar entry and contact coming over to your new phone, you’ll need to trim them down in their respective apps first. And as we describe below, you’ll still want to change the defaults on your old iPhone to keep everything up to date. But it will get some of the data onto your new phone quickly so you can start using it.

Pixel power

If your new phone happens to be a Pixel or Pixel XL, moving in is easier than it is with any other phone. That’s because of Google’s included Quick Switch Adapter, a simple, speedy method for pulling your data over to your new phone.

switching 3 Michael Simon

Google’s new Pixel is the best way to transfer your information from your old iPhone.

During the setup of your Pixel, you’ll be given an option to copy your data from your iPhone. Dig through your Pixel box to find the tiny USB-C adapter, attach your Lightening cable to it, and plug the appropriate ends into each phone. Then, after you log into your Google account, the Pixel will search your iPhone for any contacts, calendar events, photos, videos, non-DRM-protected music, texts, and even iMessages, and bring them all safely over to their new home. (One thing though: If you use an iTunes backup instead of iCloud, Google recommends that it is an unencrypted one. To check, open iTunes on your computer, plug in your iPhone, go to the Summary tab, and make sure the Encrypt iTunes Backup option is unchecked. If it was turned on, you’ll need to run it again.)

It’s all pretty magical, and the process is much easier than Apple’s Move to iOS app. And it’ll save you a whole lot of time by skipping most of the steps you’ll need to take with just about every other phone.

Calendar

When you open your calendar app for the first time on your Android device and sign into your new Google account, it’s probably going to be empty. But moving all your appointments from your Apple calendar to your Google one is easier than you think.

calendar export

You can export all of your calendar entries by taking a trip to iCloud.com.

If you have a Mac, the first thing you’ll need to do is open the Calendar app on your computer. Select the calendar you want to export, head to the File menu, and click Export to create an ICS file. (Repeat if you have more than one calendar to copy over.) If you’re using a PC, however, you’ll need to jump through a few small hoops. First, log in to iCloud.com and open the calendar app. Select the calendar you want to share and click the broadcast icon to the right. In the accompanying dialogue box, select Public Calendar and copy the address that appears. (The address will be too long to view, so you’ll need to click the email link button to copy the whole thing.) Paste the entire link into a new tab, change “webcal” at the front to “http”, and press enter. That will download the ICS file you need. Finally, go back to your iCloud Calendar and uncheck Public Calendar, then repeat the process for any other calendars to want to copy over.

calendar import

Find the ICS file you saved and import it into Google Calendar.

Then log in to your Google calendar on the web and import the file you downloaded by clicking on the gear icon in the top right corner of the screen. Go down to Settings, click Calendars and find the Import calendar button. Then all you need to do is find the file you exported and your iPhone’s dates will show up on your Android phone. Just don’t forget that you’ll need to do this for each of the calendars you’ve exported (Home, Work, Birthdays, etc.).

When all that’s done, the last thing you need to do is change the default calendar account on your Apple devices (including your old iPhone) from iCloud to Google. On iOS, you can switch it in the Calendars tab inside the Settings app, while on OS X you’ll find it inside the app’s preferences. From there, you can simply log in to your Google account and your events will forever remain perfectly in sync.

Contacts

Now that you’ve got your appointments in order, you’re going to need some people to communicate with. And since you’re already an expert in importing calendar files, you’ll just need to do the same with your contacts.

contacts export

Make sure you select all of the contacts you want to bring over before you hit the export button.

Once again, you’re going to start with your computer, but things are a little different. On your Mac, jump into the Contacts app, and do a select-all so you make sure to grab all the names in your address book (or go through and select the ones you want). Then navigate over to File > Export, and select Export vCard. Check to make sure the file says something like “Amy Andrews and 200 others,” choose where you want it to go, and hit the save button.

It’s just as easy on your PC. Go back to iCloud.com and this time select the Contacts app. Select all of your contacts, click the gear icon at the bottom left of the screen, and find the Export Vcard option.

import contacts1

Don’t be alarmed, before you can import your contacts, Google will send you back to the old version of Contacts.

Then go back to your Google account on the web, but this time you’re going to open Contacts (it’s in the second batch of icons). Click on the More option under your account icon on the left, scroll down to the Import button, and select CSV or vCard file. However, since Google is currently in the process of redesigning Contacts, you can’t actually complete the import here. Instead, it will prompt you to go back to the old app where you can click on the Import Contacts button at the bottom of the left-hand column. Once the box opens, choose the vCard file, and your Google address book will instantly populate with all of the names from your iOS one.

Mail

Of course, if you’re already using a GMail account as your main email address, you can skip right to the next section. When you sign in to your new Android phone with your Google account, all your mail will be there. But setting up your iCloud account isn’t too much more difficult. And even though you won’t see an option for iCloud when you go to add a new account, you can still use the GMail app to manage your Apple mail.

To get started, open the Gmail app on your new phone, go to Settings (at the bottom of the sidebar), and tap Add account. On the Set up email screen, select Other, and follow the prompts to enter your iCloud email address and password. (If you have 2-step or 2-factor authentication enabled for your iCloud account, you’ll need to create an app-specific password first on your Apple ID account page.)

mail set up

GMail doesn’t include a dedicated iCloud tab, but you can still use to set up your iCloud account.

That should be enough to get your account up and running, but if you’re still getting error messages, you might need to tweak the server settings. You can find the incoming IMAP and outgoing SMTP server settings on Apple’s website. And if you don’t want to use the GMail app that came with your phone, you can download any number of great ones from the Play Store, including Alto, Newton, Outlook, and others that you may be familiar with on iOS.

Messages

Here’s the only real stumbling block with switching between iOS and Android: Your messages don’t play nice between the two operating systems. Even if you’re moving between Android phones the system is less than ideal, mostly relying on third-party solutions that may or may not work.

imessage off

Don’t forget to turn off iMessage!

As we already discussed, Google offers an excellent solution baked into the Pixel, and Samsung offers something similar with its Smart Switch app, but otherwise there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to bring your messages over. The most popular tool is iSMS2droid, but it relies on making an unencrypted iTunes backup, digging into your drive to find the SMS database file, and renaming it and converting it. Not exactly the easiest of solutions. 

So, unless you use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or some other over-the-top service, your iMessages will likely be forever locked on your old iPhone. But a clean slate might be for the best anyway since you’re going to be a green bubble from here on out. Because you’ve already turned off iMessage, right?

Photos

Now that the important information is all ported over, it’s time to get into the fun stuff. We know you’re going to be using your new phone to take tons of photos and videos, but all the ones you took with your old iPhone can come along too. And you won’t need to attach any cables to transfer them.

photos sync

Your Android photo library will look just practically the same as the one on your old iPhone.

All you need to do is download and run Google Photos on your old iPhone. Really, that’s it. Once you log in to your Google account, the app will do all the heavy lifting for you, scanning the entire contents of your photo library and dutifully copying everything that’s inside (including any photos and videos that reside on your iCloud Drive). And that’s not even the best part. Google Photos won’t even count the space it uses against your Google Drive storage limit, so long as you opt to store High Quality shots rather than full-size ones. If you used the Google Drive transfer process from earlier in this article, Google already put all your photos and videos in Google Photos, so you're all set.

It might take a few hours for larger libraries to upload, but once it’s finished, you’ll never be more than a tap away from a lifetime of memories. So whether it’s your next Android phone, a new iPad, or the web, you need only sign in to the Google Photos app to access every picture and screenshot you’ve ever taken, no matter how or where they were shot.

Music

Just like your photos, getting the tunes from your old iPhone onto your Android phone is quick and easy. Of course, if you subscribe to a streaming service, it won’t take any time at all—just download your app of choice, sign in and start rocking out. And if you’re using a service that supports uploads (including Apple Music), your entire library will be at your disposal.

google play music upload

Google Play Music will store 50,000 tracks for you, all for free.

But even if you have a ton of ripped tracks on a external drive, Google has you covered. You don’t have to be a subscriber to Google Play Music to take advantage of its best feature—storing up to 50,000 of your own tracks. And it won’t cost you a dime. Just log into Google Play Music web app, go to the menu in the upper left, and select Upload Music. Your entire collection will be ready to stream in minutes (or hours, depending on the size) on any and all of your devices.

Anything else

For the rest of the apps you use on your phone, you’ll need to hit up the Play Store to find replacements or Android counterparts. All the major apps are represented, of course—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.—and you’ll need only sign in to your account to pick up where you left off. And of course, if your favorite game uses Facebook or some other cloud platform to sync, your progress will be restored once you log in (so don’t freak out, Candy Crush addicts).

icloud bookmarks

Once you meld Safari with Chrome, all of your bookmarks will be available on your new phone.

If you were already using Chrome on your old iPhone, your bookmarks, open tabs, and search history will all be synced to your new device, along with any passwords you’ve stored as soon as you sign in. And if you were using one of the main password managers (1Password, LastPass, or Dashlane), you’ll be able to grab a copy in the Play Store.

To get your Safari bookmarks into Chrome on your new phone, you’ll need to download the iCloud app for Windows. Once it’s all set up and you’re signed in, click the Options button next to Boomarks and select Chrome. Press Apply, and select Merge in the pop-up dialogue box. (If prompted, allow Chrome to install the iCloud Bookmarks extension.) Once it’s done, all of your Safari bookmarks will appear in Chrome’s bookmark’s tab on your Android phone (and everywhere else).

You can do that right in Chrome on a Mac. Launch Chrome, open the menu at the top right, and click Bookmarks. Select Import bookmarks and settings, choose Safari, and press import.

And that should be it. Other than a stray document or file that you can just toss in your Google Drive, your new phone will be all ready to go. And we don’t think you’ll miss it all.

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