Early Android phones were sluggish, inelegant, and error-prone. That’s no longer the case—just look at the Galaxy Note 8 or LG V30. The one issue that remains? Android fragmentation. Hundreds of thousands of users are running different versions of the OS, even if they have the same device.
In comparison, the iPhone has long been a shining example of beautiful software and hardware design, controlled by Apple to ensure that its devices provide as similar an experience as possible. After 10 years, the iPhone still beckons. Now that the large-screened iPhone Pluses are readily available, and the OLED-screen of the iPhone X is so very close, it’s all the more tempting to switch. Thinking of making the move? This guide will help ensure that your transition from Android to iOS is as smooth as possible.
Get Ready For Your New iPhone
Move to iOS App
Apple took some of the work out of moving from Android to iOS by launching an Android app called Move to iOS (pictured below). It promises to set up a direct wireless connection from your old Android (4.0 or later) to your new iPhone, and will transfer over the following: contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, and calendars.
The Move to iOS app will also suggest that you download the iOS versions of the Android apps you had installed, assuming there is an iPhone equivalent.
Note that the Move to iOS app only works when setting up an iPhone for the first time—it’s not for transfers to an already operating iPhone.
But, there is a way to make that transfer to a working iPhone. Use AnyTrans from iMobie. This desktop software for Windows or macOS handles a lot of functions outside of phones, like downloading YouTube videos. Now it can also help with migration from Android to iOS, once both phones are plugged into the PC.
In addition to doing what Move to iOS does, iMobie claims the iOS Mover feature can migrate call logs, music, videos, ringtones, files/documents, and ebooks. Plus it gives you more control over the photos, contacts, calendars, and messages you do send to your new iPhone.
The transfer—done via cable, not wireless—won’t overwrite existing data on the iPhone. Migration functions are free, but you may want to pay the $39.99 one-user license fee, as the program is handy to have around to do a lot more, like export iPhone photos easily to your computer, change ringtones, and back up the phone—all without using Apple’s bloated, slow iTunes software.
If you want to do things the slightly harder way, without the help of an app, here’s what you need to know.
Use Google’s Services
If you’ve committed some or all of your digital life to Google services like Gmail, Drive, and Calendar, you’re in luck. All the major Google services have versions for iPhone with similar, if not identical, functionality.
For example, it’s a breeze to use Gmail with the dedicated Gmail app on iPhone. Or sync your Gmail accounts with just about any iPhone email app, from the one that’s built in, to third-party apps like our favorite, Microsoft Outlook for iPhone. Google also makes Google Inbox for Gmail, which makes the interface even simpler. You’ll also find it easy to use Google Drive to access files, or use the individual apps for Docs, Sheets, and Slides as desired for editing.
This is particularly handy for your contacts. Put all your contacts into Google Contacts on Android or Gmail on PC, and they’ll be there when you sign into the Gmail app on iOS. Apps like My Contacts also create a backup of your contacts on Android and make it easy to edit names on the web and import into iOS (or vice versa).
Centralize Your Media
Once upon a time, iTunes was still the dominant app for listening to music, especially on PCs and Macs. Clunky as it is, iTunes—along with Apple’s iCloud and iTunes Match services—made it pretty easy to access all your music across devices—but not on Android.
If you’ve got a lot of music purchased via the Google Play store, download it to a local PC—you’ll have to do it on the computer—by going to play.google.com/music/listen. Then open iTunes on the PC and drag all your music files in. Sync it back to your iPhone by connecting it via USB cable to the PC while iTunes is running. Or, use iTunes Match ($25/year) to sync music files to the cloud and access the tunes on any Windows or iOS device.
Or, use Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited, or any of our top-rated music-streaming services. Most cost $10 a month for streaming and offline playlist access to almost any song you can think of.
Quick note: if you go with Spotify, pay for the $9.99/month Premium on the website, NOT via the app on iPhone. If you pay using iTunes, Spotify charges you $3 more per month—a markup that goes directly to Apple. Why? Apple takes a 30 percent cut of all in-app purchases made on the App Store, so Spotify passes that cost to you.
Media also includes photos and videos, and you may have a lot of them on your Android device. To make sure you have them at full resolution, it used to be best to plug the Android phone into the PC via a USB cable (or use a memory card, if that’s an option) and physically copy them to a computer hard drive for storage. You can always put a few of the pictorial faves back on the iPhone by putting them in iTunes and then syncing them back.
Better yet, use a service that backs up photos to the cloud, which you can access on both phones (and your PCs). Google Photos, in particular, is all about providing unlimited storage of pictures with access anywhere, on any device.
Other services like Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Flickr all have mobile apps for both platforms that provide similar backup and access, though some of them will cost you for any extra space needed. This is especially nice if you keep that old Android phone around after you’ve switched to iOS to use as a camera or backup phone; then all pictures taken on all those devices get backed up in one (or multiple) spot. (Remember to open the apps every now and then to make sure the backups are taking place.)
Ease the USB Cable Pain
With iOS, you no longer have to connect an iPhone to your PC periodically using its proprietary cable just for backup or updates. A lot of that will happen over iCloud. You can still sync files with the PC wirelessly over your home network. Make charging the iPhone easier by picking up a small desk dock that keeps ugly wires out of sight and makes it super easy to pop the iPhone in and out.
Once You Have Your iPhone
Learn the UI
The iPhone has an Android-like notification bar, but it still lacks function keys or a back button. Its home screen is actually the first menu pane. You swipe between multiple menu panels, which contain icons for the apps that do everything you’d want. Swipe right from home to get to widgets; swipe down from the top of any page to get all your Notifications; swipe up from the bottom to get the Control Center.
A single button at the bottom of the iPhone screen returns you to the home screen—unless you get the new iPhone X (push down on the bottom of the screen and swipe up to go home or swipe down from the upper right for Control Center).
On iPhone 5s and above (except iPhone X), the home button doubles as a fingerprint scanner called Touch ID. You can use it to get secure access to the iPhone, as well as buy and download things from iTunes and the App Store, and authenticate purchases from within supported apps via Apple Pay.
To delete or move an app, hold a finger down on any icon until they all start wiggling and then drag them around or into folders (pull one icon atop another icon). Or click the X on the icon to delete the entire app (not just the icon).
“Multitasking” of apps occurs automatically in the background; you can kill individual tasks by double-pressing the home button to access the App Switcher, and swiping up on any app listed to “close” it. Contrary to popular belief, however, this does not save battery or speed up your device. On iPhone X, access App Switcher by holding down on the bottom and swiping about halfway up.
Since the iPhone 6, there’s been a difference between double-pressing—where you physically push the home button in—and a quick double-tap on the button without pushing down. The latter moves the top half of your screen down, so it’s easier to reach things at the top using your tiny thumbs. Apple literally calls this feature “Reachability.”
You can turn it and many other options on or off in the iOS Settings > General > Accessibility. Guess what? On iPhone X, Reachability is gone. Apple’s iOS 11 has a one-handed keyboard option, but that probably won’t make up for it.
Don’t forget to bask in the beautiful absence of bloatware on iOS (save for a handful of Apple-provided apps). It’s arguably the very best thing about Apple keeping an absolute stranglehold on its hardware and operating system. And as of iOS 10, you can even delete the Apple-provided apps like Stocks, Apple Watch, Tips, etc., that no one ever uses.
Dive Into the App Store
The single best reason to switch to the iPhone remains the App Store. Google Play has largely caught up, but as a general rule, Apple’s App Store still offers a greater variety. You can find many more games, and apps tend to appear on the iPhone before other platforms.
Incidentally, most of this comes down to economics, rather than a religious war between the two platforms. It’s just easier for iPhone developers to sell apps and get paid. That said, some consider it a monopoly since it’s the only place you can get iOS apps. In OS 11, the App Store update includes a Games-specific tab, and a Today page to better showcase the best new and updated apps.
Enjoy Seamless, Stable OS Updates
There are far fewer hardware SKUs to worry about with the iPhone—no fragmentation—which greatly reduces development and QA time. Android OS revisions have become a tremendous mess over time, as various phone manufacturers and wireless carriers delay updates for months on end. Meanwhile, current iPhones get free updates with major new features on a regular basis, and most Apple’s iOS updates are stable out of the gate (with the occasional exception).
Cradle Your iPhone in a Case
The iPhone’s construction is surprisingly durable, but you still don’t want to drop it. Ever. Instead, pick up a case to keep your delicate phone protected. Check out our top picks for iPhone 8 cases; this Case-Mate Glow Waterfall is a nice example.
We also have case roundups for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, as well as the iPhone 6s and the larger iPhone 6s Plus. Apple also still sells a smaller, inexpensive iPhone SE with a 4-inch screen; get a case for that one, too.
The Jailbreaking Question
We don’t recommend jailbreaking as a rule because it could brick your iPhone and lead to all sorts of warranty-related issues. But if you want to, the feds say it’s legal, thankfully.
For average smartphone users, the app ecosystem provides most of what people want. Still, in some cases, jailbreaking is the only way to run certain kinds of apps that Apple bans, such as retro game emulators, or do even more with the Apple Touch ID fingerprint scanner, among other things. If you’re a heavy tinkerer, look into it, but be prepared for disappointment as Apple fights jailbreaking with each new release. Another option: simply stay with Android, which is far more amenable to OS meddling.