Apple detox: How to switch from iOS to Android without missing a beat

Simon Hill

So you’ve decided that maybe the grass is greener on the other side, and you’re all set to make the trip across the Android bridge. In this guide, we’re going to help you get past any trolls you might encounter, unscathed. Making the switch from iOS to Android presents a few obstacles, especially if you’re heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, but they’re far from insurmountable.

Related: 100 awesome Android apps that will turn your phone into a jack of all trades

We’re going to take a look at how to transfer contacts and other data, switch to Google services, and deal with your music, photos, and videos. To round things off, we’ll provide a few additional tips to help you get used to Android, quell some common fears, and point out how best to take advantage of your new platform’s highlights.

Making the transition

Before you embark on this journey to the promised land of Android, take one last look around you. There are a few things you’ll have to leave behind. Many of the cases, docks, and other accessories you bought for your iPhone are not going to be compatible with Android smartphones (it’s worth checking, though, because many are). Your iOS apps cannot go with you, but you’ll find most of them have Android counterparts awaiting your arrival. Any DRM protected content you bought in iTunes is stuck there (you can easily and legally remove the restrictions from music, but not from TV shows and movies).

Last, but not least, there’s your iPhone itself. If you’re not gifting it to someone then you might want to peruse our guide on how to sell an iPhone without getting ripped off.

Transferring contacts

You’ll want to transfer your contacts before you sell your old device. Check out our guide on how to transfer your contacts between iPhone and Android for a simple method that employs iTunes and Gmail.

You could also use iCloud. Turn on Contacts in Settings > iCloud on your iPhone. Log into the iCloud website on your computer. Tap the gear icon at the bottom left and choose Select All > Export vCard. Now log into Gmail, tap the red Gmail in the top left, then Contacts, or head to Google Contacts in your browser, and tap Import.

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It’s also possible to do this with the free My Contacts Backup app. Install it on your iPhone, launch it, tap backup, and then email the backup file to an email account on your Android phone. You’ll get a VCF file which you can import into your Android contacts app.

If you want to use the process as an excuse to thin the herd and edit your contacts, then you might consider doing it one by one. In that case, just open the contact you want to transfer on your iPhone, and select Share Contact to send it as a text message or by email.

Syncing your calendar

This is easy if you’ve already set up your Google account and Gmail (which you’ll need for your Android phone anyway). Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars on your iPhone and add your Gmail account or select it, then turn on syncing for Calendars. If you want to ditch your iPhone for an Android device, but keep your iPad, the Gmail app is a good way to keep your calendar and contacts synced. You can even sync multiple Google calendars to your iPad if you need to do so.

You can also buy an app to sync your calendar from iCloud, assuming you have Calendar switched on in Settings > iCloud. SmoothSync for Cloud Calendar is under $3, and it enables you to log into your Apple account and sync the calendar directly onto your Android phone.

Switching from Apple to Google services

Apple is renowned for that tightly integrated ecosystem, but if you’re switching to Android you’ll want to start using more Google services. Your Google account has gradually come to serve as a passport for a wide range of services, and cross platform synchronization has improved drastically over the last couple of years. Forget about iCloud and Safari, you can find all the same functionality, and more, via Google. As long as you are signed into your Google account, you can access all your contacts, bookmarks, appointments, and files on any device.

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL
  • Google Contacts for backing up and sharing contacts
  • Google Calendar for keeping on top of your schedule
  • Chrome browser can sync bookmarks and open tabs between computer and Android phone
  • Google Drive for backing up your files
  • Google Docs for editing and sharing documents
  • Google Play Music for storing and streaming your music from the cloud
  • Google Photos for backing up and sharing photos and videos
  • Hangouts for chatting and sharing files
  • Google Keep for notes and lists

On top of all that, you’ve got YouTube for watching and sharing video, Google Maps for easy navigation, and Google Wallet or Android Pay for wireless NFC payments. Then there’s Google Now, or “OK, Google,” as your personal voice-activated assistant (similar to Siri), not to mention a host of excellent Google apps from Sky Map to Google Translate to Google Trips.

Related: How to use Google Now

Many of these things are actually available on iPhone as well, but the experience is optimized for Android. The fact that you can have all of this under one Google account, makes it easy and accessible, and you’ll be tempted to use more and more Google services. There are also loads of great alternatives that you can use instead of–or as well as–the Google offerings like Dropbox, DoubleTwist, and Dolphin Browser.

Moving photos and videos

There are various ways of getting your precious files from your iPhone onto your Android, but we’ll start with the most obvious and basic. You can plug your iPhone into your Windows PC via USB and then choose Import pictures and videos for an automatic transfer, or Open device to view files (your photos and videos will be in the Internal Storage/DCIM folder) if you want to select individually. If you have a Mac, the import window should pop up when you plug your iPhone in and you can select files from there.

Once the files are on your Windows computer, plug your Android smartphone in via USB, and you should get a pop up window where you can select Open device to view files. You can drag and drop files from your computer onto your Android. To do the same on a Mac, check out our how to transfer files from an Android to a Mac guide.

It may prove easier to transfer those photos and videos wirelessly, though it will take longer. You can do this using any cloud service. There are many options that are available on Android and iOS. Simply install something like Google Photos, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or DropBox on your iPhone, upload the files, and then install the same app on your Android, and download them.

For more details on using apps to back up and share your photos, check out our how to share photos on Android guide. You could actually use a number of the apps and services discussed there to transfer your photos and videos from iPhone.

Moving your music

If you want to get your music from your iTunes account onto Android, there are a few potential ways to go. The easiest is probably to sign in to Google Play Music on the same computer where your iTunes is installed. Now download the Music Manager, install it, and choose the iTunes option when it asks where you store your music. You’ll then be able to select Upload all songs and playlists. You can also select individual playlists and podcasts. Perhaps best of all, you can continue to use iTunes and automatically sync any new purchases to your Google Music account.

You can’t legally copy movies or TV shows from your iTunes to your Android smartphone because you would have to remove the DRM protection first. Unfortunately, that applies to ebooks purchased through iTunes as well.

Moving your text messages

This is a lot trickier than anything we’ve discussed so far, but some people will want to keep those precious text conversations and transfer them to their new Android smartphones. Thankfully, it is possible. The most obvious method is to use the free iSMS2droid app, but it may not work for everyone. It also requires you to back up your SMS to iTunes and then go digging around to find the right file to convert.

You can also use Samsung Kies software to restore an iPhone backup (including text messages) to a Samsung Android smartphone. You’ll also find quite a few premium software options online that purport to allow you to copy text messages, contacts, photos, and even call logs, but we can’t vouch for their effectiveness.

Regardless of what method you use, don’t forget to turn iMessage off before making the switch. Leaving it on could result in SMS and MMS messages still going to your old iPhone. If you no longer have the phone, you can request Apple to deregister your iPhone with iMessage here.

Making yourself at home on Android

Welcome to Android. At first it may seem strange and unnerving, but you’ll soon get used to it. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you get your feet under the table and start to feel at home.

Android Lollipop at Google HQ
Android Lollipop at Google HQ

Finding your way

Navigation is a little different on Android. You’ll be used to the almighty Home button on iPhone. Generally, you’ll find three buttons beneath the screen on Android (or onscreen). They are:

  • Home: This will always take you to the Home screen. If you want to get back to the Home screen in a hurry then press Home. Hold down Home and swipe up to launch Google Now. It’s always in the middle.
  • Back: The Back button is exactly as it sounds. If you want to go back one page, one level, or one screen, to what you were just looking at, then tap the Back button. You can also use it to back out of apps. It’s usually on the left.
  • Recent Apps or Multitasking: The recent apps menu shows recent apps, predictably enough. If you want to jump back into an app you were just using, this is how you do it. You can also shut down apps from this menu by swiping them away. In Android 5.0 Lollipop and above, you’ll also find Chrome tabs in here, and some apps can have multiple cards. It’s usually on the right.

On some Android devices, particularly older devices, you may also find:

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

  • Menu: Though it’s an old option, some manufacturers, like Samsung, retained the menu button after Google dropped it. This button will bring up a menu of options for the screen that you are on, or the app that you are in. Whenever you feel lost and you’re not sure how to get the option you want, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here.
  • Search: You’ll find this on older Android phones and it simply allows you to search for whatever you want via Google. You can also hold it down to launch Voice search.

Instead of defaulting to the home screen, like an iPhone, your apps on Android will be tucked away in the app drawer. You can have multiple home screens in Android, and you simply swipe left and right to cycle through them. There will be an icon labeled Apps on the bottom row of all of your home screens, contained in an ever-present dock with the other usual suspects like Phone, Contacts, Messaging, and Internet. If you want to add an app shortcut directly to your home screen, just find it in the app drawer, then tap and hold on the icon until it comes loose and your home screen pops up underneath, and then drop it where you want it.

Everything important that happens on your phone will spark a notification (and they work a lot better than iPhone). Simply drag down the notification bar from the top of the screen to check up on your latest notifications. You can click on them for more detail, or to take action. You can dismiss them by swiping them away, or tap the clear icon to get rid of everything at once.

Customization and widgets

One of the big attractions of Android is the ability to customize your smartphone and use widgets. To customize the look of your phone, you can just tap and hold on an empty section of home screen to get a pop up menu allowing you to set the wallpaper (including animated “live” wallpaper if you like). On a lot of Android devices, you’ll also see the option to add widgets, apps, and folders. On stock Android, you’ll find the widgets in a separate tab in the Apps drawer. You can drop one app icon on top of another to create a folder. You can also change the wallpaper for your Lock screen or Home screen via Settings > Display > Wallpaper.

LG G Flex2 widgets
LG G Flex2 widgets

Widgets are small windows into individual apps that can update automatically to bring you new information. This means you can see the latest weather, sports scores, or tweets, without having to enter the actual app. Not every app has a widget, just tap and hold on an empty portion of the home screen and select widgets to review your options, or go into the apps drawer and scroll over on most newer phones.

If you’re really keen on personalizing the aesthetic of your smartphone, then you should explore the world of launchers. There are all kinds of different looks and styles available, often completely free. A couple of popular launchers to get you started are Nova Launcher and GO Launcher EX.


Even though the Play Store has overtaken Apple’s App Store when it comes to sheer numbers, there’s no denying that there are more high quality, polished apps and games on iOS. Due to the potential profit margin for developers (which, on average, remains higher on iOS because people spend more money on apps) most new apps and games will launch on iPhone first. The good news is that the gap is closing, and the vast majority of the big apps and games that you knew and loved on your iPhone will be available for Android. You’ll also find that apps and games are generally cheaper, and a higher proportion of them are free, on the Android platform.

Android M Hands On
Android M Hands On

To get you started, why not check out our best Android apps and best Android games roundups? With Android you’re not forced to use a set of default apps. In fact, you’ll typically find duplicated functionality in pre-installed Google apps, and manufacturer or carrier apps. You can simply select the one you like best, or install another third-party option to do the job. When you have more than one app capable of performing a task, you’ll get a pop-up window asking you which one you’d like to use (you can tick Always to make it the default).

When you want to check your complete app list, you can go to Settings > Apps. You can choose to uninstall apps, Clear cache or Clear data, and review the apps’ permissions on this screen (you can also disable bloatware that you don’t use). You’ll find app updates will appear in your Notifications bar from time to time, or you can enter Play Store, tap Menu and choose My apps to update everything at once.

Alleviating your worries

Android Malware
Android Malware

Every criticism of Android refers to the same potential problems. There are things that may make you reticent to leave Apple’s walled garden, but these issues are sometimes exaggerated. There are also ways to dispel those concerns.

Fragmentation: A great deal is made of the fragmentation issue, but is unlikely to impact on your Android experience. There is a huge choice of Android devices running different versions of the platform, and the main issue comes into play with updates. Unlike Apple, Google can’t just push an update out for every Android device. The manufacturer and the carrier have a say, and sometimes they hold things up. There can also be issues with manufacturer UIs like Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense. In practice, the top phones get updates fairly quickly. If you want guaranteed fast updates then opt for a Google device, like the Nexus 6P or Pixel. In terms of apps, the Play Store doesn’t allow you to install incompatible apps.

Malware: Every day there’s a new article raising the spectre of malware on Android. As the most popular mobile platform it is inevitable that Android will be targeted, but it is relatively easy to stay safe. Consider installing one of the top Android security apps, and you can forget about malware.

Stability: Early Android versions were prone to crashing and lag. Couple that with the fact that you can buy Android smartphones with fairly low specs (for a fraction of the price of an iPhone), and you can see why there was some chatter about stability. You have to compare apples with apples, or in this case, a top of the range, comparably priced Android smartphone, with the iPhone. The latest versions of Android are fast and smooth, and the latest Android smartphones can match, or even occasionally best, the iPhone when it comes to performance. Google has also done a lot of work to improve stability and performance on lower end hardware.

Extra options: Rooting and other tips

With Android, you have the option of rooting, which basically gives you deeper access to your device. This enables you to tweak absolutely everything about your phone. We discuss the pros and cons, and how to do it, in our how to root your Android phone guide. We have a top ten apps for rooted Android phones roundup as well.

If you buy one of the latest Android smartphones, then you’ll want to check out our tips for Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow to uncover some great features. We also have a wide range of other Android guides including everything from how to block calls on your Android phone to how to shut off Android notifications. You’ll also find a lot of tips and troubleshooting articles for popular Android devices, so take a look.