Jumping ship from iPhone to Android is a straightforward task these days. These are the tools and tips you need to get the job done.
In this post, we'll look at how to adjust to Android's differences and bring in the comforts of iOS you may miss. Your interface will vary slightly depending on which version of Android you're running. Most new Android devices will be running Android Lollipop, which is the most recent release, but other models may feature KitKat or Jelly Bean. That said, the basic features are the same across all those releases.
Migrating Your Data
One of the most obvious concerns when moving from iPhone to Android is how to handle moving all your existing contacts, music and photos. The team at Android have a very comprehensive guide to this on the www.android.com/switch/ site, and we recommend working through those steps before you get rid of your old iPhone. If you're already using Gmail on your iPhone, the switch will be really easy, but even if you aren't, it's a straightforward process these days.
Don't Panic About iMessage
You may have heard horror stories about people moving from iPhone to Android and not being able to access their text messages. That was due to the strange way Apple integrated its own iMessage system with the broader SMS network. Fortunately, Apple now has a dedicated tool that lets you remove your iMessage registration, so text hassles are very much a thing of the past.
Find Your Way Around Android
As a former iPhone user, you'll probably find that the biggest adjustment to using Android is navigating your way through the operating system. In iOS, pretty much everything happens with the home button. In Android, you don't have a physical home button; instead, there's a series of three or four touch buttons at the bottom of your screen.
- Back: A curvy arrow pointing left
- Home: The outline of a house
- Multitasking Drawer: One rectangle on top of the other
- Settings: Vertical ellipsis (not all devices display this button at all times, or in the bottom row)
The back button is sometimes a source of confusion because its functionality is not always consistent. In most cases, it will just take you to the last thing you did in an app. If there is no last thing, it may take you back to your home screen. Occasionally it will do something else; you'll have to learn which apps are the exception, but most follow the standard design rules.
The home button simply takes you back to your home screen.
The multitasking drawer shows you your active apps so you can quickly switch between them without the need to go back to your home screen or open your app drawer. It works similarly to iOS' app switching, though it provides a vertical list (instead of a horizontal one) and provides a preview of the open app. Instead of tapping and holding to close apps, you swipe them away.
The settings button is sometimes a soft button like the others mentioned in this section, but on certain devices it will simply appear contextually in apps. If you see a vertical ellipsis (three dots stacked on top of each other), that's where you'll access an app's settings. To get to your phone's system settings, just open the Settings app in your app drawer, on your home screen (if you keep it there) or via the notification drawer (explained later, in the Notifications section).
Like iOS, Android can have more than one home screen. On many phones, you'll find five, but the number varies depending on the manufacturer and version you're using. Your primary home screen (or page, if you prefer to think of it that way) starts in the middle with additional ones to the left and right.
On Android, you can display apps and make folders just as you can on iOS by tapping, holding and dragging an app onto another app. Android doesn't force you to place anything on your home screen, however, so you have to do a little more work to make it look the way you want.
While this might seem more complicated and tedious, organising your Android home screen offers several distinct advantages. First, you don't have to display any apps you don't want. Second, you can add widgets that provide information and functionality. Third, you can download custom launchers that let your home screen do even more for you, such as customise its appearance. We'll discuss all three in this section.
How To Add And Organise Apps And Widgets
Unlike iOS, Android doesn't show all your apps on the home screen by default. Instead, you can add your most important ones to your home screen and find the rest inside the app drawer. The app drawer is a little icon (in your home screen's dock by default) that you tap to view your entire collection of apps. Once you're inside your app drawer, tapping and holding any app will take you back to your home screen so you can create a shortcut. Just place it wherever you want and you're done.
There is a second way to add shortcuts to your home screen. While on the home screen, you can tap any empty space and hold for a moment. This will bring up a menu asking you want you want to add. Just choose the app you want and it will appear on the home screen. Tap and hold to move it around.
If you want to remove an app shortcut (which will not uninstall the app), just drag it to the letter X or garbage bin at the top of the screen and let go.
Widgets work exactly the same way. If you tap an empty space on your home screen, choose the Widgets option to add a widget instead. You can also add widgets from your app drawer by scrolling past all your apps and into the widget section. Tapping and holding will allow you to place them on your home screen.
How To Change Your Launcher
On Android, Launchers refer to your home screen and the functions surrounding it. Unlike iOS, you can download apps to replace the default option. Android's default launcher is solid, but you can do a lot more with a custom launcher. We're big fans of Nova Launcher, but there are plenty of good options. Each launcher has differing options, but most can customise icons, change home screen animations and pack more into your dock. Changing your launcher doesn't require more than downloading your choice from the Google Play Store and opening it up. If you like it, read the next section to learn about how to set it as your default app.
In iOS, Apple forces you to use its apps as the defaults. In Android, you don't have to. If you prefer a different navigation app for your driving needs or an alternative mail client, you can make the switch without much hassle.
All you have to do to change a default app is to download a new one and open it. Next time an app is required for a specific function, such as opening an image, you'll be asked which app you want to use for the job. Simply select the new one and tap the "Always" button to let Android know you want it to be the default.
If you ever want to undo this change, you can clear the defaults easily too. Open your app drawer, find the current default app you want to clear, and tap and hold down on its icon as if you're going to add a shortcut to your home screen. Instead of adding that shortcut, however, drag the app to the top of the screen where you'll see the text "App Info". Let go and a screen will appear with a bunch of settings for that app. Under the Defaults section you'll find a "Clear Defaults" button. Tap it and you're all set.
The Notification Center in iOS looked like a play straight out of Android's book. The pull-down notification drawer which both mobile operating systems offer are very similar.
Android offers a number of additional features in its notification drawer that you won't find in iOS. You still drag down from the top of the screen to bring it up, but dismissing notifications is a little easier. You can swipe any individual ones from left to right to get rid of them, or you can dismiss them all by tapping an icon at top that looks like three horizontal bars (or the word 'Clear' on some platforms). Android's notification drawer also has a handy settings menu that you can view by tapping the little human icon in the upper right-hand corner. This makes it easy to check battery status, toggle flight mode and change screen brightness. And there are plenty of ways to customise and improve it further.
Maps And Navigation
Google Maps is everything Apple Maps isn't. It's reliable and it's accurate. This is one switch you won't find it hard to adjust to, assuming you hadn't already moved over to Maps on your iPhone.
Operating System Updates
When you have an iPhone, you have an official Apple device. When you buy an Android, you don't have an official Google device unless you purchase an official Google Nexus phone. That means you're at the mercy of your phone's manufacturer and carrier when it comes to receiving system updates. This can be frustrating sometimes because updates can be slow to roll out, especially in Australia.
However, Google has changed its approach in recent years, so many key features can be updated via Google Play Services, which changes phone features without necessarily upgrading your OS version. This happens automatically, and makes for a better experience all round.
iPhone battery life is nothing to boast about; Android battery performance varies hugely depending on the model. We've offered detailed recommendations on improving Android battery performance in the past; below are the most crucial techniques.
Turn Off Radios You Aren't Using
Bluetooth and GPS radios will drain your battery more quickly, and they don't need to remain active for the majority of your day. One of the first things you should do when you're setting up your home screens is add the settings widget included with Android. It has five settings toggles: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sync and Brightness. Just toggle off Bluetooth and GPS when they're not in use and toggle them on when they are. This will improve your phone's standby time significantly.
Make Charging Easy
Because most Android devices use microUSB to charge, you probably already have a cable that will work, and your friends are likely to as well. Whenever you're leaving your phone around at a friend's house, don't hesitate to ask to charge it. Keep a charger in your car, in your bag, at work and a couple around the house. Chargers don't cost much, and microUSB cables can always be repurposed for many other devices. It doesn't hurt to have a handful of them, and it can really help you ensure your phone has plenty of charge. Alternatively, check if your phone offers an extended battery that doesn't fatten up the phone too much.
Find iOS App Alternatives
When switching to Android from iOS, you'll need a lot of new apps. Android App Directory and Lifehacker Pack For Android lists produced by Gizmodo's sibling site Lifehacker provide a number of helpful suggestions in various categories
Discover The Other Benefits Of Android
Android can do a lot of awesome stuff that your iPhone couldn't. You'll find it fun to discover these new features as you explore everything the operating system has to offer. Here are a few things you'll want to check out:
- Google Now is one of the greatest additions to Android. If you want to research something or ask a question, you just search Google Now and it will provide you with that information on a concise and attractive summary card. You can search via text or with your voice -- it's up to you. Most Android phones will have a Google Search bar on the home screen by default, but you can bring up Google Now in your app drawer or by swiping up from the bottom of your home screen. For more on Google Now, read our guide.
- You can install apps remotely through the Google Play Store even when you're away (or don't want to deal with) your phone. Just visit the store, search for the app you want, and click the buy/install button. You'll be asked which device to send the app to. Just select your phone and it will be there in minutes.
- Lock screen widgets add a little extra info to your lock screen. Just swipe from left to right and you'll find an empty box. Tap and hold that box to add a widget that will be available on your lock screen when you need it.
- Exploring The File System is possible in Android. iOS doesn't give you direct access, so this is the sort of thing you might miss if you don't look for it. In Android, you can download files from web browsers and store things where you want them just like you would on a computer. Your phone will probably come with a file explorer app installed, but Solid Explorer is my favourite alternative.
This is just the beginning. As you explore Android, you'll find plenty of new features that you love as well as apps and methods that help you through the transition.