How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

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. If you’ve been thinking about switching from an iPhone to an Android device and you’re already heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll encounter a few obstacles, but they’re far from insurmountable.

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

Google Pixel 3 review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

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 some 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. Before you wipe it with a factory reset, you’ll want to work through the rest of our guide. When you’re done, assuming you’re not gifting your iPhone to someone, then you might want to peruse our guide on how to sell an iPhone without getting ripped off.

Using phone manufacturer apps or tools

Before we dig into various methods for moving over different bits and pieces from your iPhone to your new Android phone, it’s worth mentioning that you can often save some time by using the tools that the maker of your new smartphone provides. You’ll usually be asked during the setup of your new phone if you want to copy over files from your old phone.

Switching iPhone to Android options on Huawei P20 Pro
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

If you buy a Samsung phone, like the Galaxy Note 9, for example, you’ll get a USB-OTG connector in the box which allows you to plug in your old iPhone and copy over a lot of files and data. You can also use the Smart Switch software. If you don’t get such an option on your new Android phone, or you lack the connector you need to plug in, don’t worry because we’re about to run through some alternative methods.

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 > [your name] > iCloud on your iPhone. Log into the iCloud website on your computer and click Contacts. Click the gear icon at the bottom left, and choose Select All, then click the gear icon again and select Export vCard. Now log into Gmail, tap the red Gmail in the top left, then Contacts, or head to Google Contacts in your browser, click More, and tap Import.

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 > Accounts & Passwords > Add Account on your iPhone and add your Gmail account or select it from the list, 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 > [your name] > 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
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
  • Google Contacts for backing up and sharing contacts
  • Android Messages for texting
  • 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 or YouTube 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 Duo for one-on-one video chatting
  • 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 Pay for wireless NFC payments. Then there’s “OK, Google,” or “Hey Google,” which activates Google Assistant (similar to Siri), not to mention a host of excellent Google apps from Google Translate to Google Trips.

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 these as your default options 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– Google offerings like Dropbox, and Mozilla Firefox.

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.

google photos archive feature albums 1

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. One of the easiest methods 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 Smart Switch or 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. Many Android manufacturers have some type of data transfer app you can try and use as well.

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. This is because Apple sends an iMessage instead of an SMS or MMS when it detects you’re both using iOS. To turn it off go to Settings > Messages and toggle iMessage off. You should also go to Settings > Facetime and toggle it off.  If you no longer have the phone, you can request Apple to deregister your iPhone with iMessage here.

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