From iOS to Android in 12 Easy Steps
Hello, my name is Doug and I’m an Apple-o-holic. <You: “Hi, Doug!”> Recently, I found myself at rock bottom. The party was over. My mind was awakened and I had a moment of clarity such that only hitting bottom can provide. The sources of my dependency disappeared in front of my eyes and left me shaking in withdrawal. My iPad 2 was stolen from my office never to be returned (despite having an aerial photo of the house it ended up in and proof it was there)
and my much loved and leaned upon iPhone 3Gs bricked out. What was an Apple mobile device junkie to do?
I work in media management so Apple products have always been an expensive necessity rather than a trendy luxury – no, really. I simply had to keep buying the latest things, right? Nobody wants to try and get by on legacy product in the Apple ecosystem, I hear it is laced with problems. I kept telling myself I could stop at any time, but…
When my iPhone 3Gs died, the resources were gone. I had no credit, no cash and nobody would give me the latest iPhone or iPad for free with my “re-up” despite what my Twitter spam was telling me. There was only one remaining choice: I had to get the iOS out of my system for good. I checked in at the Android clinic and began the long road to ween myself off of iOS; no matter what I am confident I can make it and I write this post in solidarity hoping it will help you do so too.
The Twelve Easy Steps:
Step 1: Pick Your Supplier (Carrier)
For me this was a done deal. AT&T runs the corners in my neighborhood, so no matter what I was buying I was buying it from them. They’ve already got me on DSL anyway, so it was time to “re-up.” If you have another supplier, or have the chance to shop around for suppliers you have some Android choices from the designer version to the bare bones basic stuff. Starting here is the right thing to do because, at the end of the day the carrier plan is the more important choice – there are equivalent versions of each product for each supplier, you just have to know how to look. Starting by picking your carrier of choice will help inform that process of looking. Sure, when you shop for a carrier you want to think about things like speed and coverage, but odds are you’ve already got a relationship with a carrier if you have an iPhone, and odds are it is probably AT&T or Verizon, so start there and move on to the version of Android OS that you want to see on your device.
Step 2. Choose How Pure the Android Will Be.
One of the primary differences you’ll notice when you start shopping for an Android phone instead of an iPhone is that your options suddenly skyrocket, and quite honestly become confusing. There are competing handsets and suppliers out there who all run some version of Android, some of which are ladened with what is lovingly referred to as “bloatware” or software that can’t be uninstalled that comes included with in the Android OS. Likewise the User Interface (UI) for some handsets is mildly different than others depending on the model of phone you buy and and the carrier it runs on, even though they may all be powered by Android on some level. Most folks don’t have the time and patience to go through each and every UI for each and every handset at each and every carrier and I know I certainly didn’t. Nor did I have any desire to suffer through listening to a salesperson try and step me off to the more expensive models they make more margin off of.
There have been some interesting things going on in terms of the Android platform, the most notable of which in my opinion is the move toward unifying the different distributions and prepping the devices for a more unilateral upgrade pattern. What does that mean? Well, for me, it meant that I wanted to get a phone that was running the most common recent version of Android (Gingerbread) and it also meant that I wanted to be sure that I’d get the upgrade to the new OS when it was released (Ice Cream Sandwich – if you don’t know by now, they name them for sweets in alpha order, so “J” is next.) As a result, I settled on the Samsung “Google” model Nexus S 3G phone because of its promise of OTA (over the air) updates of newer versions of Android OS. Whether or not this was a wise choice or will actually happen still remains to be seen, but my recommendation is still to get a version of the Android OS that runs on hardware that is most likely to be able to handle later iterations. The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx comes to mind as does the LG Nitro HD. If you are on Verizon you can get the Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich now. If you’re on T-Mobile check the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4g.
Step 3. Choose Your Speed.
3g or 4g, what it comes down to is where you live. If you live somewhere that has the LTE for AT&T (the data travels over a different “channel” which is “faster” and has “less traffic” it is said) you might see a noticeable difference in the speeds of data transfer. Users I’ve spoken with who live in Chicago (where we have the AT&T LTE “4G” network) have said that speeds are indeed faster when the network is live, but that “dead zones” are more prevalent and signal is an issue. Whether or not that is something you will experience, I don’t know, but there’s nothing like getting no signal when you need a mobile computing fix. There are other networks that offer 4g too, so if it is a priority for you, make sure to factor that in. It simply wasn’t for me.
Step 4. Pick Your Device.
CNET reviews handsets running Android fairly regularly and updates this list regularly too. They’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you if you’re looking to compare and contrast the latest models. Keep in mind, however, that the latest model is not always what suits your needs. That’s why this is step 4 and not step 1. Questions you want to ask yourself are “do I want dual core for extra speed?” and “how much ram will I really need or graphics processing power?” or “what about memory, am I using this like a thumb drive or taking lots of video?” or “do I really need a forward facing camera or rear facing flash?” or “do I need my memory to be expandable with an insertable mircoSD card?” Those questions will help you narrow the field fairly quickly and luckily CNET and others have some great web browsable filters that let you compare “apples to apples” as much as you can. Some of the models of note in recent months have come from Samsung in the Galaxy line, Motorola in the Droid line, and LG in the Nitro line.
Step 5. Populate iPhone equivalent Apps.
Just about every major app has been able to get an Android version developed. Evernote, Dropbox, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare – these are some of the most downloaded apps in the Apple iTunes App Store and they each have equivalents in the Android Market (Google Play Market) too. There are some exceptions, Instagram, for example is late to the Android game (though their Android offering is supposedly forthcoming) and I’ve yet to find a decent way to take a screen shot on an Android phone, which isn’t really an App on the iPhone, it’s built into the OS, so maybe ICS might fix that too, we’ll see. Point is, spend some time in the Android Market before you wipe your iPhone and start bookmarking those apps you know you’ll want to have on your Android phone.
Step 6. Upload music from iTunes to Google Play.
Google has made it fairly easy to integrate your existing music collection into your Android experience, but it does require a few steps. First you need to download an application that will upload your entire music catalog to Google’s cloud servers (for free up to a point.) This process can be time consuming especially if you have slow upload times (usually upload speeds are slower than download speeds with most ISP plans) so plan ahead to set it up and let it run overnight, maybe even over a few days. I started mine two days ago and my 5000+ song catalog is still uploading over AT&T DSL. There is also some frustration in that once you start the upload you can’t easily “pause” it. You have to actually sign out in order to be able to have full access to your bandwidth again, so don’t plan on surfing the web or watching Netflix while your music is uploading. On the upside, once you get your music into the cloud, you can easily stream it from your phone, limit streaming to wifi, make certain tracks or playlists available offline… I’ve actually found that I prefer the user interface of the Google Play music app to the interface of iTunes on an iPhone. Not to mention there is built in sharing in most versions of Android that will allow you share the music you are listening to with your communities online.
Step 7. Spruce up those Google Accounts.
Far and away one of the biggest upsides in moving from iOS to Android is in the way Google’s ecosystem of apps and tools is baked right into Android. Using docs or gmail or calendar is seamless where doing so on the iPhone always felt sort of like a hack. Because Google started with search, there are some really strong features for searching mail, docs and apps as well and being able to have an unfiltered look at those various tools on the phone (not through the browser) has been great. If it has been a while since you’ve integrated Google’s Accounts into your workflow because of Apple, now is the time to get them back online and get used to using them on your desktop again. It will certainly reduce the friction of moving from one work screen to another and help keep productivity up.
Step 8. Trick Out Your Browser Ride (Chrome extensions.)
Speaking of browsers, when you get back to the desktop, make sure to install Chrome’s web browser and start to lean on it as your primary browsing tool. Extensions like the ones offered by Evernote, Dropbox, Buffer, and more can really make your life easier. There’s even a really nifty “chrome to phone” extension that will allow you to send links directly to your phone if you have it installed in both places. I’ve made use of it a number of times when I’m reading on a site right before I have to leave to catch a train and want to continue reading on the mobile without having to find it again or bookmark it. Tweetdeck and BookedIn are also two apps available in the Chrome Web Store (as opposed to the Android Market) that I’ve made good use of in the last month stepping away from iOS.
Step 9. Meet some People on Google Plus.
For all the crap I hear people give Google+ for not being as popular as Facebook, I have to say I’ve personally been very pleased with the level of interaction there. I’ve met tons of new folks with common interests who for one reason or another I never had the chance or occasion to meet on either Facebook or Twitter, so I highly recommend taking a look at some of the circles folks on G+ have collected to see if one matches your needs (perhaps a circle of people who have recently switch from iOS to Android?) Integration with this new tool is, again like most Google tools, baked right into the OS, so it really is easy to find yourself sharing content and thoughts in that place.
Step 10. Make Your Workflow Cloud Friendly.
I’ve already mentioned a great deal about apps that make life in the cloud a bit easier like Evernote and Dropbox, but there is more to life in the cloud than just those two apps. Android (at least Gingerbread on up) does a really great job of taking things like apps, photos, videos, and music that are either generated by use of the phone or transferred into the phone (which BTW is a much easier process as your Android has a file structure that is much more open and accessible. In fact you can actually use your phone as an external hard drive or USB drive should you choose and move files off and on with ease. More on the file system later when we talk about “rooting” in the last step.) When you take a photo, for example, that photo is quite quickly (should you allow it to be so in the settings) uploaded to your G+ account and stored in the cloud as an image you can search for and share at any time in the future, even if you delete it from your phone. For some this may sound problematic or even privacy threatening, but I don’t take photos of things I’m not willing to share anyway, so it was actually a win for me. I always found the process of syncing photos in iOS a bit cumbersome anyway even after the introduction of iCloud.
Step 11. Install an iPhone UI skin.
Organizing your home screens and apps and shortcuts and widgets are likely to be the most foreign elements of Android for any user coming from iOS. To start with, you might have a different experience depending on which version of Android you are running and from which carrier, but if you are lucky enough to be running a more “pure” version of Android, you’ll find that you will quickly make use of the “home screens” not simply to make folders full of apps, but to place widgets which feed real time data from the apps themselves onto the home screen. So instead of seeing a folder and opening it to select the icon for facebook, I see a widget which displays the most recent posts from my feed. It’s rather nice, but does slow the device down a bit since it is taxing on the RAM to keep it running all the time, but the newer phones certainly have the girth to deal with it. There are also apps you can run which become like surrogate user interfaces “Go” being among the most popular. There is even an app that will make your UI look and feel a bit more like iOS should this whole experience be far too traumatic for you to make such a complete transition, but I can’t seriously recommend using it.
Step 12. To Root or Not To Root?
See, a few steps and Google already has you thinking like an engineer and not a designer… talking about “rooting” your phone. What this basically does is give you higher level admin privileges over the file structure of the device (jail breaking in the iOS world only a bit more so.) Once you have “rooted” your phone you can use your new found admin power to install a completely new OS if you should so choose. But keep in mind, you’ve only just come from an Apple device where everything “just works” and you can’t really screw things up even if you try. If you root your phone in Android, you can really screw things up and turn your phone into a useless brick very quickly, so unless you intend on becoming an enthusiast, I’d say stick with the stock distribution of Android that comes with your phone and make sure to try and get one that will receive updates directly from Google when the new iterations of the OS come out.
So there you have it. They are by no means commandments for Android use, but hopefully helpful steps on the path toward deliverance from iOS dependency. Certainly there are more tips and trick out there that can really help you dig deeply into the Android OS and enjoy all the benefits of its tightly hewn Google integration, but this should be a good start for any recovering Apple-o-holic.
Are you thinking of making the leap from iOS to Android? Are there things you wonder/worry about that didn’t make this list? Add them in the comments!