Making it Easy for Android Switchers

June 11th, 2015

Although it’s clear that Google is adapting some iOS features for the forthcoming Android M OS, Apple has gotten attacked of late for doing the reverse in iOS 9. But many of those stories fail to mention that it happens in both directions. I suppose you could say that Apple brought upon such responses through the years when they made such proclamations as “Redmond, start your photocopiers” when announcing new versions of OS X.

And I remember when the Balloon Help menu changed to a Help label on Macs (similar to the Windows counterpart), but that’s not a terribly significant issue, and it happened years ago.

In any case, it’s encouraging to hear Apple executives boast about the fact that more and more Android users are switching to the iPhone and the iPad, and it does appear Android’s growth worldwide has stalled. But switching from one smartphone platform to another is not a cakewalk for most people. I did it in reverse to give Android a thorough workout when I configured two different flagship Samsung smartphones.

Now if you depend on Google for email and contact lists, migrating to Android may not be terribly hard. Sure, you’ll have to find equivalent Android apps, and forget about any iTunes content that has digital rights management, such as movies and TV shows.

The long and short of it is that I am not much of a user of Google services, so I configured the Android handsets manually for the most part, and sought out similar apps in the Google Play store when there was no direct equivalent. It actually took several days to go through all the settings, and configure the new apps to do my bidding. But switching back to the iPhone was actually easier even though it was also done from scratch.

Well, it seems Apple is making a proactive effort to make the switching process as seamless as possible, in keeping with the way they can migrate your data from a Windows PC via OS X’s Migration Assistant. It will come with the release of iOS 9, and it’s called Move to iOS.

According to Apple, “Just download the Move to iOS app to wirelessly switch from your Android device to your new iOS device. It securely transfers your contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, wallpaper, and DRM-free songs and books. And it will help you rebuild your app library, too. Any free apps you used — like Face-book and Twitter — are suggested for download from the App Store. And your paid apps are added to your iTunes Wish List.”

Since the most popular apps are mostly available on both platforms, it shouldn’t take long to get set up. Of course, you will have to buy your paid apps all over again; there’s no way to transfer user licenses as there are sometimes with Windows and equivalent Mac apps. I also assume that the geniuses at an Apple Store will help to do the heavy lifting for new iPhone and iPad buyers.

Still, if you’ve customized Android to a fare-thee-well, and I know there are often far more adjustments than you’d find on iOS, you’ll have to pretty much start over with the granular settings. For most users, however, Apple’s migration app should be all they need to get set up; well, aside from apps that have to be repurchased.

Obviously it will take user experiences from died-in-the-wool Android users to get a handle on how accurate the transfer process actually is, and what work is required to flesh out the app library to near-equivalents of what Google offers. But since the App Store has a superior selection of software that’s actually useful, this may actually represent an advantage. No doubt there will be early release glitches in the Move to iOS app, and I suppose it’s possible that Android fragmentation will result in some loose ends.

I also whether Google will want to attempt a similar maneuver, which is to provide a Move to Android app of some sort. Turnaround is fair play and all that. There is already a site where Google makes a limited effort to explain such a migration process, but it lacks a lot of significant information, such as transferring non-Google email accounts. So you’ll be able to handle the basics, but not much else, particularly if you’re not already invested in Google services for much of your stuff. There are also third-party options that are more inclusive. But that also has historically applied to switching from Android to iOS.

With an official app from Apple the equation is changed, since the app will directly link to iOS services that third-party apps can’t access. But I’d wonder, offhandedly, whether Google would want to provide some way to block use of such an app, though the migration process would probably be similar to transferring data from one Android device to another aside from the iOS-specific additions, such as suggesting equivalent iOS apps.

At the same time, Apple will be releasing its first Android app, for the new Apple Music service. Reminds me of the time iTunes for Windows was first released.

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