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Five Things to Know About Switching Mobile Ecosystems

The Android or iPhone debate too often focuses on which is the “best.” That’s often a misnomer, because each ecosystem has its own distinct advantages that might tempt you to switch from one to another.

Instead of just thinking about how to move, the best approach is to instead futureproof yourself for if you ever want to go back in the other direction. Apple and Google both make their ecosystems like honey: sweet and tasty, but awfully sticky. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting stuck while also savoring in the good parts of making the move that you want.

Know why you’re switching

Don’t listen to The Other Side. Once you’ve decided to switch, you’ll probably be happy. Especially if you are doing so for some of the many reasons worth doing it. If you have an iPhone, you’ll benefit from all the strong tie-ins that Apple has built between it and the Mac. The iPhone 7 and Plus both take excellent pictures and continue to offer a well-built and smooth experience.

If you’re all-in with Google, making the move to Android is better than ever. This year saw a number of excellent phones, especially Google’s own Pixel. Nougat is particularly tasty, and Daydream VR is an impressive introduction to virtual reality. Yes, you may come for the hardware but you’re most likely to stay for the apps and services.

Move your data the smart way

There are three big ecosystems to consider where you may have a home for your essential files like photos, contacts, and core productivity apps: Apple, Google, and Microsoft. With the latter, you will do well to download the rather large slate of Microsoft apps. Outlook is arguably the best email app on iPhone, and it even works with Gmail and other accounts.

While iCloud can be the glue that connects your iPhone and services, it doesn’t necessarily need to be.

The bottom line is you don’t have to be all-in with Apple services to take advantage of the iPhone. I’ve always used Google to sync my contacts, photos, and am even a Google Play Music subscriber. If you’re on Spotify, a fan of Dropbox, or a user of enterprise-focused Box, you can skip the work of navigating Apple’s Settings to connect services and just download the app and get right to work or play.

Tips for moving to Android

This is a better time than ever to make the switch to the land of Google. The specifics of making the switch is going to vary depending on what phone you get. Google’s Pixel is best in class, and the device actually ushered in a new migration tool that’s designed to help you switch from the iPhone.

The killer feature is the Quick Switch Adapter - it does the bulk of the heavy lifting by transferring over your photos, contacts, messages, and a lot of other essentials. Once you sign in to a Google account, you’ll need to physically connect your old and new phone with some type of peripheral (you’ll get an adapter with a Pixel) that can connect from Lightning to USB-C.

It’s the best experience I’ve ever had in moving over iMessages, transforming them into SMS messages and keeping the strands all in tact. I tried it when switching from an iPhone 6S to a Pixel earlier this year, and it was a relief that Google got this right.

Google has vastly improved the process when it comes to switching over to Android.

For finding apps, you’re on your own. Nearly everything out there in the App Store can be found in Google Play. There’s still the occasional app that launches first on iPhone or gets more attention than the Android counterpart (looking at you Facebook) but as someone who has moved back over to a Pixel full-time after flirting with the iPhone life, I haven’t found anything that I feel is holding me back.

Not to mention for all that Google integration, Android is still fairly open in many ways. Gmail isn’t just for Gmail, as it can handle other accounts.

Gmail handles a lot more than just your Google mail.

Even Apple Music is here, so you don’t have to completely abandon your musical history. And most of the world has moved on to WhatsApp or other third-party messaging services, which work everywhere. The key to switching is that it doesn’t have to be that hard.

The main issue: don’t forget to turn off iMessage. Apple has largely fixed the issue of messages disappearing into the abyss, as long as you turn it off before adding your SIM card and using it for messages.

Tips for moving to the iPhone

If you’re leaving the green pastures of Android and moving to the lovely walled garden, there are a few key tips that you ought to know about. The first is to grab Apple’s Move to iOS app from the Play Store. You install it on your outgoing Android phone and then make an over-the-air connection to your iPhone.

Apple’s Move to iOS app will help you make the switch.

In all it does an excellent job at transferring over messages, contacts, bookmarks, and images. Keep in mind if you’ve offloaded any Google Photos from your phone to the cloud, they won’t make the journey.  I’ve had some disappearing contacts in the past, so it’s worth double checking that everything went smoothly.

Another thing to consider is that if you were on Android you probably kept most of your content in your Google account. This matters because Google does a very good job at building its apps on iOS. And sometimes, as in the case of Gboard, the apps come first to iOS!

To me the biggest advantage is iMessage, which here in the U.S. has turned into a universal messaging system. Some people take this seriously: search for “green bubble” on Twitter and you’ll know what I mean. Apple has put a lot of work into ramping up iMessage in iOS 10 with apps, games, and other features.

Stay flexible, if you can

No matter your move, it’s always possible that you may not stay in that particular ecosystem for life. But it’s not getting easier. Let’s say you pick up a Pixel and love the Google Assistant. The next stop may be a Google Home. And then you could be tempted by a Daydream VR viewer, so you make a bunch of game purchases. Do you want to say good-bye to all those apps down the line?

Same goes on the Apple front. By the time you get the kids an iPhone, a family iPad, an Apple get the idea. Even if the Google Assistant or some other proprietary option looks neat, you may want to stick with an iPhone so you don’t become a green bubble or lose the ability to watch your iTunes rentals.

Some things are getting more open, while others are closing up. Weighing the costs are going to be the constant companion going forward when it comes time to ponder leaping from one mobile platform to another.

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