Switching from Apple to Android? New to Android? What apps should I get?

By Zack - December 01, 2013

Phone Suggestions: Moto X (Best in the small-form factor) or HTC One (Great speakers and industrial design) or Nexus 5 (Cheapest and best off-contract phone)

App Suggestions: 

Set up the Android phone
    1. Power on, connect to WiFi, login with your personal Gmail account, and download in the Google Play Store all the applications you normally use. App suggestions will be given below.
    2. Make sure the software on the Android phone is updated to the latest version (i.e. 4.3 or 4.4). You should get a notification if there are software updates.
    3. You can add additional Gmail accounts now or later.
    4. At this point, your Google account should be activated and your Google apps such as Gmail will be accessible.
  1. Update your iPhone or iPad
    1. Power on, connect to WiFi, make sure your Gmail is logged in, and upgrade all of the iPhone software to the latest iPhone software release (typically iOS 7+).
    2. Check that you are using iCloud to back up contacts. Go to iCloud (in Settings) and enable that for contacts (“on”). If not using iCloud, go ahead and sign up for it. (The latest Mavericks requires the use of iCloud for Mac users if you want to transfer contacts.)
    3. For your personal Gmail account, in Settings/Mail, turn on sync for contacts. In the latest iOS, this should sync your Gmail contacts and iPhone contacts.
    4. In Settings/Messages, turn “off” iMessage, as that messenger is an iPhone-to-iPhone messenger and if its on your iPhone friends texts won’t make it to Android. Your iPhone will still use SMS messaging to reach your friends if you use the iPhone after this change.
    5. Make sure your iPhone is fully synced to the Mac iTunes. Your photos and music should all be backed up on your Mac when this is done. Go ahead and verify that on the Mac and the iPhone.
    6. At this point you should see all your Gmail, have your apps, and have your contacts in the Android phone. If the contacts are not in the Android phone, manually download the contacts as follows on your Mac:
    7. Go to apple.com/icloud, login with your Apple ID, and click on contacts
    8. In the lower-left corner, click on the wheel, and “select all” the contacts and “export” the vCard into a vCard file (in Downloads).
    9. In a browser, go to gmail.com, click on the Mail button and select “Contacts”. You should see a list of your Gmail contacts. Import the vCard file into Gmail/contacts using the “Import contacts” command and it should have manually added your contacts. Delete any duplicates or use the “More / Find & merge duplicates” function.
    10. At this point you have your Gmail, apps and contacts on the new phone. Also verify this.
  2. On your Mac, connect your music to Google:
    1. Download Google Music Manager onto the Mac, and run it. Music Manager will upload your iTunes music to the cloud. The standard version is free and handles most iTunes libraries. You will need to sign up for Google Wallet and give your credit card information, but it’s free. Be sure the music is going to your personal Gmail account above. See https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1075570
    2. With the above complete, you should have your Gmail, apps, contacts, and music all moved over. Verify this on the Android phone 
  3. Take the SIM out of the iPhone and insert it into Android.
    1. You may need an adapter (from nano-SIM to micro-SIM), but then reboot the Android and you are all set ! For texting either use the Messenger app in earlier releases or the “Hangouts” app in Android 4.4.
  4. Find Your Way Around Android
    1. The back button is often 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. Sometimes it will do something else; you’ll have to learn which apps are the exception.
    2. The home button simply takes you back to your home screen.
    3. 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.
    4. 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).
  5. Home Screens
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. How To Add And Organize Apps And Widgets
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
      3. If you want to remove an app shortcut (which will not uninstall the app), just drag it to the letter X at the top of the screen and let go.
      4. 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. In the latest version of Android, you can also change their size by dragging along the edges.
    5. How To Change Your Launcher
      1. On Android, Launchers refer to your home screen and the functions surrounding it. Unlike with 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.
  6. Default Apps
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
  7. Notifications
    1. 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.
    2. 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. 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 aeroplane mode and change screen brightness.
    3. By default, Android doesn’t offer the same range of Lock Screen notifications like iOS. That said, you can get similar features by installing an app called LockerPro. It not only provides a similar experience to iOS, but offers quick app launching shortcuts and (in my opinion) a better design.
    4. Overall, you’ll like how notifications work on Android. You can add any lacking functionality you liked about iOS through third-party apps and get a few bonus options the operating system adds by default.
  8. Maps and Navigation
    1. When Apple released iOS 6, it delivered turn-by-turn navigation for free, just as Google had done Android several years prior. In many cases, Apple takes a lot longer than other companies to develop features but offers a better product when it finally comes out. This was not the case with Maps, and so you’ll be very glad to make the switch to Google’s phenomenal built-in navigation.
    2. You may also find yourself a little confused, as Google splits its Maps and Navigation apps into separate entities. When you want to find a place or get directions, you’ll use Maps. Maps will provide you with directions. It works very similarly to the way Apple’s Maps worked prior to iOS 6. If you want turn-by-turn navigation, you tap the navigation button after getting directions and the Maps app will launch the Navigation app to handle your request. This feels a little unnecessary, and you’ll find you’re tapping through more menus and buttons than you would on iOS — strangely, even with Google’s official Maps app for iOS — but it’s a small price to pay for great navigation that’s fully integrated with the operating system.
  9. Voice Commands Using Google Now --- See other post here with a list of commands here
  10. Operating System Updates
    1. 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 very frustrating because updates can be slow to roll out, especially in Australia.
    2. If you are considering switching to Android, we highly recommend purchasing a Nexus phone. This way you’ll always receive updates as soon as Google releases them. If you go with a non-Nexus Android phone, however, you might prefer flashing a ROM.
  11. Battery Life
    • Turn off radios you are not using (Bluetooth, GPS, NFC)
    • Turn down Brightness
    • Don't sync EVERYTHING. Pick and choose only the necessary items such as email. Lots of widgets need to sync information and therefore you might have to edit their schedule of how often they should sync.
  12. Rooting And Flashing ROMs
    1. Like jail-breaking on an iPhone, rooting Android provides additional privileges that allow you to do even more with your device. For many iPhone users, Android provides so much more flexibility that rooting may seem unnecessary. Personally, I only root for the purpose of creating an automated backup. If you want to root, our complete guide provides instructions for the most popular Android devices.
    2. Rooting your Android also leads to another, somewhat riskier proposition: flashing ROMs. By default, your phone comes with a specific version of Android created by the phone’s manufacturer (that’s just plain stock Android if you’re using a Nexus device). This version of Android is your phone’s default ROM, which you can often change to another that provides additional features, speed enhancements and more.
    3. Not all ROMs work on all phones and you can definitely brick your phone by failing to flash a ROM correctly. If you want to give it a shot, check out our guide to choosing a ROM (or our ROM guide for Nexus phones) and then follow that ROM’s installation instructions for your phone. If you need assistance, the XDA Developers Forum is a good place to start.
    4. If you attempt this task be sure to be familiar with ADB and how to backup using Titanium Backup and Clockworkmod or TWRP. XDA is your best source of Roms/Kernels/Radios/Tutorials.

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