I’ve owned Apple products since I moved from a PC to an iBook in 2000. I didn’t look back and currently own an iPhone4, iPad, Macbook Air and an aging Mac Mini. Perhaps that makes my move to an Android phone slightly surprising, but curiosity got the best of me and in January I took advantage of a $100 discount on a new Moto X developer edition. Apple doesn’t let go easily, however, and it’s been a rough transition. I thought it would be worth while to write down what I’ve learned and put it together in one place. I hope it’s useful for those going through a similar transition.
Using Android with Mac OS X
The most basic part of this is learning how to use the phone successfully with the Macbook. Most of what you need to do between the two devices can be easily done via a USB cable or the cloud. For syncing with a USB cable it’s relatively straight forward. However, a few programs and/or tweaks will make the transition easier.
First, you’ll want to download the Android File Transfer program from Google if you have a device with Android OS 4.0 or higher. Earlier versions of the Android OS could directly mount to the Mac like a USB drive, but no longer. For phones that are running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat), the Mac won’t recognize the phone if you just plug it in (well not exactly, but more on that in the photos section below).
With the Android File Transfer program a finder-like window will appear when you plug in the phone (if you’ve set it to do that) and you’ll see the phone’s entire file system. As I explain below in the photo section, go to Settings on the phone and then click on Storage. In the right corner you’ll see three boxes, click on that. (That’s the universal Android icon for further options.) There you’ll see “USB computer connection,” click on that and you’ll be able to toggle the phone between USB music/storage mode and camera mode. Make sure it’s set to USB music/storage. At that point the file system should appear in the Android File Transfer program window. So unlike the iPhone where the entire system is locked down unless you download a program of questionable morality such as iExplorer you can copy files to and from the phone quite easily. So, for example, all your music can be just selected in your iTunes folder and dragged and pasted directly to Android’s “music” folder. It will then be available for playing on the phone. Easy as pie. More on music syncing directly below.
The Android Google Play app that comes with the latest Android OS can play M4A, AAC and other non-DRM Apple music file formats quite easily in addition to the standard MP3, MP4, OOG, etc. It won’t play MPG or WAV files (or so it appears to me). Just copy and paste or drag them to your phone’s “music” folder from iTunes or whatever folder they’re in on you Mac (usually “music” in finder). Rejoice!
For those who don’t want to copy all those songs there’s another option. Google Play will allow you to upload all your music to their servers and stream it over your phone (for later download onto your device if you choose). You need to download the Google Play application for the mac. Install it and follow instructions for uploading music directly from iTunes to Google (including playlists). Depending on how large your music folder is you might want to get a bite or read War and Peace. This could take a while. When it’s finally completed though, you’ll have all your music accessible via Google’s Play app on your phone (including any podcasts you subscribe to, and those should autoupdate as they are updated on iTunes, in fact all your music if you choose will continue to upload to Google as you add it to iTunes).
For those of you with older M4P files, those that were sold in iTunes (until when:?:) with DRM, you can’t play those on your phone and the Android File Transfer program will balk at copying them over. However, there is a way to make them work. If you’re willing to part with a little cash you can join iTunes Match service, which is $24.99 for a year. The service uploads all your music from iTunes (DRM and non-DRM) or CDs, whatever, and allows you to stream it via iCloud. The magic for those of us seeking to escape Apple’s clutches (at least their iPhone) is it also replaces all DRM files (which were at lower sample quality) and gives you 256-Kbps, non-DRM M4A files that can then be dragged to your new droid’s music folder. Eureka. Here’s more on this from Apple. You’ll also note at the bottom that you can discontinue your subscription after a year and you’ll keep your files without a problem.
I haven’t used this yet, since I don’t have many DRM songs I might not. I’ve been buying MP3s from Amazon for quite some time, which I recommend over iTunes for its lower prices and better selection, but this appears to be a great solution for those who have lots of Apple copy-protected songs and were afraid that they’d lose them if they moved from the iPhone.
TO COME: I’ll explore Amazon MP3 service in getting music from Mac to Android (which is pretty similar to Google Play).
First check this thread out on Apple’s support forum and use this info with the settings that are already in Apple Mail on your Mac to set up the stock email client on your phone. The IMAP settings as detailed above worked and I got all my messages (pretty much), and folders with saved messages as well. At first, SMTP didn’t. I had to tweak my server settings to “accept all certificates” in the email app to get it working correctly.
I’ve been missing the iOS app Mailbox and a similar app for Android called MailDroid, a better email app that mimics iPhone’s Mailbox app doesn’t work so far. It doesn’t accept the iCloud email settings that seem to work just fine in the stock Android app. Not sure what’s going on there.
For those who don’t want to switch to Google’s calendar service (such as me) there are options for continuing to use iCloud, I think this is better for sharing invites and other compatibility issues with those of your colleagues or family who might stick with all Apple products.
I found this app called SmoothSync, which works quite well to sync your Android phone and your Mac Calendar application. The syncing is in fact quite smooth. You can create invites on your Android and they’ll appear on your Mac (eventually). I think might have been a dollar or two. It works very well, syncs my calendars with Android. I have it pushing every 15 minutes I believe, not quite as up-to-the-second as iCloud but it’s quite serviceable for my needs.
Tip of the hat to Massively Digital for explaining about the app and how to use it.
The biggest issue I had was getting birthdays from my Mac’s address book to sync with my droid calendar. The best I could do was switch my contacts to Google from iCloud (which was quite easy since I already had a gmail account). I explain how to do that below. There are other ways to do this via syncing apps and all that, but this one worked, didn’t cost anything, and once done I didn’t notice a difference.
So how do you do it? Go to Google Calendar and click on settings (the gear icon on right near view buttons), then click on calendars and there you’ll see a link to “browse interesting calendars”. Click on it and on the top you’ll see “Holidays”, “Sports”, and “Others”. Click on “Others”, the first selection is “Contacts’ birthdays and events”. Subscribe. Go back to your phone and unselect any Google calendars EXCEPT birthdays and voila! You’ll have birthdays with your Apple calendars as well and no repeating events.
Only problem I see is if you use Facebook or LinkedIn integrated birthdays and events in your calendars or contacts. Google will automatically take birthdays from Google+ if you let it, but getting data from FB or LinkedIn is baffling.
This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s definitely serviceable for me and I assume most users. Need to add:
Icloud reminder syncing
Alternatives to Google cal app that integrate reminders.
This was one of the easier transitions, especially once I figured out how to add contact birthdays to my calendars. It does, however, force you to use Google’s services. Although you could just buy the SmoothSync for Cloud Contacts app for $3.99. This is in addition to the money spent for the cloud calendar app, so I chose here not to spend more money but reviews of the app seem quite positive.
If you do choose to use Google’s sync services here, you should first backup your entire address book on your mac just in case. One you’ve done that, save that file somewhere safe and then let’s get started.
First off, you’ll need a Google account and you’ll need to turn it on in System Preferences and have it start syncing contacts. Once you’ve done that, it’s quite simple to copy over contacts in the Contacts application itself and sync with Google automatically. ICloud and Google should both appear in the left-hand column of the Contacts application and you’ll probably have duplicates of all your contacts. (It should copy your address lists as well.)
Now go back to System Preferences, click on iCloud and unclick Contacts on the list of what your Mac will sync. A message box will come up asking if you really want to do this and that all contacts will be deleted from your Mac, say yes. They won’t be taken from the iCloud online service or any other Apple product so don’t worry you’ll have backups in addition to the backup you’ve already saved. Now go back in Contacts you should have a clean list of your addresses on Google with iCloud gone. On the Android phone there should be all your contacts as well, nicely formatted with all pertinent information saved.
Look above where I detail how to include birthdays from your google contacts in your calendar. It’s a little kluge-y, but it works. If anyone is reading this and uses SmoothSync, I’d love to hear about your experience.
Currently using Gnote to sync with Gmail notes that in turn sync with Apple’s Note application directly. Will provide more information on success of sync, dependability.
This was also pretty plug n’ play. To get your Android phone to play nice with iPhoto, go to Settings on the phone and then Storage. In the right corner you’ll see three boxes, click on that. (That’s the universal Android icon for further options. There you’ll see “USB computer connection,” click on that and you’ll be able to toggle the phone between its USB music/storage mode and camera mode. Now fire up iPhoto and it will see the Android phone and ask to move any photos into its database. Voila. Quite nice. You can iPhoto auto-load if you’d like from iPhoto’s own preferences. This is perhaps the easiest transition from the iPhone.
This was the most surprising and disappointing when switching from the Iphone. I didn’t stop to realize that all my texts were going through Apple’s iMessage service, rather than through SMS, and so when I switched I couldn’t get any texts for the first few days and I didn’t know why.
You can continue to use iMessage if you choose on your other Apple devices, but the important thing to do is delete your phone number on iMessage from every Apple device, your iPhone, iPad, Macs, whatever. I don’t think doing it on one device is enough. I would, for good measure, log off iMessage on all those devices and then log in again (making sure that you’ve unclicked your phone number in preferences). From then on you should be able to get iMessage texts on your computer or iPad without routing SMS texts through the application. It’s all quite manageable, I just didn’t realize what a mess it would be at first. Some sites recommend deleting/unselecting your number from iMessage before making the switch, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. I did it afterwards and it appears to work, however, I could be missing some texts still. I don’t know.
Beware of the supposed Android app that will allow you to use iMessage on your droid, it was removed from the Google Play app store because it spoofs Apple to send messages through a server in China and is a bit suspect. Don’t download it from the creator’s site either. If you want to use an Android phone, it doesn’t look like there’s a way to integrate iMessage. So move on.
I definitely recommend using apps like Whatsapp, which allows you to freely text people who have the app on any device (including Apple) all around the world. It’s very responsive on both platforms, is better than iMessage (IMHO) and is cheap.
Recommended Android Apps to replace iOS apps
Would love any suggestions for apps here to replace iOS versions:
WhatsApp: Replacement for iMessage (and newer versions of Android include Google Hangouts that functions similarly to iMessage. There’s also MightyText, which I’ve read about but it’s gotten mixed reviews. It allows you to send and receive texts on your device or computer, like iMessage but isn’t compatible with that service. It’s an entirely new protocol.
Business Calendar Pro: Highly recommend paired with SmoothSync to link your iCal calendars with your phone. $2.99 on Google Play store.
Tasks: From maker of SmoothSync, will sync your Apple Reminders with your device. Again very useful and I believe free.
SmoothSync: Mentioned above, invaluable and rock solid (so far) app for syncing Apple Calendar with your Android device. Highly recommend. I think it’s $3.