5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Switched From iOS To Android

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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Switched From iOS To Android

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Good news: switching from iPhone to Android doesn’t have to be a big deal. But you will need to take steps to get your new phone set up for daily use. One of the main differences between iPhone and Android is that Android allows for far more customization, but those custom options can be both a blessing and a curse.

In the past month I switched to Android after more than 7 years as an iPhone user. I decided to switch because after just two years my iPhone 5S had started to die, and after looking into it I found that my carrier had cut some of its programs to help fund device upgrades. As much as I would love to get the iPhone 7, I wasn’t ready to spend $500-plus to get a new phone. After some research, I found that Google’s own cell service called Project Fi (which requires that you use a Google Nexus phone) was offering Nexus 5X phones starting at $200. With good Project Fi coverage in my area, I knew making the switch from Verizon to Project Fi–and from iOS to Android–was a no-brainer.

While I learned some of these strategies the hard way, here are some tips and tricks to guide you on your own journey to Android:

1. You’ll need a launcher to organize your phone.

Instead of having all phones look the same with apps and folders in neat little 4-icon rows, Android lets you pick a “launcher” to organize your phone’s home screens. When I first turned on my Android phone I was surprised by how similar it was to iPhone. The Google Now launcher is the default launcher on Android phones, and its interface looks a lot like an iPhone. All of your apps appear on your screen and you can organize them into files just like in iOS. The main add-on is that you can swipe left from your main home screen to get cards with weather, news and events from your calendar. If you want to switch to Android and have it look a lot like your old iPhone, Google Now launcher could be the right program for you.

But, if you’re keen to explore the many ways you can customize your new Android phone, explore the myriad of launchers in the Google Play Store. Apex Launcher, Yahoo Aviate Launcher, ZenUi Launcher and Nova Launcher are all top picks right now.

launcher screenshots

From left to right: Settings on Nova Launcher, launcher options in the Google Play Store, and Google Cards in the Google Now Launcher.

2. Widgets are your friend.

Before I made the switch, I had no idea what an Android “widget” was, or how or why I would use one. But they quickly became one of my favorite features of the Android operating system, and they’re an extremely powerful tool for making your phone as useful to you as possible.

In iOS, the only way you can access an app is by clicking the app icon. But Android lets you embed widgets, which basically gives you a mini version of an app right on your home screen pages.

Now I have my Android phone set up with a handful of my most-used app icons on the first home screen. I swipe left for a widget that gives me an immediate view of my Gmail account, and another widget below that with my Gmail calendar. Then, I swipe left again for a widget of my work Outlook calendar. Go back to the first home screen, and then I can swipe right for three different news widgets to stay on top of current events.

Android widgets make it easier to instantly access the information you want, rather than having to constantly navigate in and out of different apps on an iPhone.

While iOS has had widgets within the Notification Center since iOS 8 and iOS 10 expanded where you can place widgets, it still appears that Android has been the leader in this category with a broad array of widget options available to customize your phone.

Various widget options you can add to your phones home screens. Android shows you how many spaces horizontally and vertically a widget will take up,

Various widget options you can add to your phones home screens. Android shows you how many spaces horizontally and vertically a widget will take up.

3. You may want to use third-party apps to move over photos, contacts and other data.

My experience was hit and miss with using Apple and Android’s native apps to transfer my data. I had previously stored all of my photos in iCloud, so to get them transferred all I had to do was sign up for a Google Photos account and sync the two.

Contacts is where it got more complicated. I had most of my contacts synced to Gmail, but also had dozens that were in iCloud but not in Gmail. In general, Android favors apps and syncing in the Google ecosystem–so if you’re already entirely in Gmail you won’t have to do much.

In my case, I had to figure out a way to get those iCloud contacts over to Gmail. The Android website has a handy guide for moving contacts between iCloud and Gmail, but the recommended steps just didn’t work for me. The site says to export a vCard from iCloud, but every time I exported one it didn’t actually have any data.

This is where third-party apps can be helpful if the Google ecosystem isn’t working for you. I downloaded the MCBackup app in the iTunes store, and then was able to successfully export a vCard with my contacts and upload it to Gmail. From there, you’ll just want to merge contacts in Gmail to eliminate any duplicates.

Two file transfer apps and the Google Photos app in Android.

Two file transfer apps and the Google Photos app in Android.

4. Android offers more detailed notifications than iOS, especially if you take the time to customize them.

Android lets you get notifications from almost any app, decide what level of detail to get, what sounds they should make and how much you want to see when your screen is locked. As a busy, on-the-go young professional, I appreciate being able to see what’s going on even when my phone is locked. At the same time, I never feel like those notifications display information that’s so sensitive I wouldn’t want it on my lock screen.

Android will default to giving you notifications for basically everything, which I found a bit alarming at first with my multiple email and Twitter accounts constantly chirping at me. But you can change or disable notifications by either going into the settings on the individual app or by going into notifications on Android settings and go through app-by-app. It’s not as easy to just flip a switch to change all of your notifications on Android like it is on iOS, but the result is that once you get your notifications set, you’ll be getting exactly what you want when you want.

If you already have Android Nougat, the OS makes it even easier to customize your notifications. Once a notification pops up on your screen, just press down on it and hold to say if you want to keep getting notifications from that app as-is, get notifications or block them for good.

5. You don’t need as many apps as the Google Play Store makes you think.

The Google Play Store is chock full of apps you may have wanted during the early days of Android, but you just don’t need anymore on Marshmallow or Nougat. Doze Mode, which first launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, makes most third-party battery-savers obsolete, for example. And Data Saver Mode in Nougat means you probably don’t need or want those extra data-saver apps from Google Play Store anymore. So before you go downloading a bunch of highly rated apps, take stock of what your Android OS already has baked in, because you probably need a lot less than you think.

The Google logo on the Nexus 5X phone. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Google logo on the Nexus 5X phone. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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