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How to switch from Android to an iPhone

If you’re thinking of jumping from an Android phone to an iPhone, the differences can seem daunting. Here’s what you need to know to make the switch.

If you’ve signed up for a new iPhone 7, or you’re considering whether you should, one of the most troublesome considerations is switching all your information and apps across from Google’s Android platform to Apple’s iOS.

This process can take some time depending on the quantity of information you need to transfer and how you plan to switch it across to your new device.

If you’re shifting to iOS, you’ll need to install Apple’s iTunes application onto your PC or Mac for synchronisation purposes. It’s a free application that handles the PC/Mac side of synchronising content to your iPhone, as well as acting as the gateway to Apple’s music, video and app stores.

The other factor you may need to consider if you’re switching from an older Android handset is whether you’ll need a new SIM to go into your new iPhone. For more information, you can read our guide to matching the right SIM size to your new phone.

Move to iOS: Shifting the easy way

Apple has a specific tool designed to help you move data from an existing Android device over to a new iOS device, and you don’t need a PC or Mac in the middle to make the shift. If you’re not planning to synchronise your iPhone with your computer, Move to iOS is by far the easiest way to proceed.

MovetoIos_splash

You’ll need a device running iOS 9 or better, so it won't work if you want to shift to an iPhone model older than the iPhone 4s.

You can download Move to iOS from this link on your Android device.

From a fresh iOS 9 device, or one that you’ve chosen to reset, select your language. You should then be given the choice to "Move data from Android". Select this option and you’ll be prompted to install the Move to iOS app on your Android device if you haven’t already done so.

Launch the Move to iOS app on your Android phone, then click "Continue" on your iPhone.

The Move to iOS app will then generate a unique 10-digit code that you enter into the app on your Android device.

MovetoIos_code

The app then pairs your iPhone and Android devices over a secure ad-hoc local Wi-Fi network for transferring the contents on your Android device.

You can then select the level of transfer you’d like, including your Google account, photos and selected media types, as well as bookmarks if you’re using the latest version of the Google Chrome browser.

You can only transfer as much data as your new device will fit, so if you’ve opted for a 16GB iPhone 6s, for example, and you’re transferring from a 32GB Android device such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, you may have to make some hard decisions about which content to transfer over.

The other major caveat is that Move to iOS only works with iOS devices that haven’t already been configured. If you’ve already set up your iPhone, the only way to use the app is to do a complete wipe and reset of the iPhone before using the Move to iOS app.

Move content manually: Slower but universal

If you’re switching over to iOS but don’t want to use the Move to iOS approach, whether it's for practical operating system reasons or simply because you’ve already partially set up your iPhone and don’t fancy wiping it afresh, you can always transfer over the personal contents of your Android device in a more manual fashion.

The advantage here is that you can select exactly how you want to transfer your documents over, right down to selecting individual documents. The disadvantage is that kind of granular control is going to be markedly slower than using an all-in app to transfer your digital life to a new device.

Transferring contacts, calendars and mail

If you’ve been using Google's built-in contacts, mail and calendar apps on your Android phone, the only thing you really need to do is ensure that your data is set to synchronise with Google’s own servers.

To do this on most Android devices, go to "Settings" and click on "Accounts & Sync" (which may be named slightly differently depending on your phone model and the version of Android it’s using) and enable synchronisation from there.

The advantage of doing this is that if you create a Google Account on your new iPhone – which you can do by going to "Settings" and clicking on "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" – it will bring across all your contacts, calendar and email from your Gmail account with it.

If you’re using a non-Google calendar, contacts or email solution, you will need more details to manually enter into your new iPhone. For the most part, standard IMAP and POP email accounts should work by going to "Settings", then going to "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" and clicking "Other" account, where you’ll also find standardised entries for Exchange, Yahoo, AOL and Outlook.com accounts.

Transferring media

When we say "media", we mean your photos and videos as well as any music or video files you may have on your existing Android device.

Be careful. You can’t easily expand the storage on an iOS device, so you may run out of space rather quickly if you’re shifting from a higher capacity Android device to a lower capacity iOS device.

For music files, you need to differentiate between music you might be streaming from an online subscription service such as Spotify or Google Play Music, DRM-enabled files you may have purchased through Google Play, and music files without any digital rights associates, such as files you may have legally ripped from CDs you own.

It’s only that final category that you’ll be able to easily transfer to your new device, although you shouldn’t panic if most of your music comes from a streaming service or consists of DRM-heavy files.

If you stream your music, there isn’t a major music streaming service that doesn’t have an iOS app, whether you’re a listener to Spotify, Pandora, JB Hi-Fi NOW or Tidal. All you need is your existing login details and the free app for each applicable service to continue listening exactly the way you did on your Android device.

You may be able to access your purchased music as well. If you’ve bought tunes through Google Play Music, the Play Music iOS app will allow you to access it and download it to your new iPhone for offline play, although it is limited in that it won’t allow you to purchase new music directly from the app itself. To get around that, sign into Play Music from any browser and make your purchases there.

If you’re using a PC, you should be able to directly connect your Android device to your PC with a micro USB cable and use Windows Explorer to navigate to your music directory for copying purposes. This applies to photo and video content as well, with the disclaimer that any content with built-in DRM may copy but probably won’t play on your new iOS device.

If you’re on a Mac, you can always take the two-step approach of using Android File Transfer (downloadable from here) to manually grab your photos off your device to your Mac, and then sync them to your new iPhone via iTunes.

Once you’ve copied files from your Android device, simply drag and drop them into iTunes (or go to "File" and choose "Add to Library") to add them to your general iTunes library. You can then synchronise them to your iPhone by plugging it into your PC and selecting the media you’d like to copy to your iPhone from within iTunes.

What about my apps?

Unfortunately, when you’re switching not just devices but entire operating systems, you can’t easily take all your apps with you.

The good news is that a lot of very popular apps have iOS equivalents, which you can easily find through Apple’s iTunes store. The general downwards pressure on app pricing means that many of the same apps may well be entirely free or at least relatively low cost.

There will be some niches where an exact app isn’t developed for iOS but was for Android thanks to Android’s slightly more open architecture, although it’s worth looking around for apps that may serve the same particular need or niche.

The downside here is that not all apps use online storage for your actual in-app data, whether it's a document or your latest game high score. In some cases, you may need to start afresh with a new version of an app.

The one large-scale exception to this is if you're using any of Google’s core apps, such as Gmail or Drive. Google’s entire approach is cloud-first-and-always, which means that all you need to do to access your Google mail or documents is to install the relevant app on your new iPhone device.

What should I do with my old Android phone?

Typically, Android handsets don’t hold an immense amount of resale value, especially after a few years and particularly if you had a mid-range or budget handset to begin with. But it may be worth checking resale values online to see if it’s worth selling your handset on.

You could always opt to gift it to a friend or relative as a replacement or first handset. Many mobiles sold in Australia include a prepaid envelope to send to Mobile Muster if you’re interested in recycling it.

Whatever you do, you should wipe your own details from your Android handset once you’re happy that all the content you wanted to transfer is on your new iPhone. That’s sensible policy, not just for privacy reasons – we won’t judge what you chose to photograph or video on your own phone – but also financial ones, as your Android handset will by default be logged into your Google account, which could cascade into more serious identity theft issues if simply handed over with all your content intact.

On most Android devices, this should be a matter of heading to "Settings", clicking on "Backup and reset" (or similar) and opting for a full factory reset.

THIS WILL WIPE EVERYTHING ON THE PHONE.

We’ll repeat that, just to be clear.

THIS WILL WIPE EVERYTHING ON THE PHONE.

In other words, don’t do it until you’re absolutely certain you’ve backed up all your photos, music, contacts, email and any other content you actually want on your new handset. Once you've done a full factory reset, there’s no going back to retrieve content you didn't back up.

Alex Kidman

Alex is the Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for the best part of two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts.

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