Let’s face it: switching from an iPhone to a smartphone running Google’s Android operating system is never as simple as it seems. Sure, it’s easy enough to transfer your contacts, pictures, music, videos, and emails to an intermediary computer, but that is only the half of it — there are app settings, calendar appointments, reminders, and alarms to consider. A cottage industry of backup apps promise to copy app data to the nebulous cloud, but there is no sure-fire way to restore them — and no guarantee that a method on one manufacturer’s Android smartphones will work on another’s. Google, to its credit, removed a few of those logistical hurdles on Tuesday with Android Switch, a step-by-step web guide on migrating from an iOS device to Android.
Google’s Android Switch website isn’t new, but it received a significant attention this week: a streamlined interface instructs intrepid iOS migrants on the merits of Drive, Google’s free-to-use cloud storage service. It’s tailor-made for folks who use Apple’s services on a regular basis. Using the Drive client for Apple devices, iPhone users with calendar, contacts, videos, and photos can copy that data to the corresponding Google service. There isn’t much heavy lifting involved — the Drive app presents a prompt on launch or from the new Backup options in the settings menu and performs the backup automatically.
It isn’t all smooth sailing, granted. The process takes “several hours,” doesn’t back up text messages or iMessage exchanges, and requires that the Google Drive remain open for the duration of the backup process. (Google advises you plug in your phone and connect it to Wi-Fi). But it’s a vast improvement over the transition method which launched alongside Android 7.0 Nougat. Back then, during setup, iOS users were directed to create a Google account and individually copy data to Google’s cloud services. Contact syncing was a five-step process that involved the use of iCloud, a vCard file, and a Gmail account, and photos and music had to be uploaded to Google Photos and Google’s Play Music Manager desktop app, respectively.
The revamped Switch is yet another prong in Google’s effort to simplify the iOS-to-Android transition process. Google ships a special connector iPhone data transfer connector, the Quick Switch Adapter, with its Pixel-branded smartphones. Earlier in 2016, it published a detailed, five-step switching guide for users of Google Suite, the company’s eponymous enterprise services platform.
It’s a likely response to a year-on-year trend. In the fourth quarter of 2015, Apple chief Tim Cook said that the company recorded the “highest rate on record” for Android “switchers” — users who switched from an Android device to an iOS device — last quarter. Apple is playing the same game: in September 2015, it released a “Move to iOS” app that provides a step-by-step guide about how to migrate data from an Android device to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod.