Switching from iPhone to Android has never been easier

Whether you're using the new Switch to Android app or not, we've got the deets.
A hand holding A Google Pixel phone.
Sure, iPhones are nice. But have you seen the Pixel? Daniel Romero / Unsplash

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This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 23, 2018.

Maybe after seeing how much you’ll have to splurge for one of the new iPhone 13s, you’ve decided to jump into the welcoming arms of Android. As of today, that process will be much simpler for many first-time Androiders.

Earlier this year, Google launched a Switch to Android app for people leaving Apple’s ecosystem behind, but it only worked with Pixel phones. Now, the app will work with any phone running Android 12, though the journey still has its quirks.

And if you don’t have a phone that works with this app, you want to run a more manual transfer, or you find you can’t copy some data, you’ll need to carefully extricate yourself from iOS. We can help guide you through some of those hoops too—it’s all after the first section below.

How to use the Switch to Android app

Google’s Switch to Android app is unlisted, so you won’t be able to find it by searching the iOS App Store. You can, however, find it by searching with your phone’s browser, or by clicking this direct link. Once you’ve downloaded it onto your soon-to-be-dearly-departed iPhone, the app will walk you through the data transfer process.

First, you’ll need to connect the two devices—new and old—with an iPhone cable. If you don’t have one, you can also use WiFi, but you will need a steady connection. Once they’re linked up, you can choose which data you want to transfer and go from there. You can copy over contacts, photos, messages, apps, wallpaper, music, and other settings and data.

Most free apps will move to your new phone via the cable, but purchased apps may not. If you’re having trouble transferring an app, contact its developer to see what they suggest for users who are moving to a new device. Your existing subscriptions will still work, and they’ll be managed as they were on your iPhone—by either the app developer or iTunes, Android says.

One key point is to make sure you turn off iMessages before you put your SIM card in your new Android. All your existing iMessages will transfer as part of the data swap, but new iMessages might not get through if you don’t go to Settings on your iPhone, open Messages, and turn off the toggle switch next to iMessage. To be safe, you should also visit Settings > FaceTime and turn off the FaceTime toggle switch as well, delinking your mobile number from Apple’s main communication services. If you forget, you can do the job remotely at this web page.

If you’re at all worried about losing data this way, don’t be. Even if something goes wrong during the transfer process, the stuff that ends up on your Android phone is a copy—everything will remain on your iPhone until you wipe it clean.

How to switch from iPhone to Android without the app

No matter the reason you’re not using the Switch to Android app, this is the part of the story for you. Heck, it’s probably worth scanning even if you use the app, just to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Transfer Google or Microsoft apps

Switching over will be a lot easier if you already use Google and Microsoft apps on your iPhone. In fact, the same goes for any cloud-based apps, including Netflix and Spotify. Because they store everything online, these apps make it very straightforward to jump between devices and across platforms.

If you lean on Google programs, your new Android device should come with these apps already installed. All you’ll have to do is log in, and your data—your archived Gmail emails, your Google Maps history, your Google Chat messages—will appear.

[Related: 5 uses for Google Maps beyond navigation]

Even if you’re not all-in on Google, Microsoft makes top-quality apps for both iOS and Android. If you rely on Outlook and Office on your iPhone, go ahead and install the same apps on your Android device, log in, and enjoy.

In general, if you plan to switch frequently between Android and iOS devices, stick to platform-agnostic apps that work similarly on both operating systems. They’ll make the process extremely easy. However, if your iPhone relies heavily on Apple’s own apps, the swap will require a substantial amount of work, because Apple doesn’t make many of its programs available on Android. Read on for more information on dealing with this issue.

Move text messages and email

To keep track of your past chats, you’ll want to bring your iMessage and email conversations with you. That’s only partially possible.

The sad fact is, unless you use the Switch to Android app, you cannot transfer your iMessage conversations directly from iOS to Android. Apple doesn’t make an Android version of its Messages app, nor does it allow any other developers to access it, so you’re out of luck. Mac users can check iMessages from their computers, but others won’t be able to access the app after jumping to Android.

So before you leave, make sure to de-link your mobile number from iMessage—assuming you’re taking it with you to your new phone. Go to Settings > Messages and toggle off the iMessage switch. Then visit Settings > FaceTime and turn off the FaceTime toggle switch as well. This removes the association between your phone number and Apple’s proprietary services, which will prevent you from having any problems receiving messages or calls on your new Android handset. If you forget to do this step before you get rid of your iPhone, don’t worry—perform the task remotely at this web page.

Luckily, you can bring any Apple emails stored in iCloud—you just need to import them into Android’s Gmail app. Open Gmail on your new phone, tap the Menu button on the top left, scroll down to Settings, and select Add account > Other. Then enter your iCloud username and password. If your Apple account uses two-step authentication, you’ll first need to create a Gmail-specific password: Go to your AppleID account manager, make sure you’re on the Sign-in and Security page, click App-Specific Passwords, and hit Generate an app-specific password. Now you can either keep using your iCloud email address within the Gmail app, or treat those old messages as an archive and switch to a Gmail address.

Move contacts, calendars, photos, and home videos

It’s relatively easy to transfer some of the items you store in iCloud—such as your contacts, calendars, photos, and videos—to Google’s servers. But you need to start this process before you ditch your iPhone.

First, download the Google Drive for iOS app to your old device. Open it and sign in with your Google account credentials. Next, tap the menu button (three lines) in the top left, followed by Settings and then Backup. Now you’ll see a list of items, including Contacts, Calendar events, and Photos & videos. Select all the entries you want to transfer to your new Android phone.

Next, tap Start Backup and copies of your iPhone data will move to Google Contacts, Google Calendar, and Google Photos. Now you’ll be able to access your files when you sign into your Google account on your new Android phone.

A quick note on photos and videos: These files will transfer to Google Photos, which will count against your cloud storage quota. Google Drive gives you a total of 15GB of free storage space, shared across Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. The latter can really eat up your quota, so if you end up needing more room, you can pay to upgrade. Prices start at $19.99 a year for 100GB.

Move music, movies, and TV shows

Apple Music is one of the few apps Apple makes that actually work on Android. If you subscribe to the service, you can take all your playlists and songs with you on your leap to Android, including files you’ve uploaded from your iTunes account. However, you will have to pay a subscription fee starting at $5.99 to keep using the app.

That said, not all of us choose Apple Music. If you prefer a different app and still want to transfer your MP3s to an Android device, you can do so using a computer with YouTube Music. Open your computer’s web browser, head to YouTube Music’s web portal, click your avatar in the top right portion of the page, and choose Upload music. Now drag tracks from your local storage into your browser window. Your files will sync to the cloud, and you’ll be able to stream or download them through the YouTube Music app on your new Android device.

Movies and TV shows are more complicated, because Apple doesn’t make an iTunes video player for Android. You can watch your existing iTunes videos on other devices, such as a Mac, Apple TV, or iPad, but not on an Android phone or tablet. However, any videos you obtained from non-iTunes sources should be just fine. Streaming apps—like Plex, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and of course Google TV or Google Play Movies & TV—will all work seamlessly across Android and iOS. Just log into your account on your new device and you’ll be good to go.

Move documents and other files

Now that you’ve tackled most of your files, all that’s left to move are documents and other strays. Your method for shifting them to Android will depend on the iOS app where you store them.

For example, cloud-storage programs Google Drive and Dropbox work seamlessly across Android and iOS. We’d recommend you download one of these options to your old phone, use it to save your iPhone files, and then log into the same app on your new device.

[Related: How to save any file to your phone so you have it when you need it]

What about files saved to Apple’s office suite? You won’t find Pages, Numbers, or Keynote apps available for the Android platform. So, if you have files created in these apps, you’ll need to export them in a common format. Open a file with the appropriate app, tap the menu button (three dots) in the top right of the screen, and pick Export. Choose either a PDF or Microsoft Office format (both will work fine with the Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft Office apps for Android), and select a save location. If you’ve installed Google Drive or Dropbox on your iPhone, go ahead and save it there.

That’s just about all you need to transfer. After all, your cloud-based apps, including social media, will work exactly the same as soon as you log into them on your new device. Go forth and leave Apple behind!