How to Switch From an Android Phone to iPhone
Early Android phones were sluggish, inelegant, and error-prone. (Trust me—I owned a few of them.) But today, that’s no longer the case—from high-end phones like the Galaxy S20 to budget standouts like the Moto G Power, Android has come a long way. It isn’t perfect, though: between software fragmentation, lackluster tech support, and the occasional security concern brought on by its more open nature, Android has its downsides just like everything else.
In comparison, the iPhone has long been a shining example of beautiful software and hardware design, controlled by Apple to ensure that its devices provide as similar an experience as possible across the board. After more than a decade, the iPhone still beckons—and you have more choices than ever, from the top-tier iPhone 12 Pro Max to the 12 mini and even the budget-friendly iPhone SE. Thinking of making the move? This guide will help ensure that your transition from Android to iOS is as smooth as possible.
Get Ready for Your New iPhone
Before you migrate all your data, you have a choice to make: are you going to go all-in on Apple’s ecosystem, using bundled apps like Safari, Mail, and iCloud Photos for the full Apple experience? Or are you sticking to Google apps like Gmail and Google Calendar, with the iPhone as the backbone of it all? Knowing which approach you plan on taking will help you migrate your data in the most efficient way possible.
Move to iOS App
Apple took some of the work out of moving from Android to iOS by launching an Android app called Move to iOS. It promises to set up a direct wireless connection from your old Android (4.0 or later) to your new iPhone, and will transfer over contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, your email, and your calendar events (though you’ll need to go to Settings > Mail and re-enter your Google password for those last two to work). You will, however, have to re-download (and in some cases, re-buy) any third-party apps you used to use.
Note that the Move to iOS app only works when setting up an iPhone for the first time—it’s not for transfers to an already operating iPhone. If you don’t want to reset your phone and start over, a third-party program called AnyTrans from iMobie can help. This desktop software for Windows or macOS handles a lot of functions outside of phones, like downloading YouTube videos, but it can also help with migration from Android to iOS, once both phones are plugged into the PC. iMobie claims the iOS Mover feature can migrate call logs, music, videos, ringtones, files/documents, and ebooks. Plus it gives you more control over the photos, contacts, calendars, and messages you do send to your new iPhone.
Use Google’s Services
If you’ve committed some or all of your digital life to Google services like Gmail, Drive, and Calendar, you don’t have to use Apple’s built-in apps for everything. All the major Google services have their own apps for the iPhone with similar, if not identical, functionality.
For example, it’s a breeze to use Gmail with the dedicated Gmail app on iPhone—just download it and log in. You can use Google Calendar to keep your schedule, Google Photos for all your pictures, and so on. You could also use third-party apps for these purposes (like Microsoft Outlook for your e-mail, which is actually very good), but if you liked the way Google’s own apps worked on Android, you’ll probably like them on iOS too.
Note that there’s no Google Contacts app for iOS, however. If you have your contacts stored in Gmail, they’ll appear in the Gmail app on your iPhone, but they won’t appear in iOS’ Phone app unless you sync your Gmail account with iOS itself. That’s why the Move to iOS app is worth using, even if you don’t plan on using Apple’s Mail or Calendar apps. If you want to add that Google account later, you can do so from Settings > Mail > Accounts.
Centralize Your Media
Depending on how you store your music and movies, migrating to the iPhone could be quite easy. If, for example, you use streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, or YouTube Music, you can just log into those apps on your iPhone and be on your merry way.
If you’re old-school and still have a lot of MP3s saved on your phone’s storage, though, you’ll have to move those over. Open iTunes on your computer (Music app on macOS) and drag all your music files into it. Then sync those songs back to your iPhone by connecting it via USB cable to the PC while iTunes is running.
Your photos and videos should be on your iPhone already thanks to the Move to iOS app, but you should make sure they’re all there. Once you’ve confirmed all your photos and videos are present, make sure you’re backing them up to the cloud as well—you can never replace lost photos. Apple has its own iCloud service, or you can back them up to Google Photos or any number of cloud-storage services.
Once You Have Your iPhone
Learn the Interface
Navigating the iPhone is more similar to Android than it is different, but there are a few changes you’ll want to know up front. First of all: you won’t find Home, Back, and Multitasking buttons along the bottom of the screen. Instead, use the “swipe up” gesture to return to the home screen (on modern iPhones with edge-to-edge screens) or a physical home button (on older iPhones and the iPhone SE).
That physical home button also doubles as a Touch ID fingerprint scanner—if you don’t have one, you’ll have to use the iPhone’s Face ID facial-recognition feature to log in instead. It’ll prompt you to set these up when you start the phone for the first time.
The home screen itself is pretty simple, showing a grid of all your app icons, allowing you to swipe right to see more of them. To delete an app, either hold until a pop-up menu appears and select Remove App. Or long-press until all the apps start wiggling and then tap the minus sign (-) atop the app to delete.
To move an app, long-press on any icon until they all start wiggling, then drag them around or into folders (pull one icon atop another icon). Tap Done on the top right when you’re finished. If you swipe all the way to the right, you’ll see your full App Library—a list of every app on your phone, similar to Android’s app drawer.
In edit mode—also known as “jiggle mode” for its jaunty animation—you can add widgets to your home screen with the plus sign that appears in the upper-right corner. Stick them in between app icons or put them on your widget dashboard to the left of your home screens.
Everything else should be familiar. The iPhone has an Android-like notification bar, but you won’t see icons appear in the menu bar when new notifications are in—that means you’ll need to check it regularly or act on notifications right away. If you swipe up from the top right of the screen, you’ll get the Control Center, which allows you quick access to certain settings. (On older iPhones and the iPhone SE, you can get to the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom.)
While there’s no Multitasking button, you can see your currently open apps by holding down on the bottom and swiping about halfway up (or, in the case of older iPhones, double-pressing the Home button). Close an app by swiping its card away, but contrary to popular belief, this does not save battery or speed up your device—so don’t feel the need to do this unless an app is misbehaving.
Don’t forget to bask in the beautiful absence of bloatware on iOS (save for a handful of Apple-provided apps). It’s arguably the very best thing about Apple keeping an absolute stranglehold on its hardware and operating system. And you can even delete the Apple-provided apps like Stocks, Apple Watch, Tips, and others that no one ever uses.
Dive Into the App Store
The single best reason to switch to the iPhone remains the App Store. Google Play has largely caught up, but as a general rule, Apple’s App Store offers a greater variety of high-quality apps from trusted developers. Plus, many apps tend to appear on the iPhone before other platforms.
Incidentally, most of this comes down to economics, rather than a religious war between the two platforms. It’s just easier for iPhone developers to sell apps and get paid. That said, some consider it a monopoly since it’s the only place you can get iOS apps. The latest version of the App Store app includes a Games-specific tab, and a Today page to better showcase the best new and updated apps. Explore the App Store to see what third-party apps are available, and check out our list of the best iPhone apps for inspiration.
Enjoy Seamless, Stable OS Updates
There are far fewer hardware SKUs to worry about with the iPhone—even given Apple’s expanding lineup—which greatly reduces development and QA time. Android revisions have become a tremendous mess over time, as various phone manufacturers and wireless carriers delay updates for months on end. Meanwhile, current iPhones get free updates with major new features on a regular basis, and most of Apple’s iOS updates are stable out of the gate (with the occasional exception). Just make sure to keep automatic updates enabled, so you get the latest security patches as soon as they come out.
Cradle Your iPhone in a Case
The iPhone’s construction is surprisingly durable, but you still don’t want to drop it. Ever. Instead, pick up a case to keep your delicate phone protected. Check out our top picks for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the iPhone 12 mini, and the iPhone SE. There are plenty of options in all shapes, sizes, and levels of durability for even the most accident-prone folks. (You might also grab a screen protector, while you’re at it.)
The Jailbreaking Question
We don’t recommend jailbreaking as a rule because it could brick your iPhone and lead to all sorts of warranty-related issues. But if you want to, the feds say it’s legal, thankfully.
For average smartphone users, the app ecosystem provides most of what people want. Still, in some cases, jailbreaking is the only way to run certain kinds of apps that Apple bans, such as retro game emulators, among other things. If you’re a heavy tinkerer, look into it, but if you feel the need to tweak that strongly, maybe you’re best off staying with Android, which is far more amenable to OS meddling.