The Complete Guide To Switching From Android To iPhone

Tired of Android but haven't yet made the jump to iPhone? Here's what to expect, how to adjust, and the apps you need to make the switch easier.

The original version of this guide was written a couple of years back, in the days of Android 2.3 and iOS 4. Since then, things have changed somewhat. While both operating systems offer distinct advantages, some Android users have become frustrated with fragmentation, tired of UI inconsistencies and sick of variable battery life. Even I, a longtime Android user, had a small stint on the iPhone before switching to a Nexus.

Switching to iOS was easier than I thought, but it still brought about a number of challenges. Just because you ultimately choose iOS doesn't mean you don't want a lot of what Android has to offer. In this post, we'll look at how to adjust to the differences in iOS and bring in some Android features you may miss. If you want to check out a specific section, you can use this table of contents: (For the reverse approach, check out our guide to switching from iPhone to Android.)

Find Your Way Around iOS

As a former Android user, you're probably wondering where all your buttons and settings are. iOS is quite a bit simpler than Android. Instead of having a set of hardware buttons, you basically have one home button that takes you back to the iOS home screen. Two taps brings up the multitasking drawer, and holding it down for a second brings up Siri (on the iPhone 4S and above — more on this later).

So what about the other buttons? Well, instead of a hardware back button, your back buttons will be built into each individual app you use, in the upper left-hand corner. If you don't see a back button, you're at the main screen of that app, and can press the home button to return to the home screen. Instead of a menu button, you'll often find a settings button within the individual app, or will find the app's settings in the dedicated Settings app.

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Home Screens

Like Android, iOS has a number of different home screens you can page through. Unlike Android, they go from left to right, rather than having your main screen in the centre. Also, you won't find an app drawer here. Instead, every app you download goes onto the home screen, and you can arrange them as you like. To move an app, press and hold on the shortcut just like you do on Android. This will put you in "jiggle mode", where you can move shortcuts around as you please, drag them onto one another to create folders, or even uninstall them by tapping the "x" in the corner of the icon.

Because you don't have an app drawer, organising apps is a bit more annoying than it is on Android — you have to really use your folders and screens to your advantage. Got some apps that you don't want showing up on the home screen? Just stick them in a folder and drag them to the last screen so they're out of the way. You'll also notice that you don't have any widgets, which is a downside (except when it comes to battery life). However, you can get some widgets on your home screen with a jailbreak hack, as described later in this post.

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Default Apps

One of Android's biggest advantages is being able to choose the default app for just about anything. Sadly, this is one of the biggest shortcomings on iOS. By default, iOS assumes you want to use Mail as your mail client, Safari as your browser, Apple's Maps as your maps app and so on.

Luckily, some apps are finally starting to support other apps in the iOS ecosystem. Many apps, for example, offer the option to open a link in Chrome for iOS instead of Safari. However, when you can't, you can use something like this bookmarklet to move links from Safari to Chrome. You can also use URL tricks to link Siri to Google Maps or Astrid, or use Launch Center Pro to access certain actions faster. If you're jailbroken, there are all sorts of tweaks in Cydia to change the default apps and behaviours.

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The notification drawer in iOS is just like Android's: You drag it down from the top of the screen, and you can see all of your recent notifications in there. Just tap the "x" next to a notification to clear it, or tap on the notification itself to view it. You can also customise which notifications show up, how they look, and where they appear in the Settings app, which is awesome — it gives you a lot of control over your notifications from one centralised location.

Not only that, the lock screen integrates notifications in a way that Android, by default, doesn't do. As you receive notifications, they'll sit on your lock screen until you unlock your phone, after which they'll just be in the drawer. This gives you a great overview of all the notifications you haven't seen yet. You can also swipe the notification's icon to the right to view that specific notification without unlocking your phone first.

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Siri, as you are probably aware, is the iOS virtual assistant, which allows you to control many functions on your iPhone using only your voice. To activate Siri (on the iPhone 4S and above), just press and hold down on the button. Siri will pop up and ask what she can help you with. From here, you can ask her about the weather, read your text messages and reply to them, set reminders and lots more. Check out our guide on how to talk to Siri to get started. Then, when you're feeling a little more ambitious, start exploring some of the hacks you can use to make Siri better: teach her to pronounce names in your address book, get directions with Google Maps instead of Apple Maps, and add new commands with jailbreak extensions.

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App And OS Updates

iOS app updates are different to the way they are handled on Android. On Android, you can set apps to update automatically, which sadly isn't possible on iOS. However, updating your apps is very simple: when you have an update available, you'll see a red badge on the App Store icon. Tap it and go to the Updates tab. You can update apps individually or tap "Update All" to update them all at once.

When a new version of iOS comes out, you'll see a red badge on the "Settings" app instead. You can just tap it and go to General > Software updates to update it. Alternatively, you can plug it into iTunes and update it from there. Unlike Android, you'll get updates at the same time as all other iPhone users, unless your phone is so old that it's no longer supported. If your phone is old but still supported (usually two generations behind), you'll get updates, but they may be lacking in some features. It's not perfect, but it's still not nearly as fragmented as Android, which is a wonderful feeling.

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Using Google Services

If you're coming from Android, you're probably already entrenched in Google services such as Gmail and Google Calendar. Fortunately, you can sync all your favourite Google services with Apple's default apps, or download Google's (sometimes) better alternatives. You have a lot of choices here, so we won't go into a lot of detail. Check out our feature on getting Google and iOS living together in perfect harmony for everything you need to know.

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Syncing With iTunes

You don't need to sync your phone with iTunes anymore, but if you want to add music, videos, photos and other media to your phone, you'll need iTunes to do so. Plug your phone in with its included USB cable and open up iTunes. Click on your iPhone in the left-hand sidebar and you'll be able to see all your options.

Most of it is self-explanatory: the Music tab lets you choose what music to sync, the Movies tab does the same for movies and so on. The Apps tab lets you choose which apps to sync back and forth between your computer, as well as rearrange them on your home screen. You'll also go to this tab when you want to sync certain files to third-party apps on your phone. For example, if you have an alternative video player, you wouldn't sync videos through the Movies and TV Shows tab. Instead, you'd go to Apps, scroll down to File Sharing, click on your video player, and drag your videos into the "Documents" box on the right.

Whenever you sync, iTunes will make a backup of your phone, which is an incredibly handy feature. If something goes wonky with your phone, restoring it to a previous backup is a great way to get all your apps and data back the way they were before things went wrong. You'll learn to love this feature, even though syncing takes longer. If you hate hooking up the cable, you can also check "Sync This Device Over Wi-Fi" from the main sync screen, though this can be a finicky feature for some.

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Battery Life

Like most smartphones, the iPhone does not have a spectacular battery life. If you find you aren't getting as much charge out of it as you'd like, check out our feature on improving your iPhone's battery life for ideas on how to extend it.

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Jailbreaking And Installing Tweaks

Back when you were on Android, you may or may not have rooted your phone to unlock its full potential. You can do something similar on Android, except it's called jailbreaking. The jailbreaking process is usually simpler than the rooting process is on Android (since the range of devices is smaller), but it tends to take a while to be updated after each new version of iOS.

Check out our guide to jailbreaking your phone to see how to do it, and then check out some of the best jailbreak tweaks you can install. If you're having trouble wrapping your head around Cydia, the jailbreak app store, we've got you covered there too.

You don't have ROMs on iOS as you do on Android. However, some would argue that jailbroken iOS is more tweak-friendly than Android anyway. Instead of having to find a rooting method for your specific phone, deal with bootloaders and recovery modules, and finding compatible ROMs and tweaks, everyone's on the same page. Jailbreaking is a five-minute process, and you can customise your OS tweak-by-tweak in Cydia rather than flashing an entire ROM. Whether you like it better or not is personal preference; it's just a different way of doing things. After installing a few tweaks, you'll get used to the process and learn how to quickly install most tweaks.

Note that iOS is not nearly as customisable as Android. Even if you didn't root your Android phone, you may want to jailbreak iOS, because otherwise you're missing out on some of the best tweaks and apps. Plus, jailbreaking is the only way you're going to get some of your beloved Android features back on iOS. Once you've become acquainted with iOS, it's up to you whether or not you want to take the plunge — but you'll probably feel a much stronger pull to jailbreak iOS than you did to root Android.

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Find Alternative Apps

When switching from Android to iOS, you'll need a lot of new apps. Our iPhone App Directory provides a number of helpful suggestions in various categories, but its focus is on iOS users rather than switchers. For those coming from Android, you may have certain apps you want to replicate as closely as possible. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Google Voice Search: If you prefer Google's voice search to Siri (or you don't have Siri), you can find it in the regular Google Search app on the App Store. If you're jailbroken, you can even assign it Siri's shortcut with the NowNow tweak.
  • Widgets: Apple still hasn't added widgets to iOS, but if you're jailbroken, you can get a number of home screen widgets with Dashboard X. Just keep an eye on your battery life!
  • Tasker-like Automation: Android users are no doubt familiar with Tasker, the app that lets you automate just about anything on your device. iOS users don't have a one-stop shop for automation tricks, but if you're jailbroken, you can automate quite a lot — you just need to download the right apps and tweaks from Cydia. We've rounded up some of the best ones here, but if you can't find your desired tweak, search around — it's probably in Cydia somewhere.
  • Home Screen Customisation: iOS doesn't let you do a lot of customisation out of the box, though there are a few things you can do without jailbreaking. If you jailbreak, the world is your oyster. Check out our guide to customising your iPhone inside and out to see more.

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Discover The Other Benefits Of iOS

iOS has some really cool built-in features too. You'll find it fun to discover these new features as you explore, but here are a few things to start you off:

  • Do Not Disturb is a handy feature for those times that you don't want your phone bothering you — like when you sleep. Just open up the Settings app and flip "Do Not Disturb" to "On". You won't get any notifications while it's active, and your phone will save them until you turn Do Not Disturb off. You can even schedule Do Not Disturb by going to Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb, as well as whitelist certain contacts that you want to always accept.
  • Text Expansion Shortcuts — known simply as "Shortcuts" in iOS — is a great little feature Apple added in iOS 5 to make typing easier. Say you have certain bits of text you type a lot — like your email address, your phone number, home address or something else like that. If you head to Settings > General > Keyboard > Add New Shortcut, you can set small shortcuts that expand to these oft-used snippets. For example, you could set it to type out your email address for you when you type EML, saving you a bunch of keystrokes. Check out our favourite shortcuts for some inspiration.
  • Panoramic and HDR Photos are a must-try in the default Camera app. HDR (which stands for High Dynamic Range) will increase the range of contrast in your photos, making them look fantastic (but making the camera a bit slower). To turn it on, open the camera app, tap "Options" and turn HDR on. You can also turn on Panorama here, letting you "sweep" your phone across a landscape and take a super-widescreen photo.
  • FaceTime is a great way to video chat with other iPhone and Mac users. Just head to their contact card in the Contacts or Phone app, scroll down to the bottom and tap FaceTime to send them a request.
  • Emoji liven up your text messages with tiny smiley faces and ridiculous pictures. They won't increase your productivity, but they can be fun. Enable them by going to Settings > General > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard > Emoji. Then, when typing a message, you can tap the globe button to switch to your Emoji keyboard.

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    Without comment on the other things in the 'benefits of iOS' section, the Galaxy S3 at least (don't know if it's a Samsung feature or an Android feature) has a feature called Blocking Mode, which is essentially a much more flexible version of 'Do Not Disturb'.

      location or time (or combination) based profiling app is very common thing in the Google Play market. Many of them come with the Widget or Notification bar switch; (lock screen widgets are also on the way for couple of them).

      I have bought 10 NFC tag for 6$ from ebay and ditched all profiler apps. I have set them at my car, home & office. Its more convenient than anything else.... and its not geeky at all.

      Android's have so many different ways to achieve same thing. You can choose the one you like.

    Do many people actually switch away from Android? The trend appears to be the other way round.

      I will be.. I am sick of the rubbish apps and poor support for the simple things in life like bluetooth handsfree in my car. I can deal with most of these things.. but I'm just sick of it.. so will be seriously, for the first time, considering an iPhone.. might end up with a Windows Phone though..

    this article may create a war between IFan and Droidfan so you should include "IFan exclusively" in the heading. Btw, IPhone is the easiest device to get used to, a 5 yo kid or a 80 yo elderly can function it smoothly after a short while so I see no point of this article.

      It's a companion article for the other recently posted "Complete Guide to Switching from iPhone to Android". It's not about how easy it is to pick up because they're both easy for people of all ages, it's just about outlining the differences.

    You are kidding??? Right??

    On second thoughts, this article should appear in humour section. :))

    Recently had to switch back to iPhone because I broke my SGSII... Holy crap, I forgot how much of a P.O.S. Apple's products really are! It's the most annoying and idiotic and locked down and slow and annoying and... (did I mention annoying?) thing I've had to use in many many years :(

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