How to switch from Android to iPhone

Our step-by-step tutorial will get all your Android content onto your new iPhone easily.
  • Jonny Evans (Computerworld (US))
  • 21 August, 2017 20:06

iPhone sales regularly exceed analysts’ expectations, and millions of people who are purchasing an Apple smartphone for the first time are switching from Android devices. So, if you are an Android user thinking of switching to iOS, you aren’t alone. This guide should help you enjoy a smooth transition.

Apple’s Move to iOS app

You needn’t abandon all your photos and messages when you migrate from Android to iPhone; you can easily bring them with you by using Apple’s Move to iOS app, which is available for free download on Google Play.

googleplayscreenshot Jonny Evans/IDG

Move to iOS will transfer the following data between platforms:

  • Contacts
  • Message history
  • Camera photos and videos
  • Web bookmarks
  • Mail
  • Calendars

It will also automatically download any free apps that are on your Android device from the iOS App Store. The paid apps that it finds on your Android device will be added to your App Store Wish List if they are available there.

To use Move to iOS, your destination iPhone needs to be running iOS 9 or later, and the Android device you are leaving must be running Android 4.0 or later. It is very likely your Android device is already running an appropriate OS version, but to check, open Settings in the App Drawer and look for the “About phone” option. This is usually at the bottom of the screen in the section marked “System.” Tap this, and the Android version number should appear.

As for hardware, Move to iOS will transfer data from your Android device to the following iPhone/iPad models:

  • iPhone 5 or later
  • iPad 4th generation or later
  • iPad mini 2nd generation or later
  • iPod Touch 6th generation

Preparing to migrate

There are four steps to take before using the Move to iOS app:

  1. If you have already set up your iPhone, you will need either to erase it and set it up again to use the Move to iOS app or to move your data manually, as detailed further on in this report. To erase the device, tap Settings > General > Reset and choose Erase All Content and Settings. This will delete everything on your iPhone.
  2. Check capacity. How much content are you planning to move to your iPhone? Make sure that it does not exceed the capacity of your new device.
  3. Make sure your Android’s Wi-Fi is turned on, and plug both the iOS and Android devices into power.
  4. Update Chrome. If you want to transfer your Chrome bookmarks from the Android device to the iPhone, make sure that you update the browser on the Android device first.

How to migrate

While keeping your new iOS device connected to power, you should set it up following these instructions, until you reach the Apps & Data screen. When it does, select Move Data from Android.

iphone6 android move to ios hero wrap Apple
  • Open the Move to iOS app on your Android and tap Continue. You’ll be asked to agree to some terms and conditions.
  • The Find Your Code screen should appear. When it does, tap Next, and reach for your iPhone.
  • On the iPhone, tap Continue on the Move from Android screen. Wait until a ten- or six-digit code appears. You should enter this code into your Android device
  • The Transfer Data screen appears. This lets you select the data you want to migrate to your iPhone.
  • Leave both devices alone and powered until the loading bar on your iOS device finishes — ignore the Android if it says the process is complete, since data transfer won’t actually be complete until the iPhone tells you it has received all the data and the loading bar finishes. Be warned: If you are transferring a lot of data, the process can take a long time.
  • Once the loading bar finishes on your iPhone, you can tap Done on your Android device (Do not do so until the iPhone says the process is over). Now you can tap Continue on your iPhone and follow the instructions to set it up.

Warning: If you use another app or receive a phone call on your Android during the process, transfer will not complete. It is essential that the Move to iOS app is the primary running app on your device. To ensure this, it makes sense to turn off your Android’s cellular connection and turn off apps or settings (such as Smart Network Switch) that might affect your Wi-Fi.

Moving files manually

You can move files manually, though this is more time-consuming than using the Move to iOS app. However, if you are already using your iPhone and don’t want to set it up again, you may need to do this. You might also find it necessary to manually move some data if Move to iOS fails to recognize and transfer it.

Depending on what you need to transfer, you will need:

  • Your old, no longer loved Android
  • Your shiny new iPhone
  • A computer (Mac or PC)
  • iTunes
  • Your Android’s Micro USB-to-USB cable
  • Your iPhone’s USB-to-Lightning cable
  • On a Mac, the Android File Transfer app
  • Account details for apps and/or services you wish to maintain
android to ios screen shot Jonny Evans/IDG

When you connect your Android device to your computer, you must swipe down the Notification shade on the device and make sure it connects to the computer in Media Transfer Mode (MTP). This should be automatic. On a PC, the device should be listed in Start > Computer.

Move mail, contacts and calendars

You shouldn’t need to transfer information from services such as Gmail, Exchange and Yahoo, since they store all your information in the cloud and it will be made available to your iOS device when you set that account up. To set up an account, open Settings > Mail > Accounts > Add Account, select your provider there and follow the appropriate setup instructions. Once the account is set up, you can choose the content you want to sync to your iPhone. If you don’t see your provider there, then you will need to follow these instructions to manually set up your account.

Move photos and videos

Photos and videos are among the most precious things stored on most people’s smartphones. Unfortunately, transferring these items manually is a little fiddly and requires that you use a computer with iTunes.

  • Connect your Android to your computer and open DCIM > Camera to find your photos.
  • If you are using a Mac, you must install Android File Transfer. Once this is installed, you can use it to get to the DCIM > Camera folder.
  • Select the photos and videos you want to transfer and place them in a folder on your computer.
  • Once you have salvaged all these assets, you can connect your iPhone, open iTunes and follow these instructions to sync these items to your iOS device.

Transfer your music

If you use a streaming music service such as Apple Music or Spotify on your Android device, then accessing the service on your new iPhone is as simple as opening the Music app or downloading the relevant streaming service app from the App Store, installing it and signing in with your account details.

Music downloaders need to handle a little more complexity and must use a computer and iTunes. If using a Mac, you must once again use the Android File Transfer application.

  • Connect the Android to the computer.
  • Find your music on your device — most Android devices place music (sensibly enough) in the Music folder. On a Mac, you use the Android File Transfer software to open the folder.
  • Select the songs you want to keep and drag them into a folder on your system.
  • Disconnect the old Android and connect the iPhone.
  • You must now drag the music from the folder you archived it to on your computer into your iTunes music library.
  • Once the music has been added to your library, you should select your new iPhone by clicking its icon in the upper-left corner of the iTunes 12 window. Click the Music icon that appears beside the iPhone icon and then choose Sync. You can choose to sync some or all of your tracks, depending on preference and available storage space.

Transfer documents, books or PDFs

You also need a computer to act as a middleman to transfer documents, books or PDFs from Android to iPhone. Once again, if you are using a Mac, you will need to install the Android File Transfer application.

  • Connect your Android device to your computer and look for the Documents folder on the device, where all your documents, books and PDFs should be stored.
  • Select the items you want to move and drag them to a folder on your computer.
  • You can place documents in a folder on your iCloud Drive. Once they are in iCloud, you can access them from all your Apple devices or online using a computer browser. Here’s a helpful article to help you use iCloud Drive.
  • If you want to make books and PDFs easily available on your new iPhone, you should drag those files into your iBooks application (Mac) or place them inside iTunes > Books.
  • Open iTunes and sync your ePub books and PDFs, just like syncing music to your iPhone. All these items will be made available through the iPhone’s iBooks app.

If you use services such as Amazon Kindle or Google Books, you don’t usually need to transfer titles from those providers. Instead, visit the App Store on your iOS device, download the relevant app and sign in with the correct account details to access your content from these third-party services.

Page Break

What about my apps?

Apple’s Move to iOS app will automatically install free apps on your iPhone that it finds on your Android device if they can also be downloaded for free from the App Store.

Apps that you have on your old device that are also available from the App Store for a fee will be listed in your Wish List. To find your Wish List, open the App Store app and tap the three lines (burger icon) at the top-right of the Featured screen. It is up to you to decide whether you then want to pay for and install those apps.

If you choose to migrate to iOS manually, then you will need to visit the App Store on your iPhone and search for the apps you have been using on Android. In most cases, you’ll find that app, or a close equivalent, available on the App Store.

If you need to repurchase an app you have already paid for on Android, it may sometimes be worth contacting the software developer to explain you already acquired its app for Android and now need it for iPhone. As long as you have a purchase invoice to prove you didn't grab it from a “free” app site, some developers may offer you a free install of the iOS version.

Where do I get apps?

You can purchase apps only through the App Store. Apple strictly controls the apps it allows to be sold on that store, making them much safer and highly unlikely to contain hidden viruses, keyloggers or spyware. Android users can purchase software from lots of places, but these tend to be less well policed, and some apps can be insecure.

Can I still use Google services?

Most Google services are made available as apps for your iPhone. Anything you have saved in a Google service will be made available on your iOS device using a Google app, or online using your iPhone’s Safari browser.

Open the App Store on your iPhone and search for the Google services you want to use. You’ll find Google Maps, Google Translate, YouTube, Chrome, Google Drive and all manner of other Google apps there. Here is a complete list of Google services provided through iOS apps.

But it is worth testing Apple’s equivalent services now that you are on an iPhone, since they are built to act seamlessly on the platform — Apple’s Siri voice assistant can spring into life when you say, “Hey Siri,” for example, whereas Google Now requires you to open the app before it works.

If you’ve chosen to migrate to an iPhone because you’ve decided to avoid using Google services, you don’t need to install them. You can even go one step further and change the default search engine used by Safari from Google to DuckDuckGo, Yahoo or Bing in Settings > Safari > Search Engine.

What about my peripherals?

While docks, most phone cases and some other items probably won’t fit your new device, almost all the rest of your existing Android peripherals may also work with your new iPhone.

  • Wireless Bluetooth headsets, speaker systems and some other wireless accessories can be paired with your iOS device in Settings > Bluetooth.
  • Peripherals that use a headphone jack will work fine with most older iPhones, but recent models will work with these items only with the small Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter you get when you buy a new iPhone.
  • You can purchase replacement Lightning-to-3.5mm adapters for $9 from the Apple Store, if yours is lost or missing.

Getting to know iOS

Becoming familiar with a new operating system takes a little while, but iOS is pretty easy to get around. Once you’ve transferred your data and installed the apps and those Google services you want to continue to use, you should find it easy to begin making use of the system. Trial and error is the best way to learn this stuff, but here are a few pointers to help build your relationship with iOS.

The Home button

You won’t find a “back” or task-switcher button on your new iPhone, but you will see the big Home button on the lower front of the device. It is your primary navigational tool (apart from your finger). All you need to remember is that if you ever get lost, all you need to do is tap the Home button to get back to the main menu. It’s also worth swiping your finger up from the bottom of the Home screen (or within many apps) to explore Control Center, which lets you access Android-like widgets to help you get things done. Apple’s iOS 11 mobile operating system makes some big changes to this feature.

[Also read: The 50+ best features in iOS 11]

At the time of writing, Apple is expected to introduce a new family of iPhones. There is speculation that one or more of these models will lack a Home button. If this is true, that will change how people interact with iOS devices, but we will be sure to explain what’s new when the product is released.

An introduction to iOS Settings

When you transferred content from your Android to your iPhone, you may have spent time in Settings. This is a highly important part of iOS 11, since it is where you can tweak a whole range of system, service, application and user interface features. Here are three useful Settings you may want to tweak on your new device — you don’t have to, but doing so should give you some sense of how settings work:

LED Flash

Make your iPhone’s torch flash when a call or notification comes through in Settings > General > Accessibility, toggle LED Flash for Alerts to on.

Silent keyboard

If you don’t want the iPhone’s keyboard to click, you can switch the sound off in Settings > Sounds > Keyboard Clicks, toggle to off.

Power miser

You can make your iPhone battery last much longer if you switch to Low Power Mode in Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode.

You may also want to read 50+ essential iOS 10 tips you’ll use every day.

Make yourself at home

One of the best ways to personalize your smartphone is to choose what wallpaper you want to use. That’s easy on an iPhone: Open Settings > Wallpaper > Choose Wallpaper. Here you can use one of Apple’s default sets of Dynamic, Stills and Live wallpapers, or select an item from your Photos library. If you choose to use an image of your own, make sure it’s 1,334 by 750 pixels or larger, since that’s the resolution of the device and it will look better that way.

You’ll also want to choose a ringtone. You can do this in Settings > Sounds. Scroll down the page and look for Ringtone. Tap this and you will be able to set a Vibration pattern and choose among a huge variety of tones. Tap Store and you can forage through thousands of ringtones Apple sells through iTunes. You can even make your own ringtones.

Be secure

Security matters. If you’ve been using Android devices, you’ve probably read the many scare stories about it in comparison to iOS. Apple frequently issues software patches to all current devices, and around 85% of existing iPhone users are running devices equipped with the latest OS release. One of the advantages of Apple’s mobile platform is that it is not fragmented.

To check whether there’s an update available for your new Apple device, find and tap the Settings icon, then tap General > Software Update. If one exists, you’ll be told. It’s always a good idea to upgrade your software, since Apple makes regular security and usability enhancements in them.

When setting up your device, be sure to use an alphanumeric password, since this makes the iPhone much more secure.

Read the manual

Apple offers a free book, The iPhone User Guide, to help you get a grip on your new device. It’s written in plain English, has clear and useful images and is designed to help you quickly figure out what your new device can do. You can access it as a PDF or via iBooks. You’ll find it at this link, or you can use this one to download and read it using the iBooks app on your iPhone.

More ideas

I’ve written extensively on some of the things you can do with your iPhone. If you’re new to the platform, this selection of guides may be especially helpful:

8 useful iPhone tips for busy professionals

16 essential iOS typing tips for iPad and iPhone

20+ iPhone tips you’ll use frequently

How to manage and use iOS Notifications

How to improve Mac, iPhone & iPad battery life in 26 tips

3 hidden iOS Settings you need to know

Most importantly, enjoy your new iPhone.