3 handy apps for iOS-to-Android switchers

Bridge the gap.

3 handy apps for iOS-to-Android switchers
Credit: Ben Patterson

As smoothly as my recent switch from iOS to Android went, I still felt like I had unfinished business left on my old iPhone. For example, I was annoyed that my wife’s iCloud calendar events weren’t showing up in my new Calendar app for Android, and I missed getting Find My Friend alerts whenever she left the office to head home. I was particularly bummed that I couldn’t respond to text messages from my Mac, like I could with iMessage.

With the help of a trio of essential apps, though, I’ve solved my lingering calendar and Find My Friend problems, and I’m now sending and receiving text messages from my Mac with ease. Indeed, I’m starting to like some of my new Android helper apps more than the iOS tools they’re replacing.

MightyText (free, or $40/year for Pro version)

Hands-down, my favorite feature about iMessage wasn’t the stickers (meh) but the fact that I could send and receive them from my Mac desktop or my iCloud-connected iPad. When the iMessage app gained the ability to juggle regular SMS messages as well, so much the better.

MightyText (free with limited features, or $40/year for Ben Patterson

With the help of MightyText’s Chrome extension, you can send and recieve text messages on your Android phone via your PC or Mac desktop.

No wonder that once I made the jump to Android (and followed these directions to turn off iMessage for good), I felt oddly disconnected whenever I was working on my Mac and I heard the chirp of a text message on my trusty new Nexus 5X. My instinct was to pull up the iMessage window, but iMessage was dark and silent.

The solution, as it turned out, was an app that syncs your Android notifications to your Mac (or PC) desktop. Several of them exist, but the app I settled on was the one that (for me, anyway) best duplicated the functionality of iMessage.

MightyText essentially puts your Android phone’s text-messaging interface in a desktop Chrome browser. (In my tests, the Chrome extension for MightyText was far more stable than its Mac client.) When a text message comes in, you get an alert on your desktop, and you can answer the text directly within Chrome.

Unlike iMessage, though, MightyText’s best features aren’t free, and you can only send 250 messages a month through MightyText unless you upgrade to the $40/year Pro version.

Familio (free, or Premium version starting at $19 for three months of service)

Another iOS tool that I made daily use of was Find My Friends, the app that lets you keep track of the location of your closest friends and loved ones (with their permission, of course). With Find My Friends on the case, you can check on the current position of anyone in a chosen circles of buddies, or get an alert whenever they arrive at or leave a given place. I liked for knowing when my wife was on her way home from the office (time to start dinner!) or when she and my daughter were heading back from the park (better wrap up this Destiny strike!).

Familio (limited free version, or Ben Patterson

The cross-platform Familio app does a decent job of replicating Find My Friends on an Android phone.

One of my biggest hesitations of going the Android way was losing the Find My Friends app, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that several cross-platform alternatives exist.

I finally settled on Familio, an app that lets you create groups of friends that you can track in (more or less) real time. For each group you can designate multiple places that you and your pals can automatically be checked into and out of. For instance, I get an Android notification each morning when my wife drops off our little one at school, and my wife gets an alert on her iPhone when I arrive for the afternoon pick-up. Each group even gets its own dedicated chat room for discussing comings and goings.

As with MightyText, though, Familio saves its best features for its “Premium” version, including unlimited places for each group, an “endless” check-in timeline for each of your Familio-connected friends, a “panic” button for emergencies, and the ability to request a friend’s real-time location as often as you want.

iCalendar Sync Cloud (free)

Last but not least, there was the messy issue of all my calendar events—and my wife’s, too—being stuck in iCloud. Sure, it’s possible to publish an iCloud calendar to the web, but public iCloud calendars can only be viewed, not edited.

iSync Calendar Cloud (free) Ben Patterson

Once installed, you can set iSync Calendar Cloud to sync your iCloud calendars to your Android device at almost any interval you want.

The ideal solution would be to simply add our respective iCloud accounts to my Android phone under the Accounts setting, but not surprisingly, that isn’t an option in the stock Android settings.

Luckily, there are plenty of third-party apps that will help sync your iCloud calendars to your Android device. I ended up going with iCalendar Sync Cloud, a free app that will sync your iCloud calendar events to Android on a regular schedule, anywhere from every minute to once every couple of days. You’ll need to sign in with your iCloud user credentials, but the app makers promise that your username and password are sent directly to iCloud.

A companion app, iContacts Sync Cloud, will perform the same duties for your iCloud contacts.

 
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