How to switch from the iPhone to Android

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For e-books, the only real option is to avoid Apple's iTunes' iBookstore and use the Amazon.com Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or Google's Play Books services instead, as their readers are available for iOS and Android.

For ringtones, if you make your own in iTunes, you can use those same files in Android if exported to MP3 format.

Apps: Content apps are easy, but productivity will suffer

The iPhone didn't invent the mobile app, but it did reinvent it as a consumer-quality experience, rather than as a simplistic front end to some back-office system, the types of apps most common in the BlackBerry era. iOS developers have created hundreds of thousands of apps, several times as many as Android developers have. For several years, Android apps tended to be not only fewer in number but also later to the game and less sophisticated.

That's been changing, now that Android smartphones outsell iPhones by 2:1 or 3:1, depending on the market. If you bring an Android smartphone into the mix, you will have to repurchase the apps that have Android counterparts or functional equivalents to what you use in iOS. I found that the apps I used for content consumption and e-commerce on the iPhone were also available for Android, with mainly equivalent functionality and polish -- the Android experience has improved considerably.

For example, I have Android versions of the following apps that I use on my iPhone: Chrome, Dropbox, Flashlight, Google Voice, HootSuite, Quickoffice, SketchBook, and Skype for productivity and utilities; Allpoint, Amazon, AmEx, Concur Travel, Fidelity, Kayak, Pay by Square, RedLaser, Safeway, Urbanspoon, and U.S. Bank for banking and commerce; and BART (the regional subway system), BBC News, Caltrain (the regional train system), the Economist, IMDB, Kindle, Reuters News Pro, Soundfreaq Remote, TiVo, Twitter, and USA Today for information and entertainment. Android has a built-in navigation app with voice directions, which is available for only the iPhone 4S and later on iOS. (The free Waze iOS app works better than Apple Maps and runs on any iPhone model. Waze is also available for Android, and I prefer it over the built-in Navigation app.)

What don't I have on Android that I have on iOS? Sophisticated office productivity apps such as GoodReader, Keynote, and Pages, and sophisticated media apps such as iMovie, iPhoto, Photoshop Touch, and Snapseed. It remains true that the more desktop-class the app, the less likely it is to be on Android. But the truth is that I use the apps sparingly on my iPhone -- their use is largely for emergency touch-up. I typically work with them instead on the iPad, along with iPad-only apps such as Office2HD.

If you use an iPad for the "heavy" apps, Android's relative deficiency in this area is not that meaningful on your smartphone.

AirPlay streaming, iMessage chat, FaceTime videocalling, and AirPrint: You lose these (well, almost)

Apple has been pushing the use of zero-configuration network services aggressively in both iOS and OS X. In the OS X context, AirDrop allows for drag-and-drop file sharing among newer Macs.

But AirPlay and AirPrint are the two major services that people use based on Apple's Bomjour zero-configuration networking. With AirPlay, you can mirror your screen or stream audio to a stereo or TV connected to a $99 Apple TV device. With AirPrint, you can print over Wi-Fi to any AirPrint-enabled printer.

There's a huge seduction in what these services offer: being able to simply share music and videos from the device you happen to have in your hand. But you won't get so seduced in the Android platform, where each device maker deploys its own streaming functionality -- or chooses not to. When available, streaming is typically restricted to the vendor's own media devices.

As a result, you should forget about streaming from an Android device -- unless you have the DoubleTwist app and its $5 AirSync add-on, that is. After you enable AirPlay in its settings, you can easily stream music and videos via an Apple TV, a feature most ex-iPhone users will be very happy to see.

Printing is a moot point since Android has no native print service, and Google's CloudPrint is designed for its Chrome OS devices, not Android. Plus, in most cases, it makes you leave your PC or Mac on to act as the waystation. The workarounds available in the Google Play market force contortions such as opening documents in the apps before printing, which restricts you to specific file types at best. Some of Motorola Mobility's Android devices have a usable printing (and video streaming) capability built in, but not others.

Bonjour networking isn't the only Apple technology closed off to Android. If you bring Android into your Apple mix, you won't be able to use the FaceTime videocalling app -- it works only on OS X and iOS devices, not even PCs. And you won't be able to use the iMessage chat service that lets you avoid carrier SMS fees -- it too is limited to OS X and iOS devices, though iMessage users will work with Android's SMS services, as it does with any device's SMS.

If you want cross-platform videocalling and free chat services, you'll need to use third-party services such as Microsoft's Skype or Google's GoogleTalk that work across multiple platforms.

Still, when all is said and done, you can get an Android smartphone to join in much of the Apple ecosystem, if you're willing to spend $20 or so in helper apps and purchase the Android equivalents to your paid iOS apps. That's not such a high price to pay to have your Apple ecosystems and Android device, too.

This story, "How to switch from the iPhone to Android," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

This story, "How to switch from the iPhone to Android" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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