Apple reportedly working on tools to help users moving to Android (update)

Rob Attrell

January 11, 2016 10:29am

Once people choose their first computer or mobile device, they tend to stick with the same brand or company for future products unless they have major problems with their first choice. Putting your address book, photo library, or music collection into a company’s apps makes switching to a different company’s app ecosystem much more work than sticking with the status quo.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Apple is currently feeling pressure from mobile carriers, particularly those in Europe, to reduce the burden of users trying to switch to Android. Sources say that Apple is currently working on a set of tools to move data such as music, photos and contacts from iOS devices to Android. Apple currently offers an Android app called Move to iOS that makes the reverse as straightforward as possible, but on iOS there is nothing official.

Putting the burden of this work on Apple is quite odd, especially considering the examples cited: music, photos and contacts. It’s also unclear exactly what kind of tool Apple would build to assist users in taking their data with them to Android or other platforms.

Creating an iOS app to export data to another mobile platform wouldn’t really make a lot of sense, and Apple building an Android app to let users import their iCloud Address book or photo library seems fairly unlikely. With music, there is also the issue of legality in copying purchased music out of iTunes, especially in places like the UK, where such acts are illegal.

While a set of tools to allow iOS users to easily move their data to other platforms has seemingly obvious benefit, the actual implementation of such services are not straightforward. It’s worth keeping in mind that if users have access to a laptop or desktop computer, it is already trivial to export contacts, or copy music and photos to a new device.

In reality, perhaps the simplest option for new Android users looking to free their data from iOS devices would be an iOS app from Google that would export a copy of photos, contacts and other data, backing it all up to Google’s servers and syncing with a Google account. This is the setup Google Photos already employs on iOS to backup photos and videos.

Perhaps the most overlooked part of this entire story is the fact that data like photos and contacts are not actually the biggest concern for locked-in users on either iOS or Android. Apps, especially those that cost users money, are the biggest reason many users will stay in the ecosystem they’ve invested in. If a service from either Apple or Google could import third-party application data or download and purchase history, then perhaps the reasoning behind this argument would be more compelling.

Update: Apple has responded to the report from The Telegraph, saying “there is no truth to this rumour”. As we suspected.

  • Eluder

    I would be completely shocked if Apple did something like this; why would they make it easier for their users to move to another platform, it wouldn’t make any sense at all.
    There are several tools that do this for users made by HTC, Samsung and I believe even LG.

    • Lulzon

      Agreed, but there is one key word in the article: Europe

      Sounds like Apple is just trying to avoid any sort of antitrust lawsuit.

    • Every time I seen an antitrust or anti-compete it is in Europe. This is likely to avoid ending up in court again with the EU

    • gommer strike

      They have to do this due to EU commission scrutiny.

      If they can show that they’re not being monopolistic(eg. giving users a way out of their ecosystem, or at least making an honest attempt), then they can get the EU commission off their backs.

      It’s true there already exist a ton of OEM-supplied solutions for this, but what about the rest of the Android users who don’t have migration tools supplied with their new Android? There’s where Apple comes in to help.

    • downhilldude

      Don’t really see the monopolistic scenario, since Apple is so underrepresented in Europe. One of the things I enjoy, when I’m over in Europe, is how few iPhones I see. I just see Android everywhere, so it doesn’t appear Android needs any extra help over there.

    • gommer strike

      Sure, but the EU doesn’t necessarily see it that way. In many ways the EU commission is quite a bit stronger on consumer rights than other areas of the world. If they see something which seems consumer-unfriendly, they’ll put that thing under the microscope.

      iPhone is much more North American thing(and maybe, a prestige product thing for Asia) but it’s no secret of Android’s 70%+ world-wide market share.

  • Wilhelm

    As far as moving music is concerned its quite possible to move your iTunes library to Google Music, minus movies or music videos though, and enjoy them on that platform to be downloaded as you wish.
    Still, I’d be surprised by this because it doesn’t serve Apple’s purpose anymore than it would serve Google’s to allow Android users to import to iOS.

    • MatroXX

      ..you’ve forgot to mention ‘BlackBerry’

  • canuck07

    Easy. Just send me a grand. That’d make the transaction very smooth.

    • gommer strike

      …just a grand? That’s it? If you have the knowledge to do this and make it happen for many millions of users – I think you’re worth far more than charging for only a grand of effort there, bud.

    • bassbeast

      He means for all the apps and media he’s purchased in one ecosystem to be moved to the other.

    • gommer strike

      Ah yes. This would mean services such as Spotify, among others.

    • bassbeast

      I would hope not! Signing up for Spotify through the App Store is incredibly foolish, as Spotify charges more if you do it there as opposed to the desktop site (they simply pass the Apple Dev Tax onto you). Think games or other such apps.

    • gommer strike

      Ah yes indeed. I would imagine for specific games where you download for free, but login to play(and retain any microtransactions), those would be retained, but for sure the games which are a one-time purchase of X amount…probably no way around simply re-buying the game again.

      And yes I agree it brings up the issue of substitutes for things like Pixelmator. You would have some an entirely different product. For things like Plex, it seems as if there’s no way around re-buying the product.

  • Brad Fortin

    And, just like the Move To iOS app, it’ll be blasted by 1-star reviews from angry Android fanboys within hours of being on the Play Store.

    • ArcillaR

      Wrong. Let me rephrase your comment: “… it’ll be blasted by 1-star reviews from angry FORMER APPLE fanboys within hours of being on the Play Store.”

    • Brad Fortin

      lol, you Android fanboys are so funny when you’re angry.

    • ArcillaR

      Not angry and not an android fanboy by any means.

    • gommer strike

      I don’t know about that. In order for a person to review an app on the Google Play store, they’d need to own an Android device – or at the very least, download an Android emulator to their PC, download the app, THEN write that bad review…that’s a ton of trouble that I’ll hazard a guess in saying that the average iOS user isn’t going to bother with…not even the fanbois.

    • Brad Fortin

      I think the implication is that the “Android fanboys” would be former Apple fanboys who’ve simply switched sides (thanks to the help of the app).

  • Me Ted

    Shouldn’t this be Google’s problem? Why don’t they just make an iOS app that does the same thing?

    • Stuntman06

      I don’t think Apple allows you to make an app that mentions non-Apple platforms. Pebble got in trouble when their app mentions Android.

    • downhilldude

      They could. Samsung has one called Smart Switch, which will take your iCloud account, and move over MUCH of it. Will install the same apps from Google, assuming you request that option, and the same app is available from the Play Store.

  • Will Maitner

    Apple made the app for Android users to switch to iOS, maybe if Google wants people to switch in the other direction THEY should create the program.

  • disqus_vPnVddwEMi

    For an average person, the perception is that the transfer of contacts and photos is not trivial nor easy but messy and complicated, particularly in this situation. Savvy tech users know this not to be the case (like all of you) but most people do not. Go ask parents and grandparents to explain how they’d do it and watch their eyes glaze over.

  • MassDeduction

    “Once people choose their first computer or mobile device, they tend to stick with the same brand or company for future products unless they have major problems with their first choice.”

    What is this assertion based on? I’ve never known this to be true. I know lots of people who move back and forth. This happens a lot with elite users, often because they’re itching to try something new. This happens a lot with casual users, who are often easily swayed by sales reps when renewing contracts. I’ve read many articles, including on Mobile Syrup, about xx% of new iPhone/Android/etc. having come from other ecosystems, and it seems to cut multiple ways.

    Is this the personal opinion of the author or is it bases on solid market research? Because I’m not sure it’s factual.

  • downhilldude

    Samsung has had Smart Switch available for a few years now, making it easy to move that data from your iOS device to your Galaxy device, so no biggie…

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