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.