How I Made the Transition From Android to iPhone Just a Little Easier

When I tried to switch from Android to iPhone in November 2021, I ended up switching back because of the way I was using my phone and mostly native Google apps. I had multiple Google Docs and Sheets bookmarked on my Pixel 6’s home screen that I used multiple times per day. Accessing these documents on iPhone was a pain: I had to use a Shortcut to get the specific file set on my home screen. With shortcuts, opening the document was a single tap, sure, but it opened several windows (sort of like a re-direct on a website) and took several seconds to open and be usable. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’re opening this several times per day to make a quick update, you really feel the time you spend waiting when you just want to do the thing and move on.

I have since stopped using those documents, so this barrier-to-entry was drastically reduced on my second attempt at adopting iPhone, nearly a year later.

This time I was brought back to the iPhone because of the temperature sensing and ovulation confirmation features on the new Apple Watch Series 8 and it stuck. I’m officially an iPhone user, at least for now.

People often ask me what is my biggest gripe about iOS or what led me back to Android last year. But it’s such a funny question because it’s not one thing — it’s a bunch of little things I rely on for everyday use that Android does so much better.

If you’re trying to figure out whether or not to switch to iPhone, here are details about what bothered me about iPhone and how I made the switch from Android a little easier, if applicable.

Click a link below to jump to that section:

  1. iPhone UI in general
  2. Widgets
    1. Solution: Shift in widget usage
  3. Keyboard
    1. iOS solution: Gboard
  4. Clipboard
    1. iOS solution: Clipboard
  5. Messaging
    1. iOS solution: Filters and pins
  6. Badges
  7. Irreplaceable things on the Pixel
  8. In closing

iPhone UI in general

The iPhone UI has a lot of benefits. It’s simple for people to learn and use, it’s consistent across devices, and it looks nice.

But since I was switching from Android, I found iOS annoying for a few reasons:

  • You can’t arrange your home screen exactly like you want; icons are forced to align with the top left corner of the screen.
  • You can’t control how Apple sorts your apps into folders.
  • You can’t set the default app view to alphabetical. Sure, you can just use the search function, but what if I can’t remember the name of something or what if I want to browse? I don’t want to open 5 folders if I don’t know which one Apple auto-sorted it into. I can go to the search menu for the alphabetical list, but it doesn’t make sense that I can’t set that view as my default.

Widgets

Widgets in Apple don’t have full functionality that they do in Android. For example, I use Todoist for my to-do lists. In Android, you can check items off directly in the widget.

In iPhone, you have to tap the widget to open the app, then check the items off. The iPhone’s widget is more like a snapshot of some portion of the app. In some circumstances, that works fine, but in a to-do list, it’s a pain.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, and if you have never been on Android, it’s probably fine. But if you’re switching from Android, you might miss the streamlined widgets.

The widgets are also limited in size and shape. You choose between the full-length horizontal and the square options — that’s basically it. Android has multiple sizes and orientations, and if you don’t like those, you can also drag (some of) them to resize.

I also found that my widgets had poor syncing between devices. For example, if I made a change on my Todoist app on my computer, the change would only register on my phone’s app if I opened the app. This is not the case with Android.

I do like the extra widget tray on iPhone: If you swipe right, you have an extra space to dump widgets for things you might need to look at quickly but not necessarily interact with. For example, I have a widget in there to quickly see the weather and my watch battery.

I also really like that you can stack widgets in iOS. I like to keep my home screen to one page, so stacking widgets is super handy, especially for related apps and information.

Solution: Shift in widget usage

The poor functionality of widgets in iOS prevented me from switching last year, but I wanted to make it work this time. Making it work in iOS basically meant changing how I use my widgets. Now I only use widgets when I need to see information at a glance rather than using widgets to perform actions. If I need to actually do something in an app, I’ll put the app icon on the home screen rather than using up space for a widget.

This isn’t exactly a solution, but shifting my mindset and expectations of widgets really helped me when i was making the switch from Android to iPhone.

Keyboard

This might be a funny thing to include since you can simply download a new keyboard, but hear me out.

The iMessage has a super annoying bar across the top of the keys. To me they look like ads, which I found obnoxious. You can customize it and remove most of the apps, but 3 of them cannot be removed from the bar. It took me a long time to find the answer, but you can hide the bar across the top of the iOS keyboard by tapping the apps icon next to the typing field.

The main issue, though, is that the iPhone keyboard does not have a comma on the main keyboard. I may be in the minority, but I actually use commas in text messages or when I’m writing emails on my phone. I tried downloading other keyboards to alleviate this issue but the layouts are the same for other keyboards (which makes sense).

To add a comma on an iPhone, you have to either open the numbers keyboard or long-press the 123 key on the left and drag to the comma towards the middle of the screen.

To add a comma on an Android, you tap the comma key on the main keyboard.

iOS solution: Gboard

Gboard is the way to go for a good iOS keyboard. I tried many keyboards, including some paid keyboards that allowed you to add an extra row and program the keys however you like. But Gboard has emoji and gifs, and you can tap the gear icon for other language keyboards if you use them (which I do since I’m learning Japanese).

Gboard also has punctuation on the right side where the period is. If you long-press the period key, a menu will pop up and you can drag to many different punctuation marks, including the comma, almost directly above the period. Although it’s not an ideal solution, for some reason having the comma a little closer to my thumb (instead of halfway across the screen) makes it a more acceptable solution.

I’ve noticed Gboard’s keyboard may change slightly depending on what app you’re using. For example, in Discord, what’s normally the period key turns into the @ symbol, and what’s normally the return key becomes the # symbol. But you can still long-press the @ symbol to get a list of other punctuation marks you might be interested in using.

Gboard in iMessageGboard in Discord
The Gboard keyboard may change slightly depending on what app you’re using.

Clipboard

iPhone doesn’t have a built-in clipboard. In Android, you get a clipboard that saves the last few things you copied, including images. The last thing you copied also automatically appears above the keyboard when you are in a text field so you can easily paste it. It also separates text if you copy something. For example, if you copy a sentence with a number in it, the clipboard will copy the whole message and also show the number in a separate clipboard entry so you can just copy the number.

iOS solution: Clipboard

I tried many clipboard apps to resolve this complaint, and the Clipboard app has been the best one. It keeps a history of text you copy, and the text stays there until you delete it. You can have a list of favorites for information you use a lot, too. It doesn’t save copied images like the Google clipboard, but none of the iOS clipboard apps had this functionality, as far as I could tell.

This app doesn’t allow text editing for things that have been copied into the clipboard, so if that’s important to you, another clipboard app may be better for you. All the clipboard apps I tried need full access and asked for permission to paste in each individual app that uses the keyboard. As of this writing, iOS has a bug where it asks for permission multiple times for the same app, but when that’s fixed, it should only ask once.

Messaging

I have text threads with friends that I don’t want to delete, but I don’t talk to those people that often, so I don’t always want them in my list of messages. In Android, you can archive these and then look for them later if you need to. In iMessage, you only have the option to delete them.

I did find the solution below that kept my list a little cleaner, but I also had to accept that my messages list would be longer and messier than it was in Android.

iOS solution: Filters and pins

Although you can simply delete messages you no longer need (instead of never throwing anything away like me), I decided to use filtering. This means messages from unknown numbers will appear in a different list and won’t gum up your list. To turn filters on, follow the directions below:

  1. Open Settings app.
  2. Tap Messages.
  3. Scroll down until you see Filter Unknown Senders and toggle this ON.

Once this is on, your iMessage app will show < Filters in the upper left corner where you can access messages that are filtered: All Messages, Known Senders, Unknown Senders, Unread Messages. You’ll also see a Recently Deleted area here if you deleted something by accident.

If you prefer, you can keep your pinned contacts at the top of the list for people you message most often. To add or edit your list:

  1. In iMessage, tap the … symbol in the upper right corner.
  2. Tap Edit Pins.
  3. Tap the pin next to the person you want to pin at the top.

This makes that person’s contact photo always appear at the top of the list. It will also show you previews of images they send you if you haven’t seen the message already.

Badges

The little red badges are not my favorite, but they are sometimes useful. The annoying part about them was that they would often show I had a new message when I didn’t. What’s the point of a little red badge showing the number of new messages when it’s not accurate?

I decided to turn these off for most apps, especially Gmail, since this app was the worst offender with showing unread messages where none existed.

To turn off little red notification badges on iPhone, follow the directions below:

  1. Open Settings app.
  2. Tap Notifications.
  3. Tap the desired app to open the notification settings for that app.
  4. Toggle the Badges switch off.

Because Apple allows granular settings, you’ll have to repeat this process for every app to adjust settings.

Irreplaceable things on the Pixel

As of this writing, iPhone doesn’t work properly on Google Fi, and having to switch from Fi was initially a major deterrent for switching to the iPhone. Fi has been an excellent carrier for me, despite it being MVNA second-class citizen in the cell tower realm. It is also incredibly affordable — my bill is usually about $30 or less per month. It’s also the easiest carrier to use when you travel internationally; I took a 2-week trip to Hong Kong and Japan in 2019 without making any changes to my plan. For the billing cycle that we were there, it only cost $65 due to the increased data usage and worked perfectly.

After a fair bit of research, I only saw two major issues with using an iPhone on Google Fi. One is that visual voicemail comes through the Google Fi app instead of the regular phone app. The other is that getting text messages to work takes a little extra effort, but Google outlines the steps and it’s a bit tedious but not hard.

The Pixel also has an excellent phone screening function. You can tell Google Assistant to answer a call from a phone number you don’t recognize. The bot answers the call, asks who is calling, and provides a transcript of the call to you as it happens. This was a sure way to test if someone was spam: A legitimate caller would talk to the bot, but a spammer would hang up immediately. You’d also get the option to mark the call as spam when the call ended.

Additionally, when you call a company that has a phone tree menu, Google give you tappable options from the phone tree without you having to sit there and listen to the whole thing to wait for what you want. You can just select the number from the options that Google gives you.

In closing

Switching operating systems for your phone or computer can be daunting. Hopefully, this list makes switching to iPhone a little less irritating from Android. I definitely had to make compromises and was resistant at first, but the Apple Watch has helped make it easier.

And I’m not saying I’ll be an iPhone user forever, but it’s good for what I need in this moment.

Good luck with the switch!

Feature photo by Kiều Trường from Pixabay


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