I can’t recall the last time I switched between Android and iOS for my daily driver—the phone I use for all my personal stuff, not just the phone(s) I use for various Lifehacker-related things. And while technology has come a long way, my assumption is that it’s still a nightmare to transfer the full contents of one’s phone to another that’s based on a competing platform.
Unfortunately, Lifehacker reader Liseetsa is experiencing this joy firsthand, and I worry there’s little advice I can give her that will actually solve her problem: how to migrate her Android’s messages to iOS. As she told Tech 911:
“Some of us use messaging almost like a database. I have a team of co-workers who have sent screen shots and messages with photos (mms) every day for years. I usually don’t forward them to an email account or save the text/photo to the phone files/back up cards. Apple sales promised their Move to iOS app could handle the mms transfer from Android 4.0 or higher to iPhone.
Weeks later, they are still working on “bugs” in the app that are stripping my attachments from messages and dumping them in a spontaneously created thread (from me to me) containing nothing but images without any indication of who sent them or when. It’s like a shoe box of photos in your grandmother’s closet. They insisted I go into the COVID world to an authorized dealer to upgrade the Android Operating System from a 6.0 to an 8.0— saying that was the problem and there was nothing they could do until my system was upgraded. Then they ran a log and found a “bug in the app.” They said it would take a few days for them to fix it and they’d get back to me.
Last week I started receiving messages that they are trying to get in touch with me— hopefully because they fixed the bug. But the links never work and I’ve been on hold with “lower level techs” for hours waiting for the upper level techs to tell me if the engineers have fixed it. Should I try the transfer again? “
Moving messages is more complicated than you might think
As mentioned, I haven’t done this move in… far too long. And since I use an iPhone for my daily interactions, walking you through the process of getting its messages onto an Android wouldn’t help much. (You’re going the opposite way, after all.)
My best advice is going to sound a bit generic, so let me lead off with that first before we get into some solutions you might not particularly love. Before you do anything transfer-related, make sure you’re using the most up-to-date operating system and apps on both your iPhone and your Android. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to transfer your messages either way, but using the latest version of an OS will give you the best possible chance of migrating your messages from one platform to another.
Beyond that, I assume that you’ve taken Apple’s advice and checked out its easy-to-understand website for migrating from Android to iOS. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the “Move to iOS” app, which could help you out, but isn’t always as helpful as its name implies. I’ve read plenty of reports from people who’ve said this seemingly simple app just doesn’t work—or takes forever even if it does.
If you’re not finding any luck there, it’s possible that your carrier might have an app you can try instead. Each of the big three—AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile—should offer their own free transfer app. Again, there’s no guarantee that any of them will work perfectly for your situation, but I have seen people have more success with one of them than Move to iOS.
Maybe giving up is a good thing?
I think your best bet is to abandon ship. That doesn’t mean tossing away the extensive text history on your Android. Rather, grab an app like SMS Backup & Restore and use that to export your messages to an XML file, which you can then convert to a more easily readable HTML file. (There are other apps that might be able to do this all in one shot, but I haven’t tested them.)
You can then upload that file, and any attachments, to a cloud storage service. Feel free to browse that file on your new iPhone if you ever have to refer back to something you said in a previous text.
Is this an ideal fix? No. Not at all. In a perfect world, it would be incredibly easy to transfer your messages to a new platform. Though, would you really want that? Suppose someone gets their hands on your device or the login for this mythical, cross-platform cloud messaging service. Would you really want them to have a quick way to export your entire messaging history to another platform entirely? Probably not. Were your messages all connected via the cloud and easy to export/import back and forth to other platforms, I suspect the hacking possibilities could be a lot more unpleasant.
This kind of cooperative setup would also require Google and Apple to play nicely, and I doubt either has much of an interest in providing a simple way to move your messages from their platform to that of a competitor.
So, unfortunately, you’re a bit stuck. If these simpler solutions don’t work for you, I’m not what it’s going to take to get your Android messages over to iOS—if it’s even possible. Honestly, I think the “backup and review as necessary” technique is the way to go. I used to worry a lot about preserving my phone’s messages when moving through different Android phones, until I finally realized that I rarely—if ever—search through old text messages.
Treat text messages as the ephemeral notifications they are, and plant your must-save conversations on another platform that’s universally accessible and allows you to save a reasonably long history. That probably isn’t something like Slack (unless you have a corporate account with great retention policies), but could be as simple as a shared folder/note/photo album. Or, barring that, a cloud document that everyone can access and update.
While it’s a bummer that you might not get your old messages onto your new iPhone, this move offers you an opportunity to rethink about how you and your colleagues communicate. And if that helps you find a better, future-proof and platform-agnostic solution, well, the loss of some messages might be worth it.
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