Using an iPhone in the Google Universe

The world certainly has changed since the late 1990s, when there were only two significant personal computing platforms – Windows with about 95% of the market, Mac at about 5%, and a tiny sliver of Linux users. Today we have mobile operating systems and another personal computing choice, Chrome OS. But what if you want to use your iPhone with a Chromebook?

Some Google apps for the iPhone

For years, I’ve been using Google for the calendar and address book on my Macs and iPhones. I did this primarily because I was still using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and Classic Mode on my PowerPC Macs, as well as 10.5 Leopard, and Apple’s syncing solution no longer supported these platforms. With a Gmail address, I could sync my 2007 Mac mini running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and my older PowerPC Macs to the same contacts list and calendar.

For me it was a no brainer, and moving forward, it’s just as easy to sync newer macOS versions to Google as to .mac, MobileMe, iCloud, or whatever Apple may call it in the future. And I know Google isn’t going to change its service to no longer support my legacy hardware, because there is no benefit to Google to do so.

I’ve also used Google Docs, Google Photos, Google Voice, Hangouts, and other Google services, all tied to the same Gmail accounts.

Playing with Android

I’ve been playing with an Acer Nexus 7 from 2012 for a while now, and I love the fact that it syncs to my Google data as well. As a longtime Mac and iOS user, Android feels alien to me. The keyboard layout is off compared to what I’m used to – even with SwiftKey – and touching something in the notification list and swiping right removes it. On my iPhone, the same action follows that notification. On Android, you double-click for that.

Once you’re in apps, Android isn’t that different from iOS, and I love the 1280 x 800 pixel display on this little tablet.

I have friends who are wed to their Android phones, and Chromebooks have become more popular over the years, so I got to thinking about how to best use an iDevice (or a Mac, for that matter) in the Googlesphere.

Google Plays Nice with iOS, and iOS Plays Nice with Google

Except for the time that Apple replaced Google Maps with its own (definitely inferior at the time) Maps app on the iPhone, Apple and Google have gotten along well. Google was permitted to offer its own maps app, it was just not the default any longer.

some Google apps for the iPhone

Some Google apps for the iPhone.

Email and Contacts

My iPhone has iOS Mail installed, as well as the Gmail app. I use Gmail to access my Google accounts ( email is hosted by Google, so it counts as a Google account), iOS Mail for my iCloud account. I use the iOS Address Book Contacts app (why does Apple keep changing the names of things?), but I no longer sync it with iCloud. I sync to my primary Gmail account.


I haven’t really used the Google Calendar app, but I’ve installed it. Unlike iOS Calendar, the icon doesn’t show the current date, but it seems feature complete. Since both calendar apps access the same data file on Google’s servers, it doesn’t matter which app I use here.


Several weeks ago, I migrated the images from my iPhones, new and old, to Google Photos, and it was a pretty good experience. Duplicate images are identified and easily removed. Some pictures have date issues, which I still need to figure out, and one of my old cameras didn’t distinguish vertical from horizontal images, so I spent an evening rotating vertical photos taken with it. Google Photo did a nice job.

After that, I imported all the images from iPhoto on my Mac. That took a long time. I’ve got pictures going back to Christmas 1999 at my former in-law’s home.

One really nice feature is that Google Photos recognizes faces, as iPhoto has done for years. It seems a bit less accurate than iPhoto, but it’s all done on Google’s servers, so it doesn’t tie up your Mac for a day or more, as it did when I first enabled this iPhoto feature in the OS X Leopard era. I do need to figure out how to undo wrong matches, but the same was true with iPhoto.

Messaging and Chat

The world of instant messaging, as we once called it, has changed greatly over the years. AIM seems all but forgotten, Microsoft Messenger a memory, and Facebook Messenger is the upstart. In the Apple world, we have Messages, which works with SMS and other platforms, but it requires an iOS or macOS device to give you access to all its features.

In the Googleverse, messaging is handled by Hangouts, which was designed especially to handle multiple party communication on a wide range of hardware. It offers messaging, sending photos (directly from the Google Photos app on iOS and Android), voice chat, and video chat. And unlike Apple’s solution (separate Messages and FaceTime apps), Windows, Android, and Chrome OS users all have equal access to its features.

Google Plus

Remember when Google+ was going to take on Facebook and become the next major social media platform? Well, that never happened. G+ had some advantages, such as being able to follow someone without them following you – and then Facebook added the same thing.

Google Plus provides a personal blogging platform, but as far as social media is concerned, it’s a barren wasteland. It is popular in some areas, but here in the US, not so much.

Changing User Accounts

One drawback of iOS is that it’s a single-user operating system. Macs have had multiple users for at least 15 years now, and it’s part of all other major platforms with the exception of iOS. So how do you share an iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone with other users? You are kind of limited there.

Most of the Google apps for iOS let you change user accounts on the fly, Gmail and Hangouts being the ones I’ve done this with the most. Perhaps you have a work email address and a personal account – Google makes it easy to use one or the other (instead of both at once as in iOS Mail and macOS Mail) as you choose.

Google Exclusives

Did you know that you can have a free phone number that has storage for voicemail, does its best to convert messages into text, and automatically forwards calls to your primary phone number – mobile or land line? It’s all part of Google Voice.

You can block certain phone numbers, as many as you want, and if you change carriers or phone numbers, you can easily update Google Voice to use the new phone number.


The beauty of it all is the integration between apps, whether you’re using Mac/iOS or Google. Email links open up in the Apple or Google browser. Contacts are synced with whichever service you use to store them in the cloud.

Best of all, whether you use Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Android, or iOS – or even all of them – you have the same kind of integration that Apple offers only on its own devices.

This also means that if you change platforms or add another one, your photos and contacts and email and all the rest can come right over.

Using Google on the iPhone

I recently set up an old iPhone 4S for a friend who already uses Google apps on a Windows laptop. I replaced the Messages icon with Hangouts, iOS Mail with Gmail in the dock, Photos with Google Photos, and so on. It worked out very nicely. She’s recently acquired a ChromeBook, and integration between the iPhone, ChromeBook, and Windows will be easy.

Google’s Only Drawback

If you’re using iOS 7 or earlier, you’re not going to be able to go to the iOS App Store and download Google’s latest apps – and in many cases, there are no older versions either. All Google apps will run with iOS 9 and later, and many work with iOS 8 as well.

It’s All About Migration

On Macs and iOS devices, it’s always been fairly easy to migrate from one device to another and one OS version to another. With Google services, it’s just as easy to migrate from iOS to Android as from Android to iOS – or use both platforms side-by-side.

So if you’re using Chrome OS or Android, you’re not locked into that operating system. Google makes it easy to switch to Windows, macOs, or iOS and take everything with you if that’s what you want to do.

And if your a Windows, Mac, or iOS user, if you use Google’s services, it will make it that much easier to switch or add another platform.

And if you end up switching from iOS to Android, as Simon Royal did recently, switching to Google apps now will make it that much easier to change platforms.

Keywords: #google #googleservices #googleapps #googleonios #googleverse

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