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Summary:

Apple and Google try to make it hard for their users to venture outside of their ecosystems of devices and web services, but it’s not impossible. If you want to use an Android tablet with a Mac, here are a few tricks for staying in sync.

Red Android mascot
photo: Roshan Vyas

With name brand Android tablets starting at $99 and refurbished ones going for even less, going cross platform is quite easy for Mac and iOS fans who already like Android or who are curious to learn more about it. With 7-inch Android tablets being half the price of an iPad Mini, I find I take my Android tablet more places than I ever did my iPad. Here’s how to get your Android tablet and your Mac — as well as your iOS devices — working well together, whether you use web services from Google, iCloud, or a mix of the two.

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Contacts, calendar and mail

1) Google exclusively

If you’ve already got your contacts and email in Google’s ecosystem and don’t use iCloud, this part of the transition is easy as Mavericks and iOS 7 support Gmail natively (with caveats) as well as contacts and calendars.

2) Both Google and iCloud via syncing

If you’ve got an iOS device or a Mac OS computer with content already in iCloud and want to have two-way synchronization between your Android and Apple devices, the process isn’t that difficult.

On your Mac, Contacts Sync for Google Gmail will sync your contacts database with Google (a similar app exists for iOS) or you can use third-party services such as Plaxo or Memotoo, which will provide additional synchronization with services such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

To keep a universal inbox and not have to check email in both places, you can forward all your emails from iCloud to your Gmail account and respond there or alternatively forward your Gmails to iCloud. Either way, you’ll have all your email with one service and won’t have to check two boxes.

For your calenders, since both iCloud and Google support CalDAV, you can access your calendars through either service. Syncing won’t be necessary, however I’m a big fan of BusyCal, I’ve always found much easier to add calenders from multiple sources.

iCloud login

3) iCloud exclusively

For reasons of security, convenience or personal choice, you don’t have to sync any data with Google. You can access key iCloud content on your Android device without ever having to use Google’s services.

iCloud uses IMAP for email, so either the included email app or third-party apps will work. No additional configuration is necessary and there’s no need to use a Gmail account

For contacts, any app that supports CardDav will work but programs such as SmoothSync For Cloud makes it extremely easy. Put in your iCloud ID and the app does the rest.

Similarly for the calendar, apps that support CalDav will allow you to access iCloud calendars but SmoothSync for Cloud Calendars involves simply putting in your iCloud credentials and the program configures itself.

Tasks and Notes

1) Google exclusively

Since Google is web-based, if you want to use your Google Tasks on your Mac or iOS device you can do it via the web. Alternatively, desktop apps such as Taskit or iOS apps such as Calendars 5 can use Google’s task list.

For notes, the closest equivalent is Google Keep, which currently doesn’t have a Mac app and is web-only on non-Android Devices

2) Both Google and iCloud via syncing

For this, Memotoo saves the day as it will sync both your tasks list and reminders between Google and iCloud. If you use Siri on your iOS device, this will be an easy way to add things to Google’s Tasks.

3) iCloud exclusively

Because tasks and notes are stored in iCloud’s iMAP and CalDAV accounts, accessing this data was easy as well on the Android tablets via third party apps such as Tasks and iNotes.

Music Syncing and iTunes Match

While iTunes won’t easily move songs to your Android device, third-party programs exist to make it easier. In particular, Double Twist for MacOS makes it extremely easy, directly accessing the iTunes playlists and content, and for free. For syncing wirelessly, Double Twist makes Airsync that accesses the iTunes content directly to your Android device. Alternatively, iSyncr and TuneSync install a program on your Mac or PC and then an Android app connect to your Mac to download the content.

iTunes Match

If all you want is music, rather than an iTunes playlist, the free Android File transfer utility allows copying of music. Because many Android devices have MicroSD slots, you can also copy your music on there and listen that way. Another option is AirDroid which allows remote control of your Android device via a web browser to install (as well as play) music.

For the equivalent of iTunes Match, there is Google Play Music and Google’s Music Manager. You can upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud-based music service and then listen via the web of the iOS app.

Cloud Print — Airprint equivalent

Many printers that support Airprint also support Google’s Cloud Print. Apps exist on all platforms to enable printing via Google’s Cloud Print. Most printers that connect to a Mac or PC can be supported this way. Alternatively Lanxtronix has an upcoming device that allows most printers to be converted to Google Cloud Print. I’m excited to review it when it arrives.

Airplay

For viewing audio and video content from your Google device to an Airplay enabled device, DoubleTwist saves the day again with AirTwist – as an in-app purchase on your tablet. Alternatively, there is always Google’s Chromecast for viewing Android content on your TV — at less than half the price of an AppleTV.

iMessage

This is still a Apple-only feature and beware of non-Apple apps that claim to support iMessage. For cross-platform messaging, Whatsapp is a great alternative and is now owned by Facebook.

Opera on Android tablet

Data and documents syncing

While documents stored on iCloud are not accessible via your Android tablet, Dropbox, Skydrive (now OneDrive) and Google Drive make it very easy to access content across iOS, Android and MacOS/Windows. All these services worked very well. Airdroid and the Android File Transfer utility as well as the MicroSD card made moving content across devices easy.

App Purchasing

App purchases can be made on the device or on the web and will install remotely on your Android devices. Due to fragmentation, not all apps work on all Anrdroid devices. Without “jailbreaking” your Android device you can purchase apps from alternative vendors such as Amazon or the manufacturer can directly sell you the APK (equivalent on an iOS IPA file). These can be installed the same way as any document.

With Amazon’s App store you can test many apps in a Android VM directly on Amazon’s website and purchases via Google Play can be refunded within a 15 minutes window. I like these alternatives for purchasing and installing apps.

Living in the cloud: a key to harmony and saving some money

Using a Dell Venue 7” tablet (see disclosure) for a few months now the workflow has been incredible between my Mac and Windows computers, iPad and iPhone. I keep most of my documents in Dropbox so they are accessible anywhere, using Pocket to capture webpages and newsfeeds for later reading, giving me something to read anytime. Pocket allows me to send content directly to Evernote for archiving and of course Evernote is great for cross-platform note taking (no Penultimate for Android though). Remote control programs such as Teamviewer allow me direct control of my Macs and my PCs from anywhere. When not in direct use my Android tablet sits next to my laptop as an extra screen via Airdisplay. One place I’d never take an iPad is into the gym for weight lifting, but my 7” Android tablet is small enough to travel with me and inexpensive enough that I’m not as worried about breaking it.

While I still love my iPhone and iPad, given the low price of Android tablets, I don’t feel guilty having a full sized iPad and a Android tablet and I’m not sacrificing my Apple-centric lifestyle! I truly feel I have the best of both worlds,

Disclosure: Intel provided a Dell Venue 7” tablet and Galaxy Tab 10.1 for review.

Featured photo courtesy of Flickr user Roshan Vyas

  1. Whatsapp doesn’t work on tablets (unless you have one with a SIM card and/or perform various steps to trick it into thinking its a phone – not something a ‘normal’ person would be capable of)

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    1. I’d agree. Here were the steps I used for testing http://www.androidpit.com/get-whatsapp-on-your-tablet

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  2. Next week you can tell me how to install Windows Mobile on my iPad Air.

    After I hit myself in the forehead with a ball peen hammer for an hour or so. That will make it feel alright.

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