Keep Android and iOS in Sync, Part 1: Data, Email, Contacts and Calendar

Many of us have devices that run on different operating systems, for example a work iPhone and a personal Android device. Looking at my specific case, I use a Samsung Galaxy Note II as my everyday phone and recently bought an iPad mini, which led me to explore ways of keeping the two in perfect sync.

In an always-connected world, it’s relevant for the two devices to communicate with each other and share data. Most importantly, having your emails, contacts and calendars synchronize from one device to the other is essential. This process should be seamless and transparent to you, so that all your content can be updated on both devices with no hassle. That’s what I will explore in the first part of this series.


Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

1. Data

Sharing files between two devices may end up being a hazardous task, regardless of whether it’s about transferring the PowerPoint presentation you prepared for your meeting, or pictures from your recent trip to Mauritius. Thankfully, the below apps I’ve hand handpicked for you will make this process easy and painless.

File sync roundup: Dropbox

Dropbox

Dropbox is by far my favorite app to share content. What I truly like about it is automatic photo synchronization, which means pictures I take are automatically uploaded to Dropbox. This way, I can later view them on my iPad, even if I don’t have my phone with me. Dropbox is also really good for sharing any kind of file, be it a professional document or a personal backup. However, you should bear in mind that Dropbox is more focused on files and photos and isn’t designed to allow document editing.

Price: Free
Google Play Link: Dropbox
iTunes App Store Link: Dropbox
Developer: Dropbox, Inc.

File sync roundup: Box

Box

Box is also one of my favorite services. It’s not as eye-candy as Dropbox, yet remains very easy to use and synchronizes any type of file seamlessly. Box is more focused on documents and allows you to edit and create new content thanks to partner apps. This way, you can make changes to a document straight from your phone and later present it on your tablet.

Price: Free
Google Play Link: Box
iTunes App Store Link: Box
Developer: Box

File sync roundup: SkyDrive

SkyDrive

SkyDrive is a useful and powerful cloud storage solution and does pretty much the same job as the applications above. Although the online and Windows Phone versions of SkyDrive integrate with Microsoft Office and allow you to create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, Microsoft has preferred not to include this feature on either Android or iOS, preventing you from actually editing files from your mobile device. SkyDrive can still make sense if you use the online version of the tool, as it gives you free access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote in your browser, with automatic sync back to the cloud, for you to view your documents on your iPhone/iPad and Android device.

Price: Free
Google Play Link: SkyDrive
iTunes App Store Link: Skydrive
Developer: Microsoft Corporation

2. Email, Contacts & Calendar

Synchronizing personal information once required plenty of cables and a computer, which backed-up the data from one device and restored it to another. Because we’re modern people at Android.AppStorm, we will dismiss this option. Instead, we will place our focus on synchronizing your emails, contacts and calendar — i.e. your PIM — through the cloud, so that everything can be shared wirelessly, instantly and seamlessly.

Several solutions exist but since we’re specifically addressing Android and iOS owners, it’s safe to assume that most of them will be using a service that is natively available on their devices, i.e. an Apple or a Google account. That’s why we will focus on Google’s Gmail and Apple’s iCloud as ways of transferring PIM between devices. However, if you prefer not to use these services, you can always synchronize your content through another provider, such as Yahoo, Outlook or your company’s Microsoft Exchange servers. These would be set up using either the respective applications for each service, or by setting up Exchange synchronization through your company.

Method 1: Using Google as the Cloud Provider

On any Android device, you are recognized as a Google user and have the ability to automatically synchronize your calendars, contacts and emails.

  • Gmail is set up to sync by default once you add a Google account.
  • For contacts, you have to remember to save new ones as Google Contacts, which is already the default option on many phones. Otherwise, this can be set as the default manually in your contact settings or can be overridden when saving a new contact.
  • As for the Calendar, it works exactly the same way: if you tell your phone to use your Google Calendar as the default one, any information you add or edit will be uploaded to the cloud as soon as you type it.

Now that all the content you create or edit on Android is saved to Google’s servers, you just need to sync it back with your iPad or iPhone in a way that also allows you to make changes from iOS. Here’s how to set up your email and calendar in iOS:

  1. Go to your iOS Settings and select Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  2. Tap on Add Account and select GMail
  3. Once you provide your device with your Google account details, it will prompt you for the type of content you want to sync, as shown below.
  4. Mail and Calendars should already be selected by default, tap Done and you’re all set.
Final screen after setting up your GMail account on iOS

Final screen after setting up your GMail account on iOS

Notice how you can synchronize your Emails and Calendar, but not your contacts. Here’s how to sync this last part:

  1. Go to your iOS Settings and select Mail, Contacts, Calendars — yes, again! Hopefully you haven’t closed that page…
  2. Tap on Add Account and select Other
  3. Under Contacts, select Add CardDAV Account
  4. Put google.com as the Server, your @gmail.com address as the User Name
  5. Enter your Password, give a name to the account and validate
  6. You’re done!

After you’ve completed these steps, we recommend you set these Google accounts as default so that anything you add on iOS is sync’ed to Google’s servers. This is also done through “Mail, Contacts, Calendars,” and remember you’ll have to do it twice, as we set up two different accounts.

Another alternative would be to use the official GMail app in iOS, which will synchronize your email, but not your contacts and calendars. I personally use the Gmail app and have deactivated Mail sync in iOS, so that my emails are in the GMail app and the rest is synced natively through iOS.

Method 2: Using iCloud as the Provider

Alternatively, you may want to use your iPad/iPhone’s native synchronization service, which is a perfectly fine solution. iCloud is compatible with standard protocols, and some may even prefer it over GMail because it syncs seamlessly with all Apple devices including Macs, and also takes some of your data away from Google — who said Big Brother?

Setting up iCloud on your Android device will have to go through a separate step for each content type to sync, as iCloud is not natively supported on Android. Don’t worry though, we’ll walk you through the manual setup of your iCloud account on your Android device.

Step 1: Get Your iCloud Information

Before we even start, you will need to know which iCloud server your account is on. Here’s how to do it:

  1. On your computer, go to iCloud.com and log in with you Apple ID
  2. Click on Calendar
  3. On the left, you should see a list of your calendars. Click to the Sharing icon next to any calendar and tick Public Calendar — see the image below for further clarifications
  4. This will display a long link that looks like webcal://pXX-calendarws.icloud.com/ca/subscribe/…
  5. Write down the two digits after the p — in my personal case, it’s p05. You’re now ready to start setting up your iCloud accounts on your Android device
  6. For privacy reasons, we highly recommend you click Cancel so your calendar is not publicly available on the Internet.
The easiest way to identify your iCloud server is by sharing your calendar

The easiest way to identify your iCloud server is by sharing your calendar

Step 2: Set up Your iCloud Email

iCloud uses IMAP servers to synchronize your emails, which means they’re compatible with virtually any email client you can think of. You can therefore set it up on your favorite Android email client, or your phone/tablet’s native one.

  1. In your email client, add a new account
  2. If prompted for the account type, select IMAP — this option might be under Others or Manual, depending on your client and device
  3. Fill out the fields according to the below information:
    • Email address: your @me.com / @icloud.com address — e.g. [email protected]
    • User name: your Apple ID without the @me.com / @icloud.com — e.g.johndoe
    • Password: your Apple iCloud Password
    • Server: pXX-imap.mail.me.com — in my case, it would be p05-imap.mail.me.com
  4. If prompted for additional settings, you have to use SSL on Port 993 and no TLS certificate
  5. Validate and you’re all set!

Step 3: Prepare for Contact and Calendar Sync

In order to sync your iCloud contacts and calendars, your Android device needs to support the CalDAV and CardDAV protocols. Unfortunately, many phones do not support these systems natively. It’s easy to find out where you stand: if there is no option to add calendars and contact servers under settings, your device doesn’t support these. If it’s the case, don’t panic and simply install the below tools:

PIM roundup: CardDAV-Sync free beta

CardDAV-Sync free beta

Use this app to sync your iCloud Contacts.

Price: Free
Requires: Android 2.1 or above
Google Play Link: CardDAV-Sync free beta
Developer: Marten Gajda

PIM roundup: CalDAV-Sync beta

CalDAV-Sync beta

Use this app to sync your iCloud Calendar.

Price: $2.84
Requires: Android 2.2 or above
Google Play Link: CalDAV-Sync beta
Developer: Marten Gajda

PIM roundup: Caldav Sync Free Beta

Caldav Sync Free Beta

Alternatively, you can use this app to sync your calendar, in case you don’t want to pay for CalDAV-Sync.

Price: Free
Requires: Android 4.0 or above
Google Play Link: Caldav Sync Free Beta
Developer: gege

Now that you’ve downloaded these, you just have to go through a few more steps to set up sync and you’ll be good to go!

Step 4: Set up Your iCloud Contacts

To sync your iCloud contacts:

  1. Add a new account, either natively through your contacts settings or via CardDAV-Sync free beta
  2. Fill out the fields according to the below information:
    • Server name: pXX-contacts.icloud.com — in my case, it would be p05-contacts.icloud.com
    • Tick Use SSL
    • Username: your @me.com / @icloud.com address — e.g. [email protected]
    • Password: your iCloud password
  3. Hit next and you’re done — at least for your contacts!

Step 5: Set up your iCloud Calendar

To sync your iCloud calendars:

  1. Add a new account, either natively through your contacts app or via one of the CalDAV apps shown above
  2. Fill out the fields according to the below information:
    • Server name: pXX-caldav.icloud.com — in my case, it would be p05-contacts.icloud.com
    • Tick Use SSL
    • Username: your @me.com / @icloud.com address — e.g. [email protected]
    • Password: your iCloud password
  3. Hit next and you’re done — for real this time!

From now on, any contacts and calendar modification you make on your Android device will be automatically synced with Apple’s iCloud server, meaning it’ll also be pushed back to your iOS device.

Conclusion

Whether you use Google or Apple’s cloud services, it is — relatively — easy to set up an automatic syncing method between your Android and iOS devices. As for data files and documents, the wide availability of cloud storage solutions that offer Android and iOS apps makes the process effortless — pick a service, install the apps, and you’re good to go.

However, this is just one aspect of keeping Android and iOS in sync. Join us next week, when we take a look at the media aspect, and ways to transfer and sync music, photos and videos between your devices.