When it comes to gadgets, familiarity can be reassuring. One in five of the tablet owners we surveyed said they bought the model they have because it uses the same operating system (or “platform”) as gear they own. Most of those respondents were “Apple people” who wanted an iPad, most likely because it uses Apple’s simple interface and could easily share their existing content.
But adding a new OS to the mix, or even switching entirely, isn’t as daunting as you might fear. Today’s operating systems are quite intuitive and easy to learn, and chances are you can easily transfer much of your content.
Given that Apple has dominated sales of both phones and tablets, most users who are switching platforms, or mixing them within the home, are likely to be moving from iOS, so we’ve geared our advice in that direction.
With the exception of some older (DRM-protected) iTunes purchases, music ripped or downloaded from the iTunes store in MP3 or Apple’s favored AAC formats and played on an iPhone or iPad can be transferred to a new non-Apple device attached to your computer via USB. You drag and drop it to the device from the music folder on your computer.
If you use a Windows PC, you can, for more flexibility, switch your computer’s music app from iTunes to Google Music Manager for Android. However, if you’re switching from Apple to another platform, you won’t be able to use iTunes on the device itself; the app is available only for iOS. Instead, use the music manager that’s pre-installed on the other device.
If you’re reading e-books from either Barnes & Noble or Amazon on one platform, just download the app for the new one to read those titles. (No such luck with Kindle or Nook e-book readers, though. Each accepts books only from its own platform.)
Hollywood movies have so much copy protection that a title you bought on iTunes for an iOS device won’t play on an Android device. Likewise, movies purchased on Google Play or Amazon for an Android device won’t play on an Apple gadget.
Games and some other apps bought for one platform won’t transfer to another, so you’ll have to rebuy them. But our readers used mostly free apps. You’ll have to download them again, but they won’t cost anything.
Virtually all of the most popular account-based apps (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, e-mail, and messaging) are available free on all platforms. Data and account preferences are stored remotely, so they’ll be the same no matter what device you’re using. But features may differ by platform.
Content stored on Apple’s iCloud can’t be accessed on mobile platforms other than iOS. You can pull the content down to a computer, though, and upload it to a platform-neutral service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive.
Becoming a multiplatform household might be easier than you think.