Keep your data synced between Android and iOS devices with these easy steps

September 10, 2013

It's certainly not unusual. Perhaps your personal device is an Android phone, but your company has issued you an iPad. My situation is similar – I use an Android-powered HTC One, while my main tablet is an iPad Mini.

At first it may seem like this would be a source of constant irritation. Yet if you are willing to venture outside the world of iCloud, it actually is pretty easy to keep your data synced up nicely.

Contacts, Calendar, Email

One of the most essential areas to sync is your contact list. There are several choices for keeping this together. One is to use an account powered by Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. A corporate Exchange or (formerly Hotmail) will replicate the details entered for contacts across your devices. The setup is fairly straightforward on iOS, which will automatically import your data into the stock mail, contacts, and calendar apps.

It is a little trickier on Android. Google’s platform supports ActiveSync, though you will have to use Android’s feature-slim Email app or look for a third-party alternative from the Play Store, like Touchdown.

Android users, of course, get the best integration by connecting a Google account. Just enter your Google credentials when setting up an Android device and it syncs your information across any Google product you are using.

Connecting that  Google account to your iPad is a little trickier. For contact and calendars the best option (which is also recommended by Google) is to use cardDAV and CalDAV. Google offers step-by-step instructions for doing this with your iOS device.

However, if you are syncing a Google Apps for Business, Education, or Government account you will need to use Google Sync, which requires you to set up the account as an Exchange account.

(Bookmark our OS-specific and hub pages)


This area probably offers the greatest amount of options and flexibility for managing a common set of files. While those using iOS and a Mac can easily share and sync iWork documents, this won’t be an option for those going cross-platform.

First, when it comes to files and spreadsheets consider using Google Drive. The iPad version lags behind the Android app in terms of features, but not by much. My suspicion is that Google realizes it can’t ignore the massive iPad user base and will continue to keep its application robust.

Office users can use Dropbox or Box and add Office or other files into their favorite cloud account. This will give at least read access when pulling them up on a mobile device.

Those who want to do some editing should explore QuickOffice or Documents To Go. Both of these mobile office suites work with the major cloud providers, so you can pull in any file that you wish to edit and then sync back the changes so everything is up to date across devices.

Dropbox and Google+ will also automatically back up photos, which will be a nice replacement for iCloud's photo backup service. The latter was never that good anyway, as it trapped your photos in iPhoto and only would keep the most recent 1,000 images. 

Going forward the key is to look for cross-platform tools that work on both iOS and Android. Fortunately this is increasingly the norm, making it easy for those who do not have as much invested in Apple's ecosystem to look for greener pastures.

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