Monday, November 9, 2015

Google infiltrates iOS - Googlifying your iPhone/iPad/iPod

We get a lot of requests from novice and veteran Google users alike who want to better integrate the Google experience into their iOS devices. Not all users of Google's massive ecosystem are Android users which makes the Google-on-iOS combination quite appealing if you enjoy Apple's hardware, customer service, and general usability.

If you use an iOS device, replacing Apple's default apps with Google alternatives is now a seamless experience, especially compared to the painful past. It's very easy to do, and if done properly, you'll probably never need to open the default Apple apps ever again. Begin by downloading the Google apps you'll need to begin the 'Google-fication' of your iOS device. Here's a list of some of the most popular ones.


These are just a handful of the many Google apps that can replace most, if not all, of Apple's default apps. Although Apple does not allow you to pick a default app for a specific service, Google has implemented a clever workaround for this: all of Google's apps (and even many third party apps) have an "open in" option that gives you the ability to open links in the intended Google app. For example, this will allow you to open links in Chrome, videos in YouTube, and addresses in Google Maps.

The Google Hangouts setting here shows a list of existing Google apps that links will direct to.
You'll find that nearly all of Google's apps have this setting to some extent, enabling you to stay fully within the Google world. Although this setting allows fluidity between Google apps, you still can't change things like your default email or calendar app, which is an understandable compromise if you fully buy into the plethora of Google's ecosystem.

Google's apps weren't always the best on iOS as they weren't as polished as Apple's were, but in our experience, this has changed and they now far outstrip Apple's default offerings. Google Maps and the Drive suite of apps (Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides) are both great examples of how far Google has come on the iOS platform. Google Maps offers better driving directions than Apple Maps, as well as cycling and transit directions, and navigation inside buildings where supported. Furthermore, Drive is much easier to use for storage than iCloud and offers you access to all of your files without configuring and searching through unnecessary settings. And as you'd expect, Drive automatically opens any files in the appropriate Google app, ignoring Apple's defaults entirely.

With all these Google Apps taking over iOS defaults, there are still a few small drawbacks. Google tends to update its iOS apps more slowly than its Android counterparts. Unless you really need to have the latest updates, this isn't really problematic, but it does mean they won't integrate with the latest iOS features immediately. For example, many Google apps don't have Notification Center support, and none of them have Force Touch support yet. If these aren't of concern to you, then your Google experience on iOS can be near-perfect. 

If you're faithful to iOS, but still want or need to indulge in Google's apps for personal or work reasons, hopefully you now see that Google and iOS can harmoniously coexist. Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds! Check out this article from LifeHacker to learn about more Google apps and their integration to iOS.