Would you switch to iPhone if you could transfer your paid Android apps?

Alongside iOS 9, Apple released a Move to iOS app to help Android owners transfer their content to iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook said a record rate of iPhone customers—some 30%—were switchers, so they wanted to make it as easy as possible. But if switchers have bought Google Play apps, they'll have to buy them again on iOS. Could that cost prevent some from making the switch? And if it does, could something be done about it?

A few days ago I was part of a conversation about the inability of developers to offer cross-grades, or cross-platform upgrade pricing for customers switching from Android to iPhone.

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For Google Play content it's not a problem. You simply download the iOS versions of Google Play Movies, Google Play Books, etc. and keep right on enjoying all the media you own. Free apps, some freemium apps, and apps with subscriptions are likewise easy to re-download and keep on using.

Apps that are paid up front, not so much. Whether that's a problem that needs solving or not depends on a few factors.

1. Do Android switchers have a significant amount of paid apps to transfer?

If the average person does have a lot of paid apps, then it's a major barrier.

If not, if most people have a predominance of free or freemium apps, then it's not a barrier.

2. Do Android switchers expect to be able to transfer paid apps?

If developers and customers look at phones like computers, than there's a tradition of some companies offering cross-grades for people who switch from PC to Mac, for example. That creates the expectation for cross-grades.

If developers and customers look at phones like consoles, than there's no such tradition. For example, if you switch from Xbox One to PS4, there's no expectation that you'll be able to take your purchases with you.

3. Could cross-grades work?

If cross-grades are a barrier for switchers, and something developers and customers expect, Apple could make things easier and better for everyone by figuring out a way to enable them.

For example, developers could opt-in to a cross-grade program as part of the iTunes Connect process. Then the Move to iOS app could offer something like a "promo code" as part of the process. Redeem the code, and the cross-grade happens. There could be other, better methods for implementing it too, of course.

Switching to iPhone

Like with the Move to iOS app, it's in Apple's best interest to make switching from Android to iPhone as easy as possible, and developers' best interests to keep customers following the switch. Whether or not potential switchers have a large investment in Android apps and expect to be able to move them over remains a question.

If you're an Android owner thinking of making the switch, has the idea of re-buying paid apps held you back?

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Apps are not preventing me from switching. No dedicated file manager? Yeah that's the rub.
  • Exactly my case. Proper file management is what keeps me from using iPhone as my daily driver. Now about the question, I would love to have my paid iOS apps on Android. Posted from the sweet LG G4
  • Second that. Without a means of managing on device storage, there will never be consideration for moving over. Being limited to using unnecessary data to move files around is ridiculous.
    Also was very willing to give up hundreds in iTunes content to leave as well for this same reason. I have a high data plan but I don't feel a need to waste it for a simple file move\attach.
  • LOL, you know I’d consider switching FROM iPhone if I was more certain about a few things.
  • HEEELLLL NO! I wouldn't switch If Cook himself hand delivers a free iPhone to me.
  • I'm already and iPhone user. I switched from android a year ago. However I started out with the iPhone and used it for 3 years before I switched to android for a few years. When coming back to the iPhone last year I was not bothered about the apps that I had accumulated on android. I actually had more apps and content from my original iOS days. The quality of apps on android isn't that good so I didn't buy that many apps. So I wasn't that bothered about loosing it when switching back. A lot of the apps I had purchased on iOS were not available on android so I was happy to be able to use these again. Sent from the iMore App
  • I am thinking to switch to Android because they don't let me use my paid apps from iTunes.. Used to live in US now I Am living in another country and using another Store.. I closed all my bank accounts in US. Now I can't download apps I paid hundreds of dollars... They removed None payment option when switching countries.. So greedy!
  • Before you judge Apple, you need to educate yourself about the idiotic crap that Apple has to go through with the governments of these other countries. It's their laws that put up these barriers, not Apple's greed.
  • So it was possible to switch between stores since iPhone 4, and became impossible with iOS 9 and especially with Apple Music's launch??? Their goal is to collect credit/debit cards! Yes it's Apple's fault!
  • Yes especially with Apple music, complain to the record companies if you want that to change. That issue revolved around the contracts Apple has to sign to have them on the streaming service. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • The headline is almost a trick question since most Android users are cheaptards and freetards. They likely don't have any paid apps to transfer.
  • And one wonders why some Android users think some Apple users are snobs.
  • Wow. I like how you generalize all Android users within the same conclusion. Not only is this dumb on 10 different levels, but there are plenty of Android users who buy apps and the experience is quite amazing. Also, with that same ideology, would you consider those who bought iPhone 5C's "cheaptards" because they bought a cheaper iPhone? Just a thought... Posted with the Nexus 6, Nexus 5, or Surface Pro 3
  • Last I checked, Samsung's high end phones cost more than iPhones this time. The whole price/quality thing is a garbage argument by the way. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • +1 Rene, Next time you call people "Rude" or "Troll" because they call you out or before you threaten to ban people who disagree with you, take a look at your own fanboys' language
  • Wow such a rude comment, I just switched back to iOS from android which I been using a lot more and I purchased a lot of apps
  • Hate to say it but this is somewhat accurate minus the name calling. Android users are cheaper generally. Ads are destroying my browsing on my android phones where using 1blocker on my iphone 6s+ is much more interruption free. Lots of android users were surprised to see that 60+% of black friday week sales were done on iphones/ipads. iPhone users have always spent more in their app store. Posted via my Nexus 6P!
  • I am a longtime iPad user and have collected hundreds of apps. However I am currently iPad-less and have never owned an iPhone. I have been an Android phone user for 3 years and currently have a Sony Xperia C4. I absolutely love the Xperia's screen, and the phone's build quality. Plus the phone was $199 unlocked, free and clear. Apple can't match the pricing I can justify to buy a phone outright at the moment, so... tradeoffs. I don't have a ton of paid Android apps though. The reason is most of the Android apps I have tried do not meet the same quality and usability standards present in iOS. With Material design things are beginning to pull together a little better for Android but due to the open market there is no consistency. So no, I may be a weird exception by having owned both iOS and Android devices, but I don't care if I can get a cross grade or not. Exceptional Android apps worth a crossgrade are few and far between in my experience.
  • I go back and forth. Paid apps should go both ways... Not only to iPhone, but if you're switching to android, paid apps should go with you to android. I've used both OSs enough that most of the paid apps I have on android I have also bought on iPhone. Sent from the iMore App
  • Anytime I switched back and forth between platforms all my apps were still there - the only time I had a issue with not having a app that I wanted was when I went to a Windows Phone
  • 1) I have data, I want to use them, so I want the matching software (ecosystem included). Then I choose the hardware to run that software on.
    To say it rudely: the more easily you can change from Android to iOS or in reverse, the less likely that you need a SMARTphone. (I do apologize to cross-platform developers!) 2) I daily use four smartphones across three operating systems, but only two of these have a SIM-card. Tablets and desktops also three operating systems each.
    It feels comparable to a toolbox: I may use one screwdriver more than another, but I prefer to have likely usages covered. 3) @ Howielsaacks:
    You (anyone) may be willing to pay for an app if it is worth the price to you. Judging from the prices (and numbers) of apps at the stores, Apple's ecosystem is considered more satisfactory (productively and consumptively) than Google's. 4) @ mattdamiz85:
    Yes, finding a satisfactory file manager was my biggest frustration with iOS. And finding something like Total Commander (more than a dual-pane file manager) when being outside Windows (and Android and vintage Windows Mobile) at all.
    Despite finding promising alternatives, I use Total Commander on OS X and Ubuntu through CrossOver.
    Since migrating much of my active data to clouds, the need for an on-device file manager for iOS has eased. I must have purchased most file managers for iOS, but I seem to settle on Documents 5 and Cloud Commander when needing one at all.
  • Chris, You have 4 smartphones that you use daily. What are you a drug dealer?
  • No, we are just schizofrenic. ;-) Actually, I'm alternatingly using an iPhone 6 and a Galaxy S6 for real phone use. I use a Nexus 5 (my preceding Android phone) for "watching" television and sometimes as an auxiliary GPS device. I use my first (of two) old Windows phones for playing Bubble Breaker and as a kitchen timer. I don't currently use my second old Windows phone and my dumbphone.
  • Where ever possible, especially with premium subscriptions, I will always try and go through the vendors website to subscribe so that I can use the premium model on other devices. Plus I avoid the 30% Apple tax.
  • I switched a few months ago. I had a lot of paid apps but gave them up because I really wanted to experience iOS. I did buy a few of the apps again for my iPhone but would have loved to keep all of them without paying twice.
  • I have been pretty fortunate that the majority of apps I use are cross platform especially when it comes to data contained in the apps.
  • I've actually switched to the iPhone 3 times since the release of the 5s. But "I just can't" with the operating system and I always go crawling back to Android.
  • I just moved to iOS last week from Android. I started considering the switch with the reveal of the 6 and 6 Plus last year since the small screen was a big part of why I didn't want an iPhone. Apps are what held me back. I've been an Android user since 2009, less than a year after it's launch. Over that time, I've accumulated a good number of paid apps. One of which is a $15 astronomy app I use to control my telescope. While that app is also available on iOS, spending $15 again on software I already bought once stings. And that is just my most expensive app, not my only paid app. I use Pocketcasts every day and I don't want to buy it again, but, while better than Android's, the iPhone's native podcast app is eh at best. I've bought a large number of apps and games. It would be really nice to get them back, or at least get a discount on the iOS version.
  • So you use and love an app everyday but wouldn't pay the dev. 5-10 bucks if you switch operating systems? You'll dump over a 1000 dollars in a single year on the phone plan not to mention 100s of dollars on the phone. But that few bucks is what "stings"?
  • He said it "stings" - not "lops off my arm".
  • I made no reference to "arm lopping". Don't see your point...
  • The point is that a sting, in its very essence, is a minor nuisance with a little bit of pain. Your previous comment gave me the impression that you think he's much more upset about it than he actually is. Heck, he didn't even say that he DIDN'T buy it - I read it like he DID buy it again, further diminishing the magnitude of your argument. That's all.
  • I've not bought it again yet, but I am going to. I bought it on Android because Android completely lacks a native podcast app and the free ones are, in my opinion, garbage while Pocketcasts is a really great piece of software. I decided to give Apple's Podcast app a try and, while it is technically better than the non-existant Android native podcast app, I'm thoroughly unimpressed by it. So, ShiftyJelly will get another $5 bucks.
  • Etnpmye is right, your comment makes it sound like I'm much more irritated than I am. It is an annoyance, but, obviously since I switched anyway, not a deal breaker. It was something that kept me from switching when I was on the fence, not something that kept me from switching once I realized the iPhone was better fit for what I wanted. My answer to this really depends on the app and exactly how much work goes into moving it between OSes. In interviews, ShiftyJelly has said that their server infrastructure to immediately update multiple podcasts (instead of having to check each podcast's server independently) is a large part of its relatively high cost (for a podcast app). They do not have to have separate servers for iOS and Android, so paying for both is irritating. If it is an app that has to be almost entirely rewritten, then I've got no problem paying for it again. I've got no problem paying devs for their work, which is why I had way more paid apps than your average Android user. However, I don't like paying someone for the same work twice.
  • Boy, talk about a clickbait article. Of course all the iHaters will fall all over themselves to declare iOS a piece of crap as usual. But in the REAL world it is actually happening. Android users are moving to iOS in growing numbers. Apple estimates as much as 30% of new iPhones are sold to previous Android users.
  • And all the iSheep will support whatever Rene says no matter what. It is a fact of life like death and paying taxes. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • But Apple doesn't pay taxes
  • Now THAT. IS funny.
  • Neither does Google, Amazon and probably Microsoft. What's your point? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Short answer : No.
    Longer answer: They are different platforms, you should buy it again. I liked a Betamax movie then bought the VHS. I liked a DVD then bought the Bluray. This world we've come to live in is weird. We want everything for free then complain when it's underdeveloped or sub-par. I do like the world of free or supported updates. Too many times back in the day you'd buy version 1.0 and it had issues and a developer trys to sell the 2.0 with the fix for either full or a slightly discounted price.
  • Re-buying my apps was a deterrent for sure - but ultimately I just bit the bullet and switched when I got the 6s. I re-bought all of my apps and am now sitting happy. ...But I can see that this would certainly win a few hearts over. I, for one, would replace my Nexus Players with Apple TVs in a heartbeat if I didn't have to re-buy all of THOSE apps and games...
  • Has anyone replaced an android phone with a 6S plus? I'm actually thinking of trying it out.
  • NO Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I think being able to download paid apps for free because you paid for them on Android would be detrimental to the App Store. The best apps on Android aren't necessarily the best apps on iOS and vice versa. Such a policy would encourage Android developers to create iOS apps, for sure, but not necessarily to make the best iOS app they could - because they'd have a built-in customer base without necessarily having to out-compete the best iOS apps, because of the cost advantage platform-switchers would have to stick with the apps they knew from Android. I think a better solution would be to provide switchers with an App Store credit they could use on whichever apps they want. I think that's fairer to developers who are iOS-only, and encourage the highest quality apps in the App Store, which I know is something Apple has a desire and incentive to do.
  • Ahh, lock-in. But wait ... I thought Android users didn't like to pay for apps? How much are we talking about here, anyway? I've spent a fortune on iOS apps so it would hurt to lose access to all my stuff, but it's mostly video games. There's always something new to play on mobile so it's not a huge deal. A worse problem for me is how iTunes purchases (books, movies, TV shows) can't be used on Android because there's no cross-licensing. Apple Music is breaking down this wall a little bit and perhaps that trend will improve with time. You know who does this pretty well? Disney Movies Anywhere -- they let you add different services to your Disney account, enabling you to see your purchased stuff on Apple, Google (including Youtube), Microsoft, Amazon, Vudu, and probably more. It's good enough that I've always got a way to play a kids' film wherever I go, just by logging into the device at hand, even if it's not something I usually use.
  • Don't be fooled by Apple music. The android app for Apple music is the biggest piece of **** that an app developer cloud make. the first app for android is only designed getting your money for music, but all the itunes you already have you still can't play on the app. Apple wasn't so ******* control hungry, they could have made an itunes android app and cheap Android users would have spent a fortune on music. This is how Google Play music free storage replaced itunes(you can upload iTunes music you purchased, because after all Apple doesn't own them like they want).
  • The question doesn't directly apply to me as, with multi-platform aspirations including Apple, Android, and Windows, there's a sense in which I'll never "switch" to iPhone. However, in another sense, rocking an iPhone currently, where I was very recently rocking an Android phone*, and trying to install the iOS equivalents to as many of my Android apps as possible onto my iPhone and iPad, there's another sense where I already have "switched" to iOS. And so neither one of these perspectives really directly apply. That is, having to re-purchase apps is not hindering or preventing me from "coming to Apple" as insofar as I ever will, I already have. But my somewhat uncommon situation and stance does present another wrinkle to this question: While there are a smattering of apps I used daily on my Android that just don't exist on iOS - such as all the Mobile Nations apps minus iMore**, there are also several apps that I have either already paid for on Android or didn't have to pay for that I do not have on my iOS devices since I'd have to pay for them again. So while this doesn't completely "bar me from entry" into the platform, it is a serious impediment to my ability to fully enjoy it. If they find a way to enable "cross-grade", it would certainly make my life better, as well as facilitating those wanting to make the move. But while there is incentive for Apple and Apple's users to have a cross-grade situation, I'm not sure what's the benny for the developers - especially for people like me who are not leaving anything behind in he move, but going in on all of them. What would compel the developers to do this other than Apple and/or Google and / or Microsoft slipping an extra little was of cash in heir Chriatmas stocking to do it? So, while I love the idea - for obvious reasons - I doubt we'll actually see it anytime soon. Maybe AFTER I re-buy all my apps, then maybe they'll roll it out, cause that's just the luck I have. :-) Cheers! *=I plan to buy a Nexus 6p his coming tax time, and assuming Verizon and Microsft can play nice by then, a Windows Phone by no later than he following tax time (hopefully one of the [so-called] "Surface Phones" that's rumored to launch. Right now, the only phone I have with carrier service is the iPhone6+ (as opposed to 6s+) **=Does anyone know when/if the other Mobile Nations apps will be coming to iOS (like Android Central, and Windows Central, etc)? Also, does anyone know why we don't have them already? Is it an App Store prohibition situation? Can anyone confirm / deny? Thanks!
  • Buying apps again isn't the issue for me. I don't want the lack of customization and lack of a file manager that comes with iOS. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Honestly, for the last two or three years using my Lumia 1520 as my daily driver, it had a file manager (File Explorer) and I can't think of one time that I actually used it (or needed it) for anything. I mean, what kind of files are you guys trying to "manage"? It's probably just me, but I don't need that on my phone.
    Anyone want to give an example of a use-case scenario where a file manager would come in handy on a phone that doesn't have micro SD card expansion?
  • Windows Phone file manager is very limited compared to the file managers available for Android. Android file managers allow one to access data on multiple devices on the same network. Android devices have the ability to be FTP clients or servers. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I get that. There's all sorts of FTP Client/server, and file manager apps for iOS as well. But still... Use case scenario?
  • There is no need to use a storage provider app to add attachments to email as mentioned here: How to add email attachments to Mail for iPhone and iPad http://www.imore.com/how-add-email-attachments-mail-iphone-and-ipad Files can be attached to emails directly from their folders on the device. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Fair enough. That's something I'd probably never need to do, but at least it's possible.
  • I use my windows phone like a USB storage. When I want to copy something back home from office. That's come in handy. Windows phone has one of the best file manager so far, they let you manage certain files but not all files in the system. Android is too many thing, they let you manage almost anything (sometimes can be quite confusing). And iOS has a crappy file manager, You can only download pictures from the phone. Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S6
  • One thing I have noticed is that vsco and Pixlr have allowed users to use their purchases from Android to use their in app purchase on ios since I have swapped my android tablet to an ipad and found this out now Sent from the iMore App
  • Would be a total downgrade.
  • Nah, I like having an OS that doesn't babysit as much. If I want to use Telegram or Signal *instead* of the default messenger app, I want to be able to replace it. I also like having apps that can monitor WiFi and things like that. I do prefer that Android is more OpenSource, and not as restrictive.
  • The expensive apps from Apple store that prevent me to switch Android phone.