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.

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.