Why Would You Want To?
I’m one of those people who loves my MacOS computer and wouldn’t think of returning to Windows unless either Microsoft came up with something incredible, or Apple decided to nerf MacOS to the point where it was no longer usable. But, I don’t posess an iPad or iPhone (although I used to) having switched my mobile/tablet experience to Android.
Many people think that for the best experience you need to be all Apple or all Google. Fortunately, in this day and age, that’s no longer true. It’s extremely easy to set up your Mac and Android devices to talk to each other for most uses. Things such as ‘handoff’ won’t work of course, but syncing your contacts, calendar and e-mails between MacOS on your desktop and Android on your phone/tablet is a doddle. Even video calling between devices is possible with a bit of assistance from external software packages such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
Is It Easy To Use MacOS with an Android Phone?
It’s fair to say it’s not as easy to use an Android with your Mac as it is to use an iPhone. But it is very much possible and it’s not all that much harder. There’s plenty of software available that will make it easier and much of it comes straight from Google, though there’s some that might be required to make things even easier, such as copying photos and music. I’ll get into that in more depth later in this article.
But the short answer is “Yes, it’s quite easy”. I use a MacBook Pro and as mentioned earlier wouldn’t consider going back to Windows for my main work and I wouldn’t consider going back to an iPhone for my phone either.
Are There Any Advantages to Having an Android phone?
I’ve found there’s a lot of advantages to using MacOS with an Android phone.
Cost of the phone. This is the biggest one for me! I currently use a OnePlus 6 which cost me around £450 to buy outright from O2. This phone is unlocked and I actually use it on Vodafone. At the time of writing the most equivalent iPhone is the iPhone 8 with 64GB of storage and the cheapest I can find that today online is a shade under £600.
Variety. This is another big winner. If you don’t mind a budget Android phone you can get one a lot cheaper even than the OnePlus 6. If you prefer Motorola phones ( or Lenovo as they are now ), or Samsung, or Huawei etc etc, there’s plenty of choice – all with slightly different features but the same Android operating system. The choice of different Android phones is huge.
No tie-in to the App Store. This is a bit of an advantage and a disadvantage. If you’re proficient with your device you can do all manner of customizations that you couldn’t do with an iPhone using 3rd party software. Having said that, as the recent ‘Fortnite’ app debate has shown, it can be a bit of a security nightmare if you do go outside of the walled garden to play. It’s possible to download malware for Android much more easily than it is for iPhone. But if you’re not sure how to keep your Android safe just stick to apps from the Play Store and let Google take care of it.
Phone expandability. Many Android phones allow microSD cards to be inserted to increase the storage space available, meaning you can buy a cheaper phone with less storage and add an external card (usually in the same compartment as the SIM card) cheaper than you could buy the same amount of storage internally. Most Android phones support On The Go USB connections too so you can add or remove OTG storage to your hearts content.
Better Chromecast Support on Android. This one’s a bit obvious, but Chromecast being built by Google and Android being built by Google too means that Chromecast is supported by so many more apps on Android. Indeed, you can mirror the entire phone screen to your TV if you choose. To do that on Apple you need an expensive AppleTV device rather than the £30.00 Chromecast.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Having An Android Phone?
There are some, if you’re using an Apple MacOS computer.
Google Account (almost) a necessity. If you want to easily backup your device, or share contacts, calendar, photos, mail etc. then you’ll need a Google account. If you’re already invested in iCloud this could be considered a disadvantage, but in reality it’s only swapping one large behemoth company tie in with another.
No easy way to use iCloud for syncing. This can be a problem if you want to continue to use Safari on your laptop but use Android on your phone, as Safari will store any passwords and form defaults into iCloud which Chrome won’t be able to access. There’s some solutions to this such as LastPass which will mitigate the problem but it’s not as simple as it would be with an all Apple environment.
Updates can be slower. Apple controls the whole experience on the iPhone, meaning that they can develop and test new versions of iOS and drop them on to all the iPhones at the same time. Google creates Android and new updates to the Android OS will drop to their phones ( Nexus and Pixel ) as soon as they’re done. But if you bought a OnePlus or a Samsung then those updates will take potentially months to be released for your phone. This is because these manufacturers have to wait for Google to release the source code to them, then they have to invest their own time, effort and importantly manpower into making those changes work with their hardware. End result, it’s slower to get updates. Samsung is fairly quick to release updates as is OnePlus, but they’ll still never beat Apple on this.
No iTunes integration. If you have music you’ve purchased on iTunes or listen to podcasts in iTunes there’s no streamlined way to do this. Google Music Manager will allow you to synchronise your music library to the Google Music service, but it’s not very streamlined and to be honest a bit of a faff. Having said that I don’t personally have any downloaded music on my computer or phone anymore. I just use a streaming service – Deezer in my case, but Apple Music, Google Music, Spotify and dozens of others all exist for Android or Mac.
Photo synchronization is an absolute pain. To be fair, though I say this is a pain, it depends on your use case really. Google Photos is a great platform but there is no decent way to synchronise the photos between Mac and Android. There just isn’t. Even Google don’t seem to provide anything to allow photos on your Mac to be uploaded and managed easily in Google Photos. Which is a shame because I have a decent camera that I put photos on to my Mac first and play around with then I have to manually upload them to Google Photos. It also means there’s no easy way to have your Mac show your photos in a screensaver for example.
What Do I Do To Make Mac and Android Play Well Together?
So, it’s obviously possible to make them all play nicely together since, as I mentioned above there’s no way I’d go back to a non Apple computer, but equally I won’t go back to an iPad or iPhone for my phone or tablet.
So, here’s the various apps I use to do everything I need to do. WARNING: Most of my productivity tools are Google based. Most of my media solutions however aren’t. So if you’re as anti-Google tie in as you are Apple then this set of apps might be just as bad for you.
Web Browser: The obvious choice here is Google Chrome on all devices. The advantage I find to this is that Chrome remembers all my bookmarks across devices, including Windows, MacOS and Android devices. If you’re using an iPhone with Windows and MacOS then you can use Safari as it’ll do the same thing – but you can’t use Safari on an Android device.
Email: I use Apple’s Mail application on my Mac, and the native GMail application on my phone. The account is setup on GMail, so I can access it using a web browser if I’m using someone else’s computer. Setting up GMail on the Mac is as simple as adding a new account and telling the mail application that it’s a GMail account you’re using. You don’t need to know any specific settings other than your username and password. This is a bonus from Apple.
Calendar and Reminders: I use Google Calendar for this. Again this works a treat in the standard MacOS calendar app, so long as you tell Apple that you’re using Google for your Calendar when you set up the GMail account. This is all done through the Settings -> Internet Accounts control panel option on the Mac. Obviously setting this up on your phone is all done through your Google account too.
Contacts: Likewise, Apple have included support for Google Contacts in the standard MacOS contacts application and that’s all I use to keep my contacts sync’d on the MacBook and phone.
To be fair, all the Mail, Calendar, Contacts settings I’ve talked about work seamlessly on High Sierra. I did have some trouble with earlier versions of MacOS when it came to Google Integration ( El Capitan I think? ) but it was a while ago since I experienced any problems. Apple seem to have ironed all that out now and I don’t experience any issues at all with integration.
Password Synchronisation: I use LastPass for this. It’s free, and works on my Chrome browser both on the Mac and the Android phone. To be fair, Chrome will sync passwords too, but I also have other sensitive information I like to keep safe for when I need to remember what it was and LastPass will let me do that. LastPass will also work on iOS if you do have any iOS devices hanging around.
Photos: As mentioned, Google is horrible at this and I haven’t yet found a nice solution. Until recently I haven’t had a need for doing much with photos on my Mac – except for viewing them perhaps – so I do use photos.google.com for this at the moment. I am in need of a better solution though so if you have one, please leave a comment to help me out!
Music: I use Deezer on a family subscription. I use MacOS and Android, my partner uses Windows and Android and my step-son uses iPhone and Windows. So a mixed bag there. But Deezer just works on all devices, including my Android TV which runs on the nVidia Shield. No issues – although the mobile phone version of Deezer is a significantly better product than the Android TV version, but they’ve made some moves to improve that lately.
Word Processing and Spreadsheets: Google Docs and Google Sheets work a treat for this. I don’t even need any storage on any of my devices for my word processing documents or spreadsheets – and they’re shareable with colleagues or other interested parties and work well across multiple platforms. To be fair though, I don’t use an iPad or iPhone any more so I don’t know how portable these are onto the Apple mobile devices.
Big Screen Entertainment: This list wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of a look into the TV side of things. I used to have Apple TV infrastructure, with various TV Shows and Movies (these were ripped from my DVD collection) stored in iTunes and then ‘cast’ on to the telly. Obviously iTunes isn’t going to work here because it’ll only ‘cast’ ( I use the term loosely in this context ) to Apple TV hardware or other Macs. I generally only watch YouTube videos, which get cast to the ChromeCast devices in the house. The nVidia Shield has a built in ChromeCast receiver and that sits on my main TV, with a standard Chrome device in the bedroom TV. I can cast to these from either the MacBook Pro or the Android phone.
If you want to send videos from your MacBook to your TV though you’re going to need a bit of extra software. If you’re looking to setup a full entertainment system then Plex is probably the best way to go as you’ll be able to watch your entire library either within the Plex client on the Mac or on your Android phone or cast it to the TV (my generally preferred method). The other application that can cast your media library to a TV is VideoStream – and if you only want to cast the occasional file from your MacBook to your TV then this is the one I use. It won’t let you cast local videos on your phone to the TV though, you’ll need other software for that. I’ll probably write a further article on the best way to setup a home theatre system sometime in the future.
Hopefully this article has shown you, through my own experience, that using Android Phones with Mac based computers is perfectly simple and easily achievable for free, with the possible exception of a decent photo solution.
These days, with the Mac supporting Google Contacts, Calendar and E-Mail accounts natively, there’s no reason to tie yourself into an iPhone if you don’t want to.
I’m not suggesting that Android is a better environment for your phone ( heaven forbid! ) because only you can make that decision. But if you do decide to go the Android route with your phone, there’s no reason to ditch the Mac computer because they will interact very well together.
If you have any feedback, or questions for me, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.