Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has released its first Android app.
"Move to iOS" helps owners of handsets or tablets powered by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android operating system switch to Apple's iPhone or iPad. In time, it could help facilitate some additional iPhone sales, but its functionality is limited.
All the basics, but nothing paid
Move to iOS is a simple app with one specific purpose aimed at one particular group of users: owners of Android handsets or Android tablets who plan to replace their devices with an iPhone or iPad. For everyone else, it's entirely useless.
When setting up their new Apple device, Android users now have the option of porting some of their content over. This includes contacts, message history, photos and videos, bookmarks, email accounts, and calendar events. It does not include media that's been purchased from Google Play (digital music, e-books, movies, and TV shows) or apps, and it only works with iPhones or iPads when they're being set up for the first time. It doesn't offer the ability to transfer data between the two platforms continuously.
Still, it solves a legitimate need. Most of these migration features were possible before, but typically involved using a PC with iTunes or a variety of third-party apps and cloud services. It wasn't nearly as simple or as seamless as Move to iOS, and those not technically inclined may have found it too daunting to even bother. Some may have even stuck to Android fearing that they couldn't bring their content over.
Google Play Music, Google Play Books, and Google Play Movies & TV are readily accessible on Apple's devices. All three services are available in the form of an app available for download in the iTunes app store. Third-party Android apps that were purchased outright cannot be transferred over and must be bought once more, but in general, app purchases are on the decline. Last year, App Annie found that 98% of Google Play's app revenue came from apps that were free to download.
A growing number of Android switchers
Since it released the iPhone 6 last September, Apple has reported record iPhone sales almost every quarter. Many of these sales could be driven by existing iPhone owners upgrading to their first big-screen models, but Android owners might also be fueling the demand.
During Apple's last earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said the iPhone maker experienced its "highest switcher rate from Android that we've ever measured."
In addition to the larger screens, Apple has added many of Android's best features to the iPhone, including custom keyboards, and to some extent widgets. These features may have been aimed at attracting Android loyalists to Apple's platform. Later in the call, Cook added that in some markets, Apple needed to capture Android switchers to succeed. "In certain geographies, the way that we win is to get switchers," he said.
He didn't specify, but markets like the U.S. -- where smartphones are near saturation and brands are well-established -- are likely among them. Apple's share of the U.S. smartphone market has consistently hovered around 40%-50% in recent quarters, while Android has taken the remaining sales. To drive additional iPhone sales in mature smartphone markets, Apple will need to convince Android handset owners to make the switch.
Selling more iPhones
Move to iOS is just another way to do that, as it reduces much of the friction that's involved when switching between mobile platforms. It's a fairly simple app, and it isn't likely to drive many iPhone sales by itself, but combined with Apple's other initiatives, it could encourage some additional Android owners to make the switch.