Ask Maggie: What you should know about ditching the iPhone for Android

This week's Ask Maggie details the ins and outs of switching from an iPhone to an Android smartphone and offers some explanation of voice over LTE and the difference between AT&T's 3G technologies.

Are you thinking of giving up your Apple iPhone for a new Google Android smartphone?

If the answer is yes, there are a few things you should consider. In this week's Ask Maggie, I explain how iPhone users can transfer iTunes music to a new Android phone, and why you can't take your apps with you.

Also in this week's column, I explain why most of Verizon's current 4G LTE phones won't support the new Voice over LTE technology expected next year. And I explain the difference between 3G HSDPA and HSPA+ on AT&T's network.

Ask Maggie is a weekly advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you've got a question, please send an e-mail to maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header.

Switching from iPhone to Android

Hi Maggie,

I have the AT&T iPhone 3G and my contract expired in April 2011. I'm thinking about leaving the iPhone and going to Sprint for the HTC Evo 3D. I've heard through friends that Sprint gives you more for the money than AT&T or Verizon. But if I do that, I don't know what I would do with all my music and iPhone apps that I bought over the years through Apple's iTunes store. I know the Evo is a Google Android phones and is not compatible with iTunes. Any advice you could offer would be helpful.


Dear mreddog1960,

This is a tough choice, because to be honest, making the switch from iPhone to Android isn't as easy as you'd hope it might be. Some things you can take with you and some things you can't. While switching to a different carrier is a much easier task since carriers were required to allow you to port your cell phone number, now smartphone subscribers have to worry about porting all their accumulated content from one platform to another.

So the short answer to your question is this: With a little work, you can take your iTunes music with you. But you will not be able to transfer your iPhone apps to your new HTC Evo 3D.

Let's talk about music first. An easy way to get your iTunes music on any Android smartphone is to download the doubleTwist music app on your computer as well as your new Android phone. The application for the PC or Mac will allow you to manage and sync your iTunes music, photos, and videos. Then you can sync your doubleTwist account with the mobile-able app so that you can take your music with you.

You can just use the Android app version and drag and drop your music, but it may be easier if you use the desktop version to sync your iTunes music first.

Another option is to load all your music from iTunes to a cloud-based music service, such as the Amazon Cloud Drive or Google Music. CNET's Apple reporter Josh Lowensohn said you can upload your personal music collection to a single library in these clouds, even if it's scattered on different devices.

Once your music is loaded to the cloud, you can use a music player to stream your music to your phone. If you don't have access to a wireless data connection or you don't want to eat up wireless capacity, you can also download music from the cloud-based music service onto your phone and it can be stored locally.

But there is one big caveat. Whether you are syncing your iTunes with doubleTwist or you are loading music to a cloud service, the only music you can share in this way is music without any DRM protection attached to it. This means that music that you ripped from your own CDs should be fine. Music that has been purchased from iTunes since it launched iTunes Plus, which does not attach DRM protection to the music files, will also be fine.

But music purchased from iTunes before January 2009, when it launched the DRM-free iTunes Plus service, will be DRM-protected. Therefore, those music files cannot be uploaded or shared outside of iTunes. That said, Apple provides a way to remove the DRM protection. Still, it will cost you about 30 cents for every song that was bought on iTunes before iTunes Plus took effect.

Now let's talk about your apps. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to simply move your mobile apps from one platform to another.The mobile platforms are fundamentally different, which is why developers must develop separate applications for each mobile platform. And apps made for one mobile operating system won't work on a device running a different operating system.

This means that some apps that are available for the iPhone may not be available on Android phones. So you should check this out ahead of time. Most of the popular apps and games are available on both platforms, so that shouldn't be too big of a problem.

And if most of your apps are free, re-downloading them may be a hassle, but it shouldn't be a deal breaker. The situation may be different when you consider re-downloading apps that you've paid for. Some people have made significant investments in the apps that they have bought for their smartphones. This makes switching between platforms a much more difficult decision.

The good news for people moving from Apple iOS to Google Android is that a larger percentage of Android apps are free than are iOS apps. So you may get lucky. Some of the apps you paid for in the Apple App Store may be free in the Android Market. Take Angry Birds as an example. Angry Birds Rio in the Apple App Store costs 99 cents, and the same game with all 100-plus levels is available for free on Android.

But there are some subscription-based apps that will allow you to access content no matter what device platform you're on. For example, the Amazon Kindle app lets you sign into your Amazon account so that you can read e-books on a variety of devices.

Scott Stein, a CNET Reviews editor, said these subscription-based apps are becoming more popular, and he expects to see more of them roll out.

So with all of this in mind, here's my advice:

Figure out how much of your iTunes music is DRM-protected and how much it will cost you to convert those songs to non-DRM protected. (You can estimate this within iTunes.)

Look to see if the apps you use and love are available for Android.

Figure out how much money you've spent on iPhone apps and how much it will cost you to replace them if you go to Android.

Based on these estimates, it might not be worth it to switch platforms. One other thing to consider is that some analysts are now saying they expect the iPhone to come to Sprint later this year. So you may want to wait. If this happens, you won't have to deal with the hassle of switching to the Android platform, and you'll still benefit from the value of the Sprint service plans.

Good luck!

Will current 4G LTE phones support VoLTE?

Dear Maggie,

Many thanks for your always informative and understandable columns. I'm a Verizon subscriber and have no desire to switch. I'm about ready to get my first smartphone but wonder if the time is right. AT&T makes a big deal about being able to use voice and data simultaneously on their network. Maybe they do so just because you can't do this on Verizon's CDMA network. I'm not sure how often I would want to be talking and using data at the same time, so it may not be a meaningful factor at all. My understanding is that although in theory they can be done at the same time on the 4G LTE network, Verizon is currently using their 4G LTE network for data only and that voice is still using 3G. When Verizon converts to using 4G for voice, will the 4G LTE phones they are now selling be capable of receiving both 4G voice and data or will that require a different chip meaning a new phone?

Thanks in advance for your help,

Dear Ron,

You are correct. Traditionally, CDMA networks, such as Verizon's 3G network, do not allow for simultaneous voice and data. By contrast, GSM networks, like the one that AT&T has built, do allow people to talk on the phone and use Internet-enabled apps.

What this means is that Verizon 3G subscribers cannot talk on their smartphone while using an Internet application such as Google Maps. The only exception is when you are in a Wi-Fi hot spot. In that case, you can use the 3G cellular network for the voice conversation, and the Wi-Fi network will be used for data. But Wi-Fi isn't everywhere, so in many instances this will not be available to you.

Verizon's new 4G LTE network currently still uses the 3G network for voice calls and the 4G network for data sessions. As a result, subscribers can talk and surf the Net, using Google Maps or any other Web-based application they want while in 4G LTE range.

Next year Verizon plans to migrate its voice customers away from the 3G voice network, and it will put those voice calls over its 4G LTE network, using what's called Voice over LTE, or VoLTE. This will offer lots of benefits, including better-quality voice calls. Also, voice and data services will be able to run simultaneously on that network.

One of the services that this will allow is video chatting over the cellular 4G LTE network. Verizon has demonstrated this technology at several trade shows this spring. And it is pretty cool.

The only catch is that most of the current-generation LTE devices on the market will not support the Voice over LTE functionality. For example, the HTC Thunderbolt will not support VoLTE, but the LG Revolution will. This is the device that Verizon has used to demonstrate the technology, and so it's expected to be able to handle the VoLTE technology.

I hope this offers a better explanation for you.

Deciphering wireless standards alphabet soup

Dear Maggie,

Could you please explain the difference between the HSDPA and HSPA+ networks on AT&T?


Dear Afireinsideus,

The AT&T 3G network uses HSPA/UMTS technology (High Speed Packet Access/Universal Mobile Telephone System).

HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) is a version of this technology, which allows for faster speeds when downloading than the standard HSPA/UMTS technology. Most 3G phones on AT&T's network, including 3G-capable iPhones and iPads, use HSDPA.

HSPA+ (Evolved HSPA) is the next evolution of the HPSA standard and it allows for even faster downloads. Theoretically, devices that support HSPA+ can get up to 21Mbps downloads. Actual speeds are much lower than that, although AT&T hasn't published average speeds. T-Mobile USA was the first carrier to start calling its HSPA+ network 4G since it was getting average speeds that were close to Sprint Nextel's WiMax network.

AT&T has also adopted the terminology. And it refers to its HSPA+ network as 4G. It currently has three smartphones that support HSPA+: the HTC Inspire, Motorola Atrix, and Samsung Infuse.

I hope that clears up any confusion.