Maybe you have some Apple hardware but prefer Google’s apps and services, or maybe you just find Google a less scary Big Brother in your iPhone than Apple (although both companies have to raise privacy concerns). To what extent can you live the Google life on your iPhone with Google apps?
We’ll walk you through the steps to take here, as there’s more to it than just installing the Gmail app and logging in with your Google credentials. But when you’re done, Apple will have a little less information about your day-to-day life, while Google might have a little more.
Using Google on an iPhone
First, let’s talk about proprietary software. In any case, Apple often doesn’t want you to use technology from its own ecosystem. That’s why Apple products and software work best with other Apple products and software: as Steve Jobs would say: “end to end Apple”.
However, when you introduce Google products and apps things can fall apart and provide a less consistent phone experience than if you simply subscribed to Apple’s walled garden philosophy, combined with fewer features and less integration.
However, this need not spoil your experience if you like iPhone hardware but not iPhone apps. Here’s what to do.
Create a Google account
If you ask me, one of the things that makes Google’s many apps so appealing is the account integration. Many of the apps we’ll mention later require account integration to get the best experience. Simply Google “Create a Google account” and follow the steps.
Choose your apps
Start by choosing the Google apps you’ll be using on your iPhone. We recommend these essentials to get you started: Google Maps, YouTube, and Chrome. Although Google Maps and Chrome have a debatable better experience than their Apple counterparts (Apple Maps and Safari), we think they are worth a try simply to try out an alternative.
However, YouTube has no alternative as it is a video-based social media platform. You want to install it.
If you prefer Google’s apps over Apple’s own apps, you might as well set them as the default apps on your iPhone. All you have to do is go to your iPhone settings and then scroll to the app you want to set as the default app. For example, under Gmail (in the settings app) you get the option to set this to your default mail app. You also get this option with Google Chrome.
Plus, you’ll also want to install Gboard, the Google keyboard. Once you’ve done this, navigate to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard > Gboard. Once done, you can now use the globe button in the bottom left to switch to the Gboard.
However, you don’t get this option with Google Maps. At the time of writing, you cannot set Google Maps as your default Maps app on your iPhone.
Before you ask, no, you can’t swap Siri with Google Assistant (although you can Install Google Assistant and use the “Hey Google” assistant while the app is open). If you really wanted to, you could use Siri Shortcuts to open the Google Assistant app with a trigger word.
Surprising no one, the apps we just mentioned are not where Googling your iPhone ends. After the apps we’ve already mentioned, you’ll want Google Calendar (for calendar stuff), Google Drive (for cloud storage), Google Docs (for document editing), and Google Home (if you have a Google-supported smart phone). home and don’t like HomeKit). In addition, install Google News if you’re tired of Apple News, and if you specifically want to back up your iPhone photos, install Google Photos (this links to your Google Drive storage).
You’ll also want to install YouTube Music if you’re not into Spotify or Apple Music, but keep in mind that Spotify integrates pretty well with the Google ecosystem. For example, you can ask the Google Assistant to play a song on Spotify and it will do so accordingly.
Useful additional apps
If you are interested in having the full Google suite, including additional apps you would use for very specific things, consider the apps below.
- Google Keep is a nice note-keeping app and is a valuable alternative to the Notes app built into iPhones.
- Install Google Translate if you’re looking for a quick language translation, but keep in mind that it’s not perfect.
- Install Google Duo if you’re looking for a FaceTime alternative, but note that Apple’s cute Memoji integration is missing.
Last on our list to talk about, many Google apps on iPhone offer widgets that can be placed around your home screen. Just hold your finger on the screen and tap the + in the top left corner.
YouTube Music, Google Maps, Google Chrome, Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Photos all have widgets that you can place on your home screen.
That’s about it, actually
Congratulations, dear reader, you’ve Googled your iPhone the best you can.
You may be wondering, why don’t I just buy an Android phone? Well, I invite you to look for an alternative to an iPhone. Google also has an IO event coming up where it’s likely to unveil a slew of new Android features.
This article has been updated since it was first published.