Breaking away from the Apple Ecosystem

Josh Sherman
8 min read
Technology Apple Google

I’ve recently come to a crossroad with Apple and it’s ecosystem. I’ve had an iPhone 4S for the last 2 years and I was itching for a new device. Giving the current iPhone lifecycle, it makes more sense to hold out for the next iteration of the iPhone than jump into the current generation which is nearly at end of life. “But I want a new phone NOW”, I have been thinking to myself for the last few weeks and decided to take the plunge back into the Android world by purchasing a Nexus 5. Part of the draw was the vanilla version of Android that shipped with the phone, but also the amazingly affordable (and non-contractual) price of 399$ for the 32GB model.

Smart phones have become commodity items and I want the freedom to be able to upgrade when I want (without extending the contract with my carrier) while not breaking the bank. It’s a hot topic as to which devices are superior (specifically iPhone versus the plethora of Android devices out there), but at the end of the day, if I want to upgrade my phone yearly, it would cost me nearly twice as much to stay with Apple’s Ecosystem than it would be to pick up this year’s latest Nexus. Regardless of which camp you are in, there’s no denying that both camps are putting out better and better devices with each passing iteration.

Keep in mind that this post isn’t about Android versus iPhone / iOS (I’ll save that topic for next week) but the steps that I took to be able to break away from the Apple / AppStore Ecosystem. When I switched from Android and Linux to iOS and OS X, I was quick to adopt the Apple-built software (for the most part) because of the tight coupling between apps and devices. Getting away from that turned into a personal quest to find new apps that would not only work on iOS and Android, but also try to find things that would work between OS X and Linux as I’ve had the itch to start running Linux again (on sexy Apple hardware, of course ;) Here’s what I’ve come up with:

iOS Mail to Mailbox

I’ve been using Mailbox for a while now on iOS because I absolutely love the app. Fortunately, just before I made the switch back to Android, Mailbox was released on Android and made my decision easier. If Mailbox was not a viable option, I most likely would have used the stock Gmail app until it did become available.

In regard to OS X and Linux, I still favor Gmail in the browser over the app offerings out there. I’ve always found to be a steaming pile with managing my 10 year old Gmail account. Mailbox is supposed to be coming to OS X soon and hopefully a Linux version will be not too far behind. & Hangouts App to libpurple (Adium & Pidgin)

I really liked on OS X because of the iCloud / SMS messaging you can do from it. Given enough time, dropped connections and the fact that I was missing messages (that would wind up in the Gmail site and would be lost until I logged in) pushed me back to Adium for my instant messaging needs. Adium is built on the same library (libpurple) as Pidgin making the two of them fairly interchangable across OS X and Linux.

Messaging on iOS was a separate beast all together. Messages on iOS only handles SMS messages and chatting on Gtalk required a separate app all together. Not a huge deal, but a recent update to Android which consolidated SMS and Gtalk into a single Hangouts app. One less thing for me to have to worry about. There’s also speculation that the Google Voice app will be consolidated into Hangouts as well, which would be another win.

Notes & Reminders to Evernote

Evernote has clients on all the major platforms, desktop and mobile. I found out that they have also updated it to handle more than just text notes. Most notable is the ability to set up notes to be reminders so I was able to break away from both Notes and Reminders on OS X and iOS in favor of just using Evernote. You can also create lists inside of notes which wasn’t an option with the Notes app but I have already utilized for grocery lists.

Safari to Chrome [Canary]

I had migrated from Chrome to Safari quite a while ago for a few reasons. First, I liked that you can sync tabs between devices. I also liked the addition of the “Reading List” and synchronized bookmarks between devices. I absolutely hate that Apple won’t let you set a browser as the default on iOS. It was a pain to have links opening in iOS Safari while trying to use Chrome as my primary browser.

I now use Chrome Canary on OS X because I wanted the bleeding edge experience. I would have preferred to run Chromium to get away from being so ingrained in the Google Ecosystem (arguably the lesser or greater of the two evils) but it lacked automatic updates whereas Canary updates nearly every day. I attempted to run Chrome Beta on Android but ran into some glaring issues immediately, like the inability to scroll on a page, that’s a deal breaker, ladies!

Why are automatic updates so important to me? Mainly because of Apple’s recent track record with leaving Safari unpatched to known security problems for upwards of a year! The release cycle for Safari is way too waterfall considering how agile the Chrome and Firefox release cycles are.

Even though I am running Chrome on Android and OS X I would still favor Safari on iOS only because of the inability to set Chrome as the default (outside of a Jailbreak). I’m not all that big on jailbreaking or rooting because I would must rather stick with the latest and greatest versions instead of constantly waiting for new hacks before I can upgrade.

Calendar to… ummm… Calendar!

Calendar is an app that I use, but it’s basically just a shell for my Google Calendars. I don’t ever put anything on my iCloud calendar so I don’t really feel like I’m tied to the app itself. The calendar app on Android works fine as well, so I didn’t think there was any need to find a cross platform calendar app.

The one big question that I don’t have an answer for yet is what I should end up using for a stand-alone calendar app in Linux? I had never used a stand-alone calendar app before migrating to OS X so I suspect I would just go back to relying on the Calendar tab built into the Gmail website. That is unless there’s some default calendar app built into GNOME that would act as a wrapper for my existing Google Calendars.

Contacts to People

Like the Calendar app, the contacts app is really just a wrapper for my Google Contacts. I guess they call that “People” now on Android. It’s a bit of a wash because of that.

iCloud Keychain to… meh, who cares

I’m the type of person that doesn’t see the need in cross platform and cross device password management. I feel like I am still capable of remembering passwords and since all browsers and platforms have their own version of password management baked in, I just let them do their thing. I toyed around with LastPass and it felt more like an afterthought than it did a seamlessly integrated solution. Pass for now.

Siri to Google Now

Siri’s always known how to listen, but I have never really felt like she was great at executing. Too often would she ask if I wanted for her to search the web for me. Just a glorified voice-powered LMGTFY app. I started to use Google Now and feel it’s not only superior to Siri for voice commands, but is also one hell of a mind reader (well, email reader / privacy invader ;).

My favorite Siri feature is the ability to be able to tell her to remind me of something at a fuzzy time (in 90 days, for example). It seems like Google Now has the same capability but I’m unsure where the reminders go. Are they in my Gmail account somewhere? There’s a good chance I’ll drop Evernote for my reminders for Google Now as soon as I figure out how to access them from my Desktop.

I have not used it, but it appears that there is a Google Now app for iOS. I doubt it is as tightly coupled as Siri is, but probably worth taking a look into it.


I’ve been fairly happy with my software migration choices. It’s going to take some getting used to only because I’ve been living happily in the Apple Ecosystem for the last 2 years. Finding platform agnostic solutions is the first step in my goal of being able to switch between devices and platforms as I please. Who knows, maybe I’ll try to work some Micro$oft technology into the mix down the road ;)

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Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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