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Aug 23 2012

Syncing Bookmarks, Calendars and Contacts Between an iPhone and a Nexus 7 (or other Android device)

So, if you’re like a bunch of people I know, you have an iPhone as your cellphone but have recently purchased a Nexus 7. Hell, I bought an N7 myself recently, but have also bought a Galaxy Nexus phone so I don’t happen to be faced with the question of how to integrate the N7 into iOS and iCloud based data storage.

For those of you who are facing this data integration challenge, I’ve got a few tips for you on how to damn near seamlessly integrate your experience.

More after the jump

Bookmarks

This is either the easiest or the hardest one to deal with, depending on your desktop browser of choice. If you use either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as your desktop browser of choice, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting your bookmarks synced across your Desktop(s) and your iOS and Android mobile devices.

Google Chrome

If you use Google Chrome as your primary desktop browser than this will be dead easy for you. Just go to this support page for Google Chrome and follow the instructions there to set up browser data syncing (my strong recommendation would be that you select the “encrypt all data” option!).

Once you’ve done this, you can download Chrome for iOS from the Apple App Store and in the settings section in the app, sign-in to your Google account. On your Android device (if it didn’t come with Chrome) go to the Google Play store and get Chrome for your Android device as well (N7’s come with it, mind you). On an Android device you then go to Settings, scroll down to the “Accounts” section, click “Add Account” and add your Google account there and activate Chrome syncing.

Please be aware: If you have chosen to use a separate passphrase for Chrome syncing in your syncing options (which you would have chosen on your desktop installation of Chrome) then you will have to go into the settings of the Chrome browser itself, click on your account name in “The Basics”, click on the “Sync: Passphrase Required” part and the on the following screen the “Encryption: Passphrase Required” part and enter your passphrase. This was not obvious to me at first and it took some digging to figure out how to do this!

Mozilla Firefox

First off, given the weaknesses of Mozilla’s limited “Firefox Home” app implementation on iOS and the current incomplete Beta state of Firefox for Android, I would not recommend this option in comparison to Google Chrome. Still, if Firefox is your primary desktop browser and your are an iPhone user I guess you are already stuck dealing with the Firefox Home app anyway and this doesn’t really make the situation any worse.

You’ll want to start by following Mozilla’s instructions for setting up Firefox Sync on your desktop browser. I will note here that you do not appear to have the option to encrypt your syncs with this service. Next you download the Firefox Home app from the Apple App Store for your iPhone, launch the app once you choose the option to set up a sync you go to your desktop browser and enter the numbers displayed on screen to pair the device.

You then go the Google Play store on your Android device and search for “Firefox”. You’ll note that the Firefox Android app is still in Beta. You install the app, open it, and on the Firefox for Android home screen you will see a section labeled “Set up Firefox Sync”. Tap this area and you will once again be given a code to pair the device with your desktop Firefox installation.

Other Browsers

To be honest I have no idea whether you can do this with any other browsers, I suggest using a search engine to try and find out whether any other browsers support syncing of bookmarks across all three platforms.

Calendars

If you already use Google Calendars as your calendar sharing platform between devices, this won’t be an issue. You can just add your calendars on the N7 with the relevant Google account.

If, however, you’ve got iCloud based calendars (likely for Mac desktop based users as well as users who primary create and manage calendars from their iPhone) then it is time for you to consider one of two options:

Migrate your Calendars to Google Calendars

This is the no-cost option and one that you should give some consideration to for one main reason: Google Calendars are based on an open standard and can be shared with virtually anyone you choose using any platform. So if you have some shared family, work, or project specific calendars, basing them on Google Calendar will allow anyone you want having access to be able to add, modify and delete events regardless of what platform they are on. This is possible because Google uses the Microsoft Exchange standard and/or CalDAV for sharing calendars. For clarification, this means that you would still be able to add, modify or delete events on your Google Calendar from your iPhone just like you can now.

In contrast, by default there is no way for a user of any non Apple device to add, modify or delete events in an iCloud calendar as they are normally made “read-only” for sharing with non-Apple devices (of course, we have a way around that, but we will get to that after this section).

On the other hand, this process will take some work because you will be migrating all of your iCloud calendars to Google Calendar. If you don’t want to do the work involved and are willing to spend a couple of bucks, this is a much easier way just get your Android devices to sync with your existing iCloud calendar(s), but keep in mind that you will only be able to share those calendars with other Apple device users.

Now, if you decide that you want to move your calendar(s) to Google Calendar, there are a couple of ways to do that, but I will explain a way that is both platform independent and gives you the most control over how your existing iCloud calendars are mapped to your new Google Calendars.

1) Go to the website for iCloud and log into your iCloud account, then select “Calendar” from the main iCloud page.

2) For each calendar you want to export to Google Calendars, click on the small round broadcast icon next to the calendar name. This will bring up a “Share Calendar” pop-up.

3) Select the “Public Calendar” option and click “Share”. The pop-up will then show the message that “Your Calendar has been Shared” with a long address starting with “webcal://”. Copy this entire link, paste it into a new browser window and replace “webcal://” with “http://”. Once you hit enter the calendar should automatically download as an .ics file. If instead you get a “website not found” error it means the pop-up has not shown the full URL and instead you shout hit the “Email link…” option and enter your own email address. In that case you will receive an email which will have the full link on the “Subscribe” button. Simply right click on the “Subscribe” button in the body of the email and copy the address. Again paste it into a new browser window and replace “webcal://” with “http://” and it should work this time.

4) Once you’ve downloaded a calendar file, you should go to your downloads directory and rename the file with the name of the iCloud calendar. For example if the download is “-some random string of letters-.ics” and it was exported from an iCloud calendar you named “Important Dates” you should re-name the .ics file to “important dates.ics”. This will help you keep track of which calendar is which when you are importing them to Google Calendars.

5) Log into your Google account and go to Calendars. If this is the first time you’ve used Google Calendar you will be asked a few questions about your time zone etc. to initially set it up. Once you’ve done that, click the gear icon on the top right corner of the calendar and select the “Settings” option.

6) In the settings page click the “Calendars” link on the top left next to “General”. Now click “Create new Calendar” and enter a name for your new calendar. You should choose names based on how you intend to organize the calendars you are importing from iCloud. Create as many as you like (if any) because you can import each of your iCloud calendars to ANY of your Google Calendars. This means you could combine all your iCloud calendars into one Google Calendar, or create a separate Google Calendar with the same name as each of your iCloud calendars, or anything in between. Once you’re satisfied with the information you’ve entered, hit “Create Calendar”. You will be taken back to the main calendar page and the new calendar you’ve created will be added unter the “My Calendars” section on the left side of the window. Repeat this process for however many calendars you wish to create.

7) Once you’ve done that, go back to the “Calendars” settings page and click the “Import Calendar” link. The pop-up will ask you to choose which calendar file you wish to import. Select the .ics file you downloaded and re-named earlier. Now in the “Calendar:” section, choose which of your Google Calendars you want to import the events to. Once you’ve done that, hit “Import” and Google Calendars will import all of the contents of that iCloud calendar into Google Calendar.

8) Repeat the above for each iCloud calendar you exported to your hard drive using the above steps and want to import to Google Calendars.

9) Explore your Google Calendars to visually confirm that your iCloud calendars have in fact been imported.

10) IMPORTANT: Before going any further make sure you connect your phone to iTunes and back it up! I am not responsible for any loss of data that could come as a result of you failing to back up your data prior to going any further!

10) Go to “Settings” in your iPhone and select the “iCloud” option. Within the iCloud settings page you will see options to turn on/off syncing with various iCloud services. Next to “Calendars” make sure the switch is set to “off”. If you receive a prompt asking whether you want to keep previously synced iCloud calendars on your phone or whether to delete them from your phone, select “Delete from my iPhone”. (Don’t worry! Your iCloud calendars will remain in the cloud, and all those calendars are also already on Google Calendar if you’ve been following my steps).

11) Return to the main “Settings” screen on your iPhone and select the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” option.

12) Select the “Add Account…” option and on the following screen select “Microsoft Exchange” (yes, I know there is an option for Gmail, but we want Microsoft Exchange account because its the better protocol for Google Calendar syncing).

13) On the following screen, enter the full email address of the Google account you imported the iCloud calendars to under both the “Email” and “Username” fields. Enter you Google account password in the “Password” field and hit “Next”. You will see the same screen again except this time there will be a “Server” field. Enter “m.google.com” in that field (without the quotation marks!) and hit next again.

14) You will be taken to a screen with the option to turn on/off syncing for “Calendars”, “Mail” and “Contacts”. For our purposes only the “Calendars” option needs to be set to “On”. However, if you like you may also turn “Mail” on to have your Gmail account synced this way (it has several advantages which are detailed here. Also if you found the set up steps for setting up your Google account as an Exchange account on your iPhone, that link has pics to help you through it).

15) Go to http://m.google.com on your iPhone and click on “Sync”. This will take you to the Google mobile sync options page. Select the “Sign in with your Google Account” section and enter your Google account details and hit “Log in”.

16) You should see a “Manage Devices” listing that includes your iPhone. Select your iPhone and on this page you will be able to select which Google Calendars (up to 25 total) you would like to have sync with your iPhone.

And you’re done! I know its a bit of work to set up the first time, but once set up this way your Google Calendars will be accessible from any device and able to be shared with anyone you choose on any platform.

Get your Android Devices to Sync with iCloud

If you’re willing to spend ~$3.00 and you don’t care about Google Calendars greater accessibility from a variety of platforms, then you can get your Android devices to sync with your iCloud calendars with virtually no work at all. You just need to install an app from the Google Play store onto your Android device and that’s it.

1) There is an App on the Google Play store called CalDav-Sync Beta which, for less than $3.00, will let you simply input your iCloud account details, select which calendars you’d like to sync, accept and it will allow your Android device to sync your iCloud calendars.

2) There is no 2. You’re done. Please note: I have not purchased this program or used it because I migrated my calendars to Google Calendars. However all the reviews I’ve seen suggest it works pretty damn seamlessly and flawlessly.

Contacts

My personal recommendation for those who using an iPhone as their cellphone is not to go to the trouble of exporting your contacts to Google Contacts but instead to simply go to the Google Play store on your Android device and download CardDav-Sync. As you might have guessed, this is made by the same people who make CalDev-Sync but this program is free.

Just download it, enter your iCloud loggin info and your iCloud contacts should sync seamlessly to your Android device’s Contacts app.

What About Email?

Email doesn’t quite have the same issues as Bookmarks, Calendars and Contacts, but still, for the sake of completeness I will adress what options you have for managing your email across iOS and Android devices in another article.

Until then,

That’s Yo “Synctastic” Garbage!

About the author

Lorenzo

Lorenzo tends to utterly emphatic opinions on the things that interest him: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Video Games, Anime, Tabletop Games, Technology and Internet Spaceships.

3 comments

  1. Loredo84

    I’m bookmarking this for potential future reference :) great write-up! thank you <3

  2. Naomi

    Very helpful, thanks! And can I already find your article on managing email across these two devices somewhere?

  3. Stefano Kerberos

    Thank you very much :D i just bought a wonderful Nexus7 and this guide it’s really valuable!
    hugs

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