Getting Started with the Google Ecosystem for the iPhone

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Google has a big advantage. Most apps in the Google ecosystem are web-based. Apps are unified across platforms using your Google account. Google apps and services will be in sync across all of your devices, regardless of the platform. Their products even work on Linux, and of course, ChromeOS.

Limitations of the Google Ecosystem

Switching to the Google Ecosystem isn’t for everyone, but I think most people will find it superior to Apple’s offerings. One key limitation is that Google’s apps cannot directly integrate with Apple’s hardware. For example, if you hold down the home button on your iPhone, only Siri will be able to handle your request. There is no way to get Google Now to do this directly. You can, of course, instruct Siri to open the Google app. From there, you can use Google Now. This isn’t a huge inconvenience. Similarly, if you snap a photo using the iPhone’s stock camera app, tapping on the camera roll icon will bring up Photos and not Google Photos. Google Photos can, however, access the images in the stock iPhone Photos app.

The Gmail app for iOS will only work with Gmail accounts. Unlike Mail, you can’t configure it to work with other email accounts. You can configure other email accounts to forward mail to a Gmail account. For some people, this is unacceptable. I’ve used Gmail for a long time, so it is no inconvenience for me. Other people may be able to take a hybrid approach, using most of the Google ecosystem, with the exception of mail. You can configure Google apps to use Mail instead of Gmail. For the purposes of this series of articles, I will assume that people will be using the entire Google ecosystem.

Getting Started with the Google Ecosystem for the iPhone

Before we can do anything with the Google ecosystem, we’ll need to install some apps. For the purposes of this article, we’ll just need to install the Google app and Google Maps. We’ll cover other apps in separate articles in this series.

First, launch the App Store and search for Google. Locate the main Google app, which is simply called “Google”. Tap on Get to download and install the app.

Google App for the iPhone

Next, repeat this process for Google Maps.

Google Maps for the iPhone

Now that the apps are installed, I recommend arranging the home screen such that the Google app and Google Maps are either on your dock or your first home screen. You can arrange icons by holding down any icon until it starts to wiggle. Next, move the icons to their ideal location. When you are finished arranging icons, press the home button to set the icons’ placement.

You can also launch apps using Spotlight. I prefer this method. I actually removed all of the icons from my first home screen and just have the essential apps in my doc. Swiping down on the home screen reveals Spotlight. From there, I just type in the first few letters of the app I want to launch.

Launch Google Apps with Spotlight

I only recommend doing this on a relatively new iPhone, as Spotlight tends to be slow on older devices. You can also use Siri to launch apps. Just hold down the home button until Siri prompts you for a request. Tell Siri to “launch Google” or “launch Google Maps”.

Launch the Google app and press continue to exit the first promotional screen. You will see a screen informing you that certain Google account features must be activated. Tap on “YES I’M IN” to continue. A screen appears asking you to activate Location and Notifications for a better Google Now experience. Turn on both of these switches and tap “DONE”. Tap the microphone icon and give the app permission to use the microphone. This is essential for using Google Now. (continue…)

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