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How to use Google apps on an iOS device

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-05-2014 Vishal Mathur

For anyone who has invested in the Google ecosystem of apps and services, switching to an iPhone or an iPad doesn’t necessarily mean you need to give up on services like Gmail, Google Docs, Chrome bookmarks or the ability to do voice calls via Hangout. For every exclusive app that Apple has for iOS, there seems to be a Google alternative. Basically, switching to an iOS device doesn’t mean you need to give up on the Google app ecosystem.

Mail: Gmail

For individuals, and most organizations, Gmail is pretty much the backbone of communication. Despite technically being a “third party app” on iOS, the Gmail app offers support for multiple ID sign-ins, threaded conversations and seamless integration into iOS’ notification system. An advantage over Apple’s Mail client is that Gmail will allow you to use its own set of features like archiving, labelling, starring, and reporting spam, among other things.

Browser: Chrome

If you are already using Chrome on the desktop or laptop, or even your smartphone, then this is pretty much a godsend. Between devices using the same Google ID on Chrome, you can sync sessions, bookmarks, history, passwords and extensions. In terms of performance, Chrome for iOS is pretty much on a par with Safari. Interestingly, the latest Chrome also packs in the data compression feature, which will reduce data usage on your Wi-Fi or 3G connection and also improve page-load times on slower connections.

Productivity: Office work—Docs + Sheets + Drive

Till now, Google was offering users the option of downloading the free office suite, QuickOffice, along with Google Drive. Now, Docs (a document editor) and Sheets (a spreadsheet editor) have been launched as stand-alone apps. And they are free to download and use. This gives it a significant advantage over Apple’s iWork suite—Pages, Numbers and Keynote all cost `550 each, unless you have a recently purchased iOS device. While iCloud by default offers 5 GB free storage, it tends to suffer in comparison with the 15 GB free combined storage that Google offers with your account—for Gmail, Drive and Photos. Since the 5 GB iCloud storage also holds your iOS device backups, it tends to fill up rather quickly. In terms of usability, Drive, with the proper interface to access files, feels a lot more familiar than iCloud, which depends on a relevant app to even allow access to documents. The familiar folder structure in Google Drive is perhaps the most calming aspect about the whole experience!

Navigation: Google Maps

Google Maps has had a rather straightforward journey so far. Along the way, it laughed at the misery of the iPhone-toting community, thanks to the Apple Maps debacle, which had users walking or driving around cluelessly. Google Maps offers maps in 200 countries, voice-guided GPS navigation for driving, cycling and walking, public transport directions and maps for over 800 cities, and live traffic and incident reports.

Voice assistant: Google Search (with Voice)

Yes, Apple’s own Siri will have the advantage where you can access it with a simple long press of the home key, but Google’s Voice search does the job. But do remember, for the Indian audience, an understanding of accents will always be an issue when dealing with voice-based assistants. The Google now integration brings you all the cards that get you started with the weather and traffic updates as you get ready for the day ahead.

Video calling: Hangouts

Well, if your family and close friends do not use iPhones or iPads, then FaceTime will remain a grossly underutilized feature for you. Google’s Hangouts could be the solution for you—a cross-platform app, one-on-one conversations, group chatting as well as video calls. The text-chat sessions will remain synced across devices.

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