I admit it – I am a tech junkie. This addiction, a point of lots of ribbing by my partner, holds true for all forms of technology: phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and all types of accessories for them. My latest acquisition of a Surface Pro led to a journey of migration from Android to Windows, with (mostly) success!
A Tale of Tablets
One of my passions has been tablet technology. I’ve owned the following tablets, among others (in no particular order):
- Blackberry Playbook
- Nexus 7
- Surface Pro (first one)
- Nvidia Shield Tablet
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S1
- Asus Transformer
- Asus Vivotab
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
- Microsoft Surface Pro 2017
You’ll notice many of these are stylus-included devices. I have sausage-sized fingers and have found I get a better degree of control when using a stylus. No slam on Apple, but I owned the first generation iPod Touch back in ’08 and was not overly impressed with the OS or ecosystem. They are also a combination of various operating systems. Except for the short-lived Playbook, I’ve used Windows and Android-based tablets with abandon!
The most recent transition has been from the beautiful Samsung S3 to the latest Surface Pro from MS. I picked up the S3 after playing with it and the S-Pen for a bit. I was not disappointed in it at all but always missed the ability to work on writing and photo editing using my laptop. I was still walking around with two devices. Not ideal!
One Device to Rule Them All
I desired to settle on one device for creation, consumption, and fun. Now I also own a Razer Blade laptop for light gaming and a full desktop with the top of the line components for heavy-duty tasks and 4k gaming. I make full use of Steam’s in-home streaming to play games on devices remote from my primary system (more on that in another post), so I can game from the couch.
So, the big question was, could I transition all my Android functionality from my S3 to equivalent features on the Surface Pro. The answer to the migration question is “mostly.”
Where to Start
On the S3, I regularly used the ChromeCast app to stream content from Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Google Play. I used social media apps daily (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and browsed common news feeds (NYT, CBC, CTV, Google News). I played Minecraft and Fallout Shelter. Streaming NHL games, controlling my home media system (Control4 with SONOS, Chomecast, etc.), and playing music via Google Play were also everyday activities. Kindle and Texture rounded out the reading apps.
So, taking the plunge, I purchased the MS Surface Pro i7/512GB with a type cover and the Surface Pen.
First Step: Chrome
I installed Chrome first, putting up with the reminders that “Edge is Faster” that popped up from time to time. With Chrome in place, I tested casting Netflix from within the browser, rather than the native Android app. It worked well, even if requiring a few more clicks to get it going. Google has done great work with Chrome, and after signing in, I had full access to all of my bookmarks and settings.
Essentially, all the media streaming (Google Play, Google Movies, Amazon Prime, Youtube, and other live TV sites) were all handled nicely by opening them in the Chrome browser and casting from there. There are native Windows apps for Netflix and Youtube, but you lose the ability to cast except by casting the whole desktop.
Where’s the App
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have apps available in the Windows 10 store, so migration was straightforward. I installed all of them. Facebook’s windows app is OK, if pervasive. After getting frustrated with the number of notifications I had to turn off, I uninstalled it, opting to use Facebook from a browser. Twitter’s Windows app is excellent, but if you have multiple accounts, it is a bit of a pain to switch between them. Instagram’s windows app is just OK – lacking the ability to post new images. I found workarounds for this by opening in a browser and switching to Mobile view in the developer tools.
I then worked through all the apps that I had installed on the S3 and looked for alternatives. In many cases, the app versions for Windows were superior to or the same as the Android ones (i.e., Autodesk Sketchbook, Photoshop Express, NYT Crossword, Skype, Word, Minecraft, Fallout Shelter). In many others, the experience was somewhat lacking (Texture, Kindle, The Weather Network, Netflix, SONOS). Others were missing entirely (Tripit, Control4, Amazon, Vivino, Gmail).
The Unknown Hero – Bluestacks
I am an avid researcher and refuse to admit that I can’t find a solution to migration problems. How to run my missing or superior Android apps on my Windows tablet. The first answer I had was Leapdroid – but it turns out they just quit and went to work for Google. Next was a great article of alternatives at AndroidPit. The number one app was Bluestacks.
I downloaded the free version t give it a test run. The interface is all centered on Android Gaming, but you can also search the entire Android Play Store to find other applications. I quickly found Texture and installed it. It ran without a hitch! I also loaded Fallout Shelter – no problem! It even synced to the cloud to retrieve my existing Vaults. I bought a license for Bluestacks to remove the advertising, but the free version is usable, and allows for “migration via emulation”.
6 Months Later – Migration Success!
So now here I am, six months later. I still have the S3 sitting on the desk, but I’ve only picked it up a couple of times in the past month. I have a lightweight tablet that runs all my productivity applications for getting things done. It runs my media consumption with little effort. It also games nicely by linking it to my Steam account and streaming from “Bruiser” down in the office.
I can now heartily recommend using a Surface Pro for everything!
If you’ve had success (or heartache!) in moving from Android to Microsoft, I’d love to hear from you!
Now I just have to hope no fantastic Android tablet hits the market in the next while!
Here’s my Bio – the roots of my tech addition!