Apple or Google? Why Not Both?

Fri 06 Nov 2020, 19:54

I've been nutting around with iCloud and my Google services recently. It started because I tried using an Android phone again for a day but ultimately decided never to try that again. Everything just felt... wrong.

Along with this I also saw a tweet fly by where someone had gotten locked out of their Google account for an unknown reason and was essentially locked out of their entire digital life. Unfortunately I can't find the tweet anymore so I'm not sure how that was resolved, if it was.

So I was gonna move out of the Google services.

Moving out of Google Photos

My first goal was to move out of Google Photos. While I love its powerful search and its reliable syncing, it bothered me I didn't have the files locally and I wanted to go back to Apples Photos app.

Unfortunately, moving out of Google Photos and back to iCloud is less than ideal. You can follow my adventure by visiting the Twitter thread I kept updated but the TLDR is:

Eventually, I had all my photos out of Google Photos and in iCloud. Everything is fine now.... right?

No. Hell no.

First of, I wanted a local backup of the files. Conveniently, the Photos.app on Mac has two export options: "Export unmodified originals" and "Export", with a variety of file name options.

Export unmodified originals seemed perfect, so I did that. I let it run for a little while and eventually I got... a lot of error messages of unhelpful nature. Just gome generic errors.

So I tried the other Export option instead. That one actually worked perfectly fine, but it did not give you unmodified originals. It gave you "good enough" versions. And I really mean that, they were good enough. I think all JPEG files were untouched, but TIF files and such was converted to JPEG with high quality.

So that export option worked good enough, but it bothered me I hadn't gotten all originals. But I let it go and moved on to the other services.

Moving out of Google Contacts and Calendars

This was actually fairly easy for me as I've done it before. Both Google and iCloud offers export and import options on their websites, so you just do that for contacts.

For calendars, I live a pretty simple life, so I only had 1 event on it I had to move. Which I did manually. If you have more, I think both services offers import/export calendar options.

Mission accomplished. Let's move onward.

Moving out of Google Keep

Here's another one where I have it pretty easy, because I don't keep a lot of important notes. My important ones I keep as Secure Notes in 1Password.

But for the few that I had, I just copied them manually and pasted them in Notes.app, and then archived them.

If you have a lot of them, I'm sorry, I don't know what to do. Do you need all of them? Maybe you just need a few?

Moving out of Gmail

This I thought was gonna be impossible... but actually turned out to be one of the easier ones.

Basically, just use Takeout again and get your Gmail outta there. You'll end up with a .mbox file which contains all your Gmail emails. Pretty wild.

Then in Mail.app on macOS, you can simply import it. Once you've done that you can do something as easy as just select all emails in that mailbox and copy it to your iCloud.

If you wanna be fancy you can set up a smart mailbox to try and remove duplicates. In my case I have had all my iCloud email forward to my Gmail for a couple of years or so, so a lot of my iCloud mail was in the Gmail dump. So I set up a smart mailbox to look for emails in that imported mailbox that did not have my iCloud as a recipient. That got rid of most of the duplicates, so after that I just copied all of them to my iCloud inbox.

A couple 40-50 thousand of emails copied later, it was all done. Then I just needed to change the forwarding adress on my other email accounts to point to the iCloud instead of my Gmail.

Now everything was done and I could just get rid of all my Gmail apps and logins and just live the Apple ecosystem...

But no. Instead, here's when all of Apples iCloud infrastructure comes to shame.

iCloud Sucks

First of, the photos. It was very inconsistent how fast new photos appeared on other devices. Sometimes I took a photo on my iPhone and it practically instantly showed up on my Mac, but not my iPad, or vice versa. Sometimes it never showed up. Sometimes the amount of photos and videos numbers that Photos.app gives you was inconsistent.

In addition to this, my Mac had been going warm for days I noticed, because photoanalysisd and its friends was running in the background constantly and figuring out what was in my photos.

Also, my Macbook's 250 GB SSD was half full of a 110 GB iCloud Photo Library. This is weird, because my photo library is just 60 GB. Why had it gotten twice as big? Who knows.

Secondly, iCloud Mail... Holy shit, I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with the unread email count. It was inconsistent among devices. The iCloud web interface showed 36000 something. The Mac Mail.app showed 33000 something. My iPad showed 36000 something. My iPhone jumped between 8000 something and 36000 something. I don't know what the hell was going on, but it made me nervous, so I moved it all to the Archive folder, hoping it would be practically the same thing as the Gmail Archive feature.

Unfortunately, that's where the next problem comes in. iCloud Mail's search is horrible and slow.

I tried searching for some stuff I knew I had in there. Like my PS5 pre-order, some of my old teachers in school, some cd-keys of various software I bought.

To get it out of the way: Gmail found them all, instantly. I didn't even have to think about it.

For iCloud, it was very inconsistent from device to device.

First of, on the web interface you had to explicitly select to search in the Archive folder, and even once you searched it took a good while to find the emails. It did eventually find them.

On the Mac app, I didn't have to select a folder. It defaulted to "All". I searched for the stuff and... some of it came up. Some did not.

And finally on iOS, it did find them. And it defaulted to the All search, so that's pretty good.

But now it gets muddier. I tried "flagging" some emails to see if they would sync. They did, but it was horribly slow. And on the Mac it was a red flag but on iOS it was an orange flag.

More interestingly, some of the flagged email suddenly disappeared from the flagged folder on some of my devices, and not on the others. If I searched for the mail manually, the flag was still there.

So needless to say, iCloud Mail is utter garbage. It is horribly slow and inconsistent.

What Now

At this point, I sit quietly, palm to face, thinking about my next move.

I eventually sigh, and whisper to myself: fuck it... fuck Apple's cloud services. I'm going back to Google.

So I disabled all of those services in the iOS Setting. This fixes most of the things, except Photos. Photos ends up in this weird trance state where some of your photos are still on your device but they go away like a hundred at a time. You can just stare at your iPhone for a couple of minutes and see your photos go away. And eventually it stops and you got like 50 left which you can manually delete.

After that I restarted the device and everything was mostly fine and I could start downloading all the Google apps again. Gmail, Google Photos, Google Calendar and Google Keep. I set my email forwards back to the Gmail. Ahh, good to be back.

Photos sync instantly the moment I open up the app. Gmail is responsive and my unread count and starred emails instantly sync between the devices and search is super good and responsive. Sure, the Google Calendar app gives me Android vibes, but overall, everything is great.

On the Mac, I disabled the same services and removed the Photos Library, and boom, instantly got 110 GB of disk space back, and my Mac suddenly felt alot more responsive again.

As for getting local offline backups of my photos, I plan on going into Google Photos every month or so and downloading the new photos from that month. Not ideal, but should be reliable.

I was back on the setup I had been using for the past half year while I was between Android and iOS phone limbo, but I realized it is the best setup.

The only thing I kept using from Apple was Notes. It actually syncs very well and the Mac app is nice. And the web UI isn't terrible either. Since I'm not going back to Android, I think, I'm gonna keep using it.

Rules for Computing Happiness

These are the rules I'm going forward with. I've wasted so much time trying not to use these rules and it has gotten me nowhere.

This way you get the best of both worlds. You get the familiarity and niceness of the iPhone, with the syncing and reliability of Google.

Of course, this means Google knows practically everything about you. I'm not a huge fan of this, but the way I see it, I'm not quitting Google Search anytime soon and I use YouTube all the time so I'm in Googles hands anyway.

But if you are more on the anti-Google side of things, go iCloud. It's usable, but everything is just much worse. If Apple could improve... well pretty much everything about it, I could maybe do it. I doubt they will though. The ball is in their court, and has been for a long time.