How to use an Android phone with a Mac: Apps, services and more

How to use an Android phone with a Mac: Apps, services and more

Earlier this year I decided I was going to buy a new iPhone to pair with my M1 MacBook Air. I was convinced to enter Apple’s walled garden with one of the new iPhone 14 models, but I wasn’t going to buy it until Black Friday to see if I could get a good deal.

However, Google came in firing on all cylinders with the Pixel 7 in October. At $599, the vanilla Pixel 7 is a bargain that’s impossible to beat. So I ended up buying it instead, which meant I also had to continue using an Android phone with my Mac. I wasn’t too pumped about it, but I knew what to do.

If you know a thing or two about Apple, then you’re probably aware of how challenging it can be to get your Mac computers to play nice with Android phones. Apple still prefers its own ecosystem, so you won’t have the same consistent experience that iPhone and Mac users enjoy. But there are ways to make things work if you don’t want to give up your trusty Android phone just for a seamless experience.

Messages: The blue and green bubble dilemma

It’s 2022, and both Google and Apple are still going back and forth over a convoluted messaging system. You can’t get iMessage on Android, nor will Apple adopt RCS. This means that an Android user’s text messages to someone with an iPhone will appear as an SMS or MMS message. This is also why texts sent via iMessage appear as blue bubbles on iPhones, while their SMS/MMS counterparts appear in green. I’d like to see the day when Google and Apple shrug and let us have the best of both worlds, but I think I have a better chance of going to Mars. Right, Elon?

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Anyway, if you’re willing to look past the whole bubble situation, I suggest using the Google Messages web app on Mac to view and reply to all the text messages you receive on your phone. The Google Messages web app is surprisingly good and works flawlessly for delivering and receiving text messages from all your contacts, regardless of whether they use Android or iOS.

I wish I could use the official Google Messages app on Mac like I do for my other messaging apps like Telegram, WhatsApp and more. But since there is no official Google Messages app on Mac, I had to use a third-party app called Fluid to create a desktop app for Google Messages.

An image showing the screenshot of the Google Messages web app on Mac with a piece of text hidden by red bars on the right sidebar.
The Google Messages web app turned into a desktop Mac app using “Fluid”.

Fluid is a great and reliable app that lets you turn any website into a desktop app that you can launch like any other Mac app. It even imports the site’s Favicon as the app icon, which is pretty neat. You can set up Google Messages via Fluid in just a couple of minutes and it has worked well for me. It’s also available to use for free, and you can create as many Fluid apps as you want.

An image showing the XDA and Google Messages app icons next to each other.

There is no official way to use iMessage on an Android phone, and I doubt it will be here anytime soon. But if you’re willing to look past the color of the bubbles, Google Messages will do just fine, and the web app (via Fluid) works well on Mac. Google Messages is also getting better every day, so who knows? Maybe Google will eventually force Apple to adopt RCS.

Continuity and File Sharing: The Handoff option… a little

Handoff is one of the tentpole features on Apple devices that makes Android users feel like they’re missing out on something magical. You might not use it all the time, but it’s pretty handy to be able to open and start editing a document on your iPhone and continue the task on, say, your iPad with Handoff. One solution to this is to rely on other cloud storage platforms to sync your documents and photos across different devices.

I have all my important documents and files linked to a Google account, which means I can access them on pretty much any device, including my MacBook Air. They all sync via the cloud so I can access the most recently updated copy seamlessly on any device. You can also get the same results with Microsoft Office apps, as they also sync between devices via the cloud. You can even get dedicated apps for them on the Mac, so it makes it really easy to get things done on my phone and then continue them on the MacBook.

I also rely heavily on Google Photos to access and transfer the photos taken on my Pixel to my MacBook. You’ll once again have to rely on Fluid to create a desktop app for Google Photos unless you don’t mind accessing the web version. Likewise, I also rely on Google Drive to transfer files between the Pixel 7 and MacBook Air. Sure, you can always move files between Macs and Android phones using a physical connection, but I like to sync them over the cloud to save a little extra time and effort. It might not be as seamless as importing them over AirDrop, but you can achieve the same thing with Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive with a few extra clicks provided you have an internet connection.

Share your clipboard seamlessly with Clipit

Like Handoff, Apple also lets you share your clipboard across devices as long as they’re connected to the same network. It works flawlessly and you don’t need to download any additional applications on any of your Apple devices. You can achieve something similar while working with an Android phone and a Mac, but you’ll need to download an app called Clipt on both devices.

An image showing the screenshot of the quick settings menu on Android.

Clipt is a simple solution that gives you access to a shared clipboard on both Android and macOS. All you need to do is download the app and sign in with the same Google account on both. Once you’re done, you can start copying items to either your phone or Mac and access them across devices. However, you have to press an extra button on both your phone and your Mac to make things appear on other devices.

On my Pixel 7, I’ve enabled a quick settings tile that I tap to send something that I copied to my Mac’s clipboard. Likewise, on the Mac, I usually have Clipit running in the background in Stage Manager, which I can easily access to send my clipboard items to my Android phone. This may not be the most seamless solution, but it works well for my daily use.

Final thoughts

You’re bound to miss out on some exclusive Apple features if you don’t use an iPhone and a MacBook together. For example, you can’t use an Apple Watch or your phone to unlock your MacBook. Likewise, you can’t share Wi-Fi networks across Android and macOS. These probably aren’t the things you use and miss every day, but it surprises you when things just… work! It’s similar to how my colleague Ben Sin was surprised when he went to an old coffee shop that he hadn’t visited in years, but his new iPhone 14 Pro Max automatically connected to Wi-Fi because it was saved from his previous visit. You can read more about it in his iPhone 14 Pro Max review – it’s great!

It’s entirely possible to use an Android phone and a Mac together in 2022 and still have a good experience. Yes, many things will not work as seamlessly as you want them to, but it is more achievable than you think. I’m constantly on the lookout for more apps and services to try and make my experience seamless. So if you have any suggestions or ideas, drop them in the comments section below!

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