How to play iTunes music on an Android phoneKim writes: I am debating whether to move from my beloved iPhone to Android as it’s time to upgrade. Can still use music I bought on iTunes with an Android phone? Also, I bought TomTom’s satellite navigation app for my iPhone at a staggering $40 and I assume that I can’t use that, either. Have you any advice?

Hi Kim! Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.

The good news: yes, you should be able to transfer most—but, potentially, not all—of your iTunes music to your Android phone.

The bad news: nope, your old iPhone apps won’t play nice with Android.

First, let’s tackle your tunes—and specifically, why some of the tracks you bought on iTunes might not work on an Android phone.

Until just a few years ago, Apple only sold copy-protected music on iTunes, and those DRM-protected tunes (“DRM” stands for “digital rights management,” by the way) will only play on devices (like your Mac, PC, or iPhone) that are authorized by your iTunes Store account.

Starting in 2009, Apple reversed course and began selling “DRM-free” (or “iTunes Plus“) tracks on iTunes that will play on practically any digital music player—including, yes, Android phones.

What does that mean to you? Well, if you bought any music on iTunes prior to 2009, there’s a chance you still may have some copy-protected music in your iTunes library. You can spot them by looking for the telltale “M4P” extension at the end of the file name—for example, “In Your Eyes.m4p.”

So, what can you do if you’re stuck with copy-protected iTunes music? Well, two (legal) things.

  • You can pay 30 cents a track to convert your copy-protected music to the Android-friendly iTunes Plus format. Click this link, and you’ll jump to a list of songs in your iTunes library that are eligible for conversion.
  • Sign up for iTunes Match, a $25-a-year service that scans all your iTunes songs and quickly “matches” them with high-quality, copy-protection free music in iCloud. If iTunes Match manages to “match” any of your copy-protected M4P songs, you could just re-download them from iCloud to get a DRM-free version.

Now, let’s say you’ve dealt with any copy-protected songs in iTunes. How do you move them to an Android phone?

No, iTunes won’t sync your music to an Android phone, but there are other ways to transfer your songs.

  • Connect your Android phone to your PC or Mac with a USB cable, then just drag and drop music files from your system’s hard drive to your phone’s Music directory. Then, launch the Google Music app on your Android phone, and voilà—your tunes will be there. (Note: Some Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, won’t pop up on your Mac desktop when you connect the phone’s USB cable; luckily, Google offers a free utility that’ll help transfer songs and other files from your Mac.)
  • If the Android phone you pick has a slot for those itty-bitty microSD memory cards, you could transfer your songs to the memory card and then snap the card into your phone. (Note: You may need an adapter to plug a microSD memory card into your PC or Mac.)
  • Use a third-party program to sync your iTunes playlists. One of the most popular is called DoubleTwist, which has the added virtue of being free; there’s also a paid version, called AirTwist, that’ll wirelessly sync your iTunes music to your Android handset.
  • Upload your songs to Google Play Music, a free digital music “locker” in the cloud. Once all your music is uploaded, you’ll be able to stream them to your Android phone using the Google Music app. Keep in mind, though, that uploading all your songs to Google Music could be a lengthy process—as in days or even weeks. Read more…
  • Amazon has its own music locker, called Amazon Cloud Player, that will quickly “scan and match” your songs just like iTunes Match does. Once your music is all matched, you can stream or download your tunes to your Android phone using Amazon’s MP3 Android app. The catch? You’ll have to pay a $25-a-year fee to “scan and match” more than 250 tracks to Cloud Player.

Now then, what about your iPhone apps?

Like I said before, no—you can’t take your iPhone apps with you if you switch to Android.

Of course, there are plenty of Android versions of popular iPhone apps available in the Google Play app store, some of which you’ll find in my list of 15 must-have Android apps.

Unfortunately, TomTom’s iPhone navigation app isn’t one of them. That said, word is that an Android-friendly TomTom app is said to be coming soon.

Also, consider using Google Maps Navigation, a powerful—and free—GPS navigation app that offers turn-by-turn directions.

Hope that helps, Kim. Have more questions? Let me know!