Transferring data between a computer and a smartphone has not always been quite as fast and easy as it is today. I remember as recently as 2009, when I was writing articles here about how to sync up a Windows Mobile phone to a laptop so you could not only transfer files, but also share mobile Internet.
Things were a little bit more complex then, where you needed to install ActiveSync first, before you could really transfer anything at all. As the years went on and I eventually upgraded to my awesome Droid (which I promptly rooted and installed a new ROM onto), the whole world changed. Now, you can choose from a wide variety of data transfer and file sharing options. You’ve got the cloud, Wi-Fi and of course the USB cable to choose from.
To take a look at just how far we’ve come when it comes to transferring data between your computer and your smartphone, I decided to cover my five favorite, fastest methods to choose from when it comes to syncing up or sharing files. These are equally valuable, but the option that you choose really depends on what sort of files you’re sharing and what you plan to do with them.
Transferring Files To & From Your Android
Honestly, I don’t care what anyone says, it doesn’t get easier to transfer files using a USB cable than with an Android. Seriously – it’s essentially two taps of the screen and your phone is mounted just like a USB memory stick, and you’re free to add or remove anything at all. How much more simple can it get?
This is the most basic method to transfer data back and forth with a wire. You plug in the USB cable, and you’ll see the “USB debugging connected” status show up.
When you tap that, you’ll see the USB Mass Storage screen with the option to Turn on USB storage.
Tap that, and your phone has now transformed into a massive USB stick. Here’s what it looks like after I quickly connect and mount my phone as a removable drive.
I can just open up any directory, pull files off or put files on my phone. That’s it.
Of course, these days no one wants to use a cable. It’s so old-school. Everything is wireless and mobile. People want to be able to access their android with a desktop PC even if it’s sitting forgotten in your desk drawer back at the office.
Well, using any one of the five methods below, you can get data off of or onto your Android as long as your Android is connected to the Internet, or a Wi-Fi network that your computer is connected to.
Pushing Data To Your Android
One of the fastest methods to update information on your Android from your desktop is a simple app called PushBullet.
Picture it this way. You’re sitting at your computer and you’re in the middle of an important project. Then, it hits you. You have to run to the store and pick up some groceries, and you need to call the babysitter on the way. With PushBullet, you can quickly write up a grocery list, jot down the babysitter’s number, push that data to your phone, and you don’t even have to pick up a pad or paper, or even connect your phone to the computer.
Basically, once you install the app, it connects that device to the PushBullet service. So, all you have to do to “push” data to your phone is go to the PushBullet.com website, click “Push to this Device”, and put that data on your phone or tablet.
It can be something as simple as a quick note of something that you don’t want to forget.
It could be a grocery list, or any list, that you can quickly type up on the PushBullet website. PushBullet will load the list as a checklist on your phone, with interactive checkboxes that you can check off as you finish each item.
You can even send your phone files from your desktop PC as well.
Obviously, this is a one-way method to quickly get information to your phone when you’re at your computer, but what if you want 2-way data transfer that’s just as simple. Where there are plenty of options there a swell.
Going Through The Cloud
These days, it would be silly not to mention the cloud as a viable alternative for data transfer between a smartphone and a PC. Nearly everyone has some form of cloud storage app loaded on their phone, be it Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, or a very long list of other cloud storage options.
For Android, the Dropbox app is probably one of the fastest solutions to get your data to an online storage location that you can access from anywhere. From the Dropbox app, you can upload or download files to your account.
And of course, once you have those uploaded from your phone to your Dropbox account, it’s just a matter of going to your computer, logging into your Dropbox account, and grabbing the file. The process is the same in the other direction from your computer to your phone, just in the other direction.
For those of you that prefer Google Docs, you now have the Google Drive app for Android that you can use to transfer files via your Google Drive account.
The cloud solution is probably one of the most convenient solutions, because you really don’t have to install any software on the computer to get files to or from your phone. You just go to your cloud account to perform the transfer.
A Wi-Fi File Explorer
Of course, some people actually prefer a more direct approach, short of using a USB cable. That direct approach would be installing an app on your phone called the Wi-Fi File Explorer, which basically shares out your phone’s file system via your local Wi-Fi network.
The app will provide you with the IP address and port of your device.
Then, you just go to any computer on your Wi-Fi network, type in that IP/port combination into the browser, and the web-based file explorer will come up.
As you can see, this is just like having a direct connection to your phone using a file explorer system that will let you explore your phone’s file structure, and transfer files to or from your phone.
Set Up Your Phone As An FTP Server
For those of you that love using FTP for file transfers, you can set up your phone as an FTP server using an app called FTP Server Ultimate, or really any other of the free FTP server apps on the Android market. There are tons of awesome, high-quality FTP Server apps, despite what Android-haters say about the apps market.
FTP Server Ultimate lets you set up an FTP server on your phone and you can provide multiple users with access to that server.
You can set up a unique FTP port for it, and then once you start the service, the app will run the FTP server on your Wi-Fi network, with the device IP and the defined port.
You can see the server IP settings by checking the settings for the running server on the main page of the app.
Just use those settings to connect to the server (a.k.a. your phone) using any FTP client. My preference has always been FileZilla, which works really well when connecting to FTP Server Ultimate.
Just like the File Explorer app, once you FTP in using an application like FileZilla, you can basically browse the phone file structure and upload or download any files or data that you want to transfer between your computer and your phone.
Use AirDroid For Full-Featured Data Transfer
Of course, sometimes transferring data between your Android device and your computer involves more than just files, right? I mean, maybe you want to take screenshots, or check your phone’s SMS messages, or access the contact list you have stored on your phone. How do you get access to things like that?
In my opinion, the best application of all time for truly connecting to your Android device from your computer, without wires, is AirDroid. I’m not kidding, AirDroid does it all and then some. All you have to do is run the app on your phone or your tablet, and it’ll create open access to your phone via the device IP and port 8888, plus a special code to connect.
You just go to any browser on any computer on that LAN, and you can access the phone by typing the IP:Port into the browser.
The web interface that you have to access everything on your phone is just phenomenal. You can take a screenshot of the device (on rooted phones), access full call logs, add or remove contact information, check installed apps, upload or download files, and check or send SMS messages.
The web-based file explorer is simple and easy to use, and when you find what you want to transfer, you just click the “download” button. Or you can “upload” files from your computer to your phone with just a click.
To the right of the screen, AirDroid gives you stats for your phone’s current memory usage, the ability to remotely launch the phone’s web browser to any website, and the ability to load anything you like into the device clipboard. I’m actually not sure how you would use that in an practical way, but you can do it.
AirDroid gives you full access to and control over your Android device from the comfort of your computer browser. I use this app several times a day and couldn’t live without it.
So there you have it, five distinct but equally useful ways to transfer data to and from your Android device with your PC. These days, there are probably more that I’ve missed. If so, please let me know, or share your favorite from the list above in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Exchange of Data Between Mobile Devices via Shutterstock