It isn’t hard to think of times when it would be easier to control your phone with your computer.
Maybe your phone isn’t easily accessible, at the bottom of your bag or charging in another room. Maybe you’re at work, and your boss wouldn’t like it if you took your phone out and started messaging someone. Or maybe you need to type a lot of text or just look at something on a bigger screen.
Fortunately, accessing your Android phone on a computer is easy.
The best solutions come from two apps called AirDroid and Vysor. The first gives you access to all your phone’s key features and data in any desktop web browser. The second mirrors the device on the desktop in its entirety. Let’s take a look at both.
AirDroid is the ultimate multi-screen app. While it doesn’t mirror your device, it gives you desktop access to most of the common features on your phone. And you don’t even need to create an account to use it.
Visit: AirDroid Website
Download: AirDroid (Free)
AirDroid has a desktop app for Windows and Mac, or you can use it on any platform via any major web browser. This is a super easy and quick option. And because you can use it without logging in, it’s safe to use on a shared computer. You do need to install the AirDroid app on your phone, though.
To get started, point your desktop browser to web.airdroid.com. A window will pop up containing a QR code. Launch AirDroid on your phone, hit the Scan icon at the top of the screen, and scan the code. Next, tap Sign In (even without an account), and you’re connected. It’s that easy.
The AirDroid web interface resembles a desktop and looks great if you switch to fullscreen mode. Available apps and functions are shown as icons on the left, while tools and info about your phone are on the right. At the top is a panel that you can use to search for apps, make calls, set alarms, and so on.
The first thing to note about AirDroid is that you cannot use it with third-party apps. The Apps icon enables you to install and uninstall apps, and nothing else.
But that’s the only major limitation. There is a ton of functionality elsewhere.
You can make calls, and send and read text messages. You can view the photos and videos stored on your phone, and listen to music. It’s also possible to control the camera remotely.
In addition, there are lots of tools that seamlessly link your phone and desktop. These include the ability to wirelessly transfer files between the two. You can enter a URL on the desktop and have the webpage open on your phone, and you can install APK files remotely.
Another neat feature is the shared clipboard. Copy something on your phone, and it will appear in the Clipboard section of the Toolbox in AirDroid. It works the other way around as well and is a powerful way to “hand off” from one device to the next.
A few features do require an account, and some are limited on the free version. AirDroid Premium is a subscription service priced at $1.99 per month (or less if you sign up for one or two years in advance). All but power users should find the free option to be enough.
For full control over your Android phone on your desktop, the best option is currently Vysor. This Chrome app works on any desktop operating system with the Chrome browser installed. It mirrors your phone’s screen on your desktop and enables you to control it with a click and a swipe of your mouse.
Vysor is available in both free and paid versions. The free version is good enough to give you a taste of what’s on offer, but it’s very limited. You’ll see ads, be limited to wired-only connections (the paid version does wireless), and the video quality is low. You would need to upgrade to Vysor Pro if you plan on using it long term.
Visit: Vysor Website
Install: Vysor Chrome App
There’s virtually no setup or configuration process for Vysor. Just install and run the app in Chrome, then connect your phone by following its instructions. The rest happens automatically. An app is pushed to your Android device along the way. If you ever want to uninstall this, you can do so by going to Settings > Apps on your Android device.
Once complete, you’ll see your phone’s screen mirrored in a window on your desktop. There are handy buttons to take screenshots, record your screen, and control the volume. Everything else can be done with your mouse on the virtual touchscreen.
Because Vysor is a screen-mirroring service, there’s no concern about app compatibility. Anything that runs on your phone will be useable on the desktop. This makes it especially ideal for messaging or typing large amounts of text, and it can replace the Android emulator if you’re a developer. Gaming is also possible, depending on the game. Those that require quick reflexes may be affected by a small amount of lag.
Vysor’s a pretty good app, and one worth trying out for yourself. But its cross-platform capability will be short-lived. Google is phasing out support for Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in late 2017, and they will stop working in early 2018. However, Chrome apps will continue to work on Chromebooks.
Other Phone-Controlling Apps
There are a few other apps you could look at as well. MightyText and Pushbullet have a similar approach to AirDroid. The former is based mostly around messaging, and the latter is a more expensive option.
In addition, there’s ApowerMirror, a screen mirroring app similar to Vysor. It comes with a standalone app for Windows and Mac, so it could become a good choice when Vysor’s Chrome support comes to an end on those platforms.
But between them, AirDroid and Vysor should be enough to give you everything you need to control your Android phone from your PC. They both enable you to keep using your phone even when it’s still in your pocket. And both are easy enough to set up that they are accessible to all levels of user.
Do you want to control your phone with your PC? What do you use that functionality for? Share your experiences with us in the comments.
Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov via Shutterstock.com
Originally written by Joel Lee on May 27th, 2013.