Modern smartphones are fully-fledged computers and can do a number of things, including using modern torrent client software. Today, we’ll be looking at three of the most popular basic torrent clients for Android and ranking them based on their features, interface, and the intrusiveness of their advertisements.
Peer-to-peer file transfers are fantastic, and in one form or another, underlie a large amount of software that we use on a day to day basis (including giants like Steam). Bittorrent is a great example of this technology — and, while it’s mostly used for piracy, the software has a lot of legitimate applications as well (most Linux distros are distributed peer-to-peer).
The ability to download torrent files directly to your phone is enormously useful, and you’ll quickly wonder how you lived without it.
Basic torrent downloading functionality works well, and the app seems generally quick and responsive. The app supports WiFi-only downloading, and upload and download caps to save bandwidth. I was disappointed to note that the battery saving feature was reserved for the pro version of the software only.
The interface of the Bittorrent client is attractive and modern, employing a lot of white space, clean fonts and iconography, drop shadows, and generally strong visual design. By and large, this Bittorrent client is a joy to use, as you might expect.
The free version of the Bittorrent client does have adds (two bars, one at the top, and one at the bottom), but they’re largely unobtrusive.
aTorrent is reasonably feature rich, and it downloaded my test file (a collection of Mark Twain’s short stories) without a hitch. From the settings page, you can control download limits, WiFi-only downloading, and power-saving options. The app is generally responsive and functional.
Unfortunately, the interface of aTorrent was significantly less clean and functional than that of its competitors. The options weren’t as well laid out, and the formatting was busier, more poorly laid out, and just generally harder to use.
On the up-side, the app comes with only one unobtrusive banner advertisement, which does not appear on all screens.
Vuze is reasonably usable; it has all of the major features, minus the ability to disable downloading when the battery is low. The app itself can be a little sluggish when you’re starting it up or adding torrent files, but seems to download at a reasonable speed once you get past that.
Vuze’s interface is clean, if not pretty. The gray-white-and-blue, whitespace-heavy look is easy on the eyes, but the layout of elements doesn’t feel intuitive, and some of the screens are less well designed than others. It isn’t bad enough to be a problem, but some parts of the interface definitely feel a little cluttered.
Vuze doesn’t have any advertisements at all, which is a refreshing change and might be enough to sell you on the app on its own.
Apps to Avoid
While going through apps for this review, I discovered a couple apps that are probably best avoided, for functional and security-related reasons:
uTorrent: it’s identical to the Bittorrent app, with the exception of a different color palette and the addition of intrusive full-screen pop-up advertisements. Though it’s a fantastic PC app, the mobile version is probably best left alone.
tTorrent: This app, along with the standard permissions, inexplicably also requires some pretty invasive permissions. It doesn’t integrate normally with the Android system, so you have to use a proprietary torrent search app to find torrent files (rather than simply tapping on the download link from your browser). It also rate-limits your downloading unless you pay for the Pro version.
Which App Wins?
There’s a case to be made for each of the three mentioned here. Bittorrent is the nicest looking and easiest to navigate. aTorrent is the most feature rich. Vuze doesn’t have advertisements.
For me, not having to worry about accidentally tapping on an ad and getting yanked away from what I’m doing is enough that Vuze is my torrent client of choice. However, for most people, I suspect that aTorrent gives the best overall value proposition.
Did we miss your favorite torrent client? Let us know in the comments!