Moving files between a Mac and an Android device has always been a real pain. Android uses MTP (media transfer protocol) to connect and share files with a desktop, and while this is supported natively in Windows, it isn’t on OS X (or the forthcoming macOS).
As a result, Mac users need the Android File Transfer program installed, a mediocre piece of software that gives you the absolute basics of copy and paste, and not much else. And it doesn’t even work all the time, either.
Fortunately, there are ways to move files from Mac to Android without using Android File Transfer. If you still want to connect your phone via USB — and let’s be honest, it’s still the easiest way to transfer 15GB of music files to your device — then you can try an alternative app called HandShaker. Or, if you prefer a wireless approach, Portal by Pushbullet is a good place to start.
Let’s take a closer look at both options.
HandShaker, the Android File Transfer Alternative
HandShaker is a free app available to download from the Mac App Store. It has an interface that is more akin to a normal Finder window on a Mac, rather than the rudimentary file window you get on Android File Transfer. This makes it both easier and more pleasant to use, but does require just a couple of extra steps to set it up.
Set Up HandShaker
First, it’s a good idea to uninstall Android File Transfer. They don’t conflict, but if it’s left installed, AFT will continue to open every time you connect your phone, meaning you will keep having to close it down and manually open HandShaker.
Next, on your Android phone, you have to enable USB Debugging. You do this in the Developer options, which are hidden by default. So, if you haven’t already, you need to show the Developer options by going to Settings > About phone and then tapping Build number seven times. Hit the back button and enter the newly accessible Developer options.
Here, scroll down and activate USB debugging, and click through the dialog box that asks for confirmation.
You can now launch HandShaker on your Mac, and connect your phone via a USB cable. You’ll be prompted to authorize your Mac to access your phone. Check your phone’s screen to see another dialog asking you to allow USB debugging with this computer. Tap the Always allow box and then OK to confirm.
If necessary, click the I have authorized this Mac button in HandShaker too. You’re now ready to go.
Moving Files With HandShaker
After allowing HandShaker a few seconds to initialize, you will see a Finder-style window, with access to all your content: Gallery, Music, Video, the Download folder, and general files and folders.
This is where you can immediately see the improvement over Android File Transfer. Click Gallery, for instance, and you can see thumbnails of all your images. You can split them by folder, or view them all together; and also sort them by the week or month they were created, just as you can in Google’s Photos app.
It’s also possible to open some files stored on your phone within the desktop app. Try double clicking the file, or right-clicking and choosing which app you want to open it with.
To copy files to your computer, you can either select the file (or files) and click the Export button at the top right, or just drag them to your desktop. The Import button goes the other way, copying files onto the device, or you can drag and drop for that too.
HandShaker also enables you to carry out basic file and folder management tasks. You can create new folders and move files into them, rename files, and delete them. It makes cleaning up your internal storage so much easier.
We experienced a few issues using HandShaker with a Nexus 5X running the Android N Beta, but had no problems at all with other devices. On the whole, HandShaker is a big upgrade over Android File Transfer. If you move files to and from your Mac often, it’s worth looking into.
Move Files From Mac to Android Wirelessly
If you don’t want to have to bother with USB cables, but don’t want to use the cloud, then Portal is a good place to start with wireless file transfers.
Portal is a free download from the Play Store, and it shares files over your Wi-Fi network via a web browser — all you need to do is ensure both your phone and Mac are connected to the same network. You don’t even need to sign up for anything.
Sharing Files With Portal
To get started with Portal, point your desktop browser — Safari works, if that’s your browser of choice — to portal.pushbullet.com.
You’ll see a QR code on screen. Launch Portal on your phone and scan the code when prompted. And that’s it: the connection between your phone and Mac is made.
Move files to your phone by dragging and dropping them into the browser window. They will begin uploading instantly. It’s quick too, because the files aren’t going via the Internet.
Once received, music files are sorted into the Music folder, and images in the Gallery. All other files are saved into a new folder in your internal storage called Portal. You can also share or open your uploaded files from directly within the Portal app by tapping the Share button and choosing a relevant app.
Sadly, Portal only allows for one way transfers, from any computer to your Android device (a version for iPhone is also available). But it’s so fast and reliable — even when working with very large files — that even if you rarely use it, it’s one of those select apps that are worth keeping installed just in case.
How Do You Do It?
Android File Transfer might be the only first-party solution for moving files between Mac and Android, but you aren’t stuck with it. Whether you want to go wired or wireless, there are better choices out there, with more features, and more reliable performance.
Now tell us about your setup. How do you copy files between your Mac and Android devices? Are you a fan of Android File Transfer, or are you totally committed to the cloud? Let us know in the comments.