One of the great advantages of having a HTC G-1 or a similar Android handset as opposed to any other, more restrictive smart phone (*cough* iPhone *cough*) is that Android offers you full access to your phone's SD memory. This means that you can actually save files to your SD card, either by mounting it as a mass storage device with the help of a USB cable or through wireless downloads.

Of course, you can also use the USB cable to get files off your Android handset. But what if you don't really know where that darn cable is? What if you want to back up your files straight to your NAS drive without firing up your PC first? Or what if you want to quickly share some files with a friend? That's where LAN sharing comes in handy. Luckily, there's already a few neat Android Apps that let you share files on your local network. Here's a quick overview:

On Air

On Air fires up an AppleTalk / WebDAV server on your Android handset, making it possible to simply add your phone as a server to your Mac OS Finder or Windows Explorer. The app is as minimalistic as an app can be: It only offers one button to both launch and shut down the file server. It also shows it's local IP address as well as the port used to access the server, but I had no problems to auto-discover On Air with my Mac.

screenshot of on air

You can use any user name to connect to the On Air Server, and a random password is shown in the bottom right corner of the screen. I had some occasional disconnects with On Air, but my Wifi connection may as well be at fault for that. Overall, I really like the simplicity of this app. Definitely a keeper. And did I mention it's free?

ES File Explorer, also known as ManagES

This is a File Explorer for Android that offers the ability to launch Samba shares as remote drives, which is a great way to mount a share on your local network. I had some trouble accessing my NAS through ES File explorer - the app initially said it wouldn't work, but then suddenly showed a second SMB server online which it could access without reentering the user credentials.

screenshot of es file explorer

Transferring files worked fine afterwards, with the exception of a really large transfer that just didn't go anywhere. Unfortunately, there was no option to cancel file transfers, so all I could do was restart my phone and pray for the integrity of my SD card. Streaming audio isn't supported, so you have to copy those MP3 files before you can give them a listen, but I didn't find that too much of a down side. A little more challenging are the sub-menus to access simple things like copy and past, but there are some keyboard short cuts for more frequent users. ES File Explorer is also a free app.


SwiFTP is a simple FTP server for Android. Just set a user name and password, launch it, and you're ready to access it with any FTP client from a machine within your LAN. Of course, Windows users can also just add the FTP server as a network place to their Explorer, and OS X users can do the same thing through their Finder's "Connect to Server" option. You can even access it through your browser by simply entering the server URL in your address bar, which is a great way to show off your camera snap-shots.

screenshot of swiftp

I especially like the ability to restrict access to certain directories, which should give people paranoid about opening up their entire SD card some peace at mind. The server log didn't seem too useful to me as it didn't actually tell me which files were up- or downloaded or which IP addresses were accessing the server, but that's only a small issue. Overall, I found this free app to be a great addition to my G1.

More coming soon

These three apps are a great start for LAN sharing, but I'm sure we'll see more specialized apps in the future. iTunes library sharing anyone? Or how about an app that makes it possible to selectively share files with other Android users within the same LAN, maybe even with a buddy list? The possibilities are endless. Drop me a note if you find something great popping up on the Android Marketplace.

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