Last week we gave you some advice on how to keep your data, email, contacts and calendar perfectly synced between your Android phone or tablet and an iOS device. Although these are essential elements to synchronize between your devices, replicating media from your iPad or iPhone to your Android device — and vice-versa — can also prove very useful.
Indeed, whether you run out of battery, lose your phone or prefer to use a larger screen, you shouldn’t have to worry about manually transferring your content to every single device you have. To make this chore seamless and transparent for you, we’ve selected a handful of apps and tools that will automate the process.
The most relevant type of media you probably want to replicate on your devices is your music library. There are various ways to transfer music, such as using a USB cable and an application or via WiFi sync. However, these methods would require you to use separate applications for each platform and to run the synchronization process separately for each device. The goal here is to make the process automatic and easy, which is why we selected several options to seamlessly sync your music across devices.
Method 1: Synchronize Content You Own
The most common way for people to acquire music is to download it — legally, of course — and save the files on a computer. These files can then be transferred to any device, either by dragging and dropping them or through a dedicated application. We’ve given this process some thought and have come up with a way to easily synchronize your music library with all of your devices.
The best option we can think of is Google Play Music. You should have heard of Apple’s iTunes Match service, which automatically scans your music library, matches your tracks with higher quality files and automatically syncs them across Apple — only — devices. Google offers the exact same service, but does it for free! As long as you live in Europe or the US, Google Play Music lets you move your library to the cloud and enjoy your content on any device you may own.
There is, of course, an option to download your music locally, in case you prefer not to stream it. Let’s not forget this application also lets you purchase new songs, which will be automatically added to your library on the cloud and sync’ed across devices. Nonetheless, Google Play Music has its restrictions: it is limited to 10 devices and can store up to 20,000 songs. You guessed it, these won’t really bother most of us, so go get sync’ing!
Amazon’s Cloud Player service is another equivalent to Apple’s iTunes Match. It lets you automatically upload your library to Amazon’s servers, which will then match your existing files with higher quality ones. The main difference is the subscription: Amazon Cloud Player lets you sync up to 250 songs for free and will lift the limit to 250,000 files for a yearly USD 24.99 fee.
Unlike Google’s service, all songs you purchase through Amazon’s MP3 Store won’t count towards your file limit, which potentially means unlimited storage if you make it your exclusive provider. Lastly, for Kindle users, your music library will be transferred natively to your e-reader, which may make it more relevant than Google’s solution. The app itself is free on both Google Play and the App Store, so we suggest you give the free version a try and see if you like it!
SugarSync is a file synchronization service that allows you to replicate folders across devices. The reason we picked this one over alternatives such as Dropbox and Skydrive is its ability to automatically synchronize select folders on mobile platforms. This way, you can upload your music files from any device and have them replicated automatically across platforms. SugarSync makes sure your music is always up to date on all of your devices and instantly refreshed when new files are added.
However, unlike the above services, your content won’t be matched to higher quality files, since SugarSync is only a file-based system. Similarly, content will need to be downloaded locally instead of being streamed, but this shouldn’t be a problem as files are sync’ed automatically.
Method 2: Subscription-Based Content
Another option to enjoy the same music on both your iPod/iPad/iPhone and your Android phone or tablet is to use online-based subscription services. And don’t worry, these solutions allow you to save your music locally without having to purchase songs separately: as long as your subscription is active, you can download all the music you want to play offline. They also let you to mark songs as favorites so that you can easily refer to them later.
Picking one of these services over the other is a matter of preference in terms of the app’s design and whether the music catalog suits you. Our tip would be to use all of them for free during the trial period and settle on your favorite one!
Rdio is a great application featuring a wide collection of songs that can be played on your computer and mobile devices. If you use the web application through your mobile browser, you can listen to music free of charge, but will need a monthly subscription to listen to your tracks offline. The latter will also let you access your content from any smartphone/tablet and your computer with no ads. Rdio’s great interface and its music catalog make it a great pick.
Spotify is probably the most famous music subscription service and is very similar to Rdio. The pricing and service are almost identical except that Spotify can’t be used on a mobile device if you don’t have a Premium subscription. You therefore need to pay even if you want to listen to your music online. However, Spotify offers a 30-day free trial so you can make sure the service suits your needs. Given how popular Spotify is, their music catalogue is extensive and rich, so chances are you won’t be disappointed.
Deezer is a French-based service that is very similar to the ones above — its layout is somewhat different, but the essence remains the same. Given its French roots, Deezer may be more appropriate if you’re looking for French music. I personally find their catalogue to be relevant, and it can complement other applications very well.
In terms of pricing, Deezer matches the competition so there’s really no differentiation there. If you’re interested in the service, you can try the Premium+ subscription free of charge for 15 days. This will give you unlimited access to Deezer’s music catalog on your device, including offline access to tracks.
Method 3: Playlists
Alternatively, you may want to listen to music through customized playlists that can be sync’ed across devices. The services below work like radios, but generate playlists based on a genre, track or artist you pick. They all remember your favorite playlists and recent listens and let you access them from any platform you may be using.
The most important drawback when using one of the below services is the need for internet connectivity. None of these will let you download content locally, which means you need to be online to listen to your songs. Also, the solutions below don’t let you pick the songs you want to listen to, instead they automatically create smart radio playlists.
Songza is an online-based Radio that creates smart playlists based on various activities. Depending on the day of the week and time of the day, it will present you with various activities you could be doing. Once you select one of them, Songza lets you pick the playlist you’d like to listen to. You can also go for the more traditional approach and manually look for a playlist, or generate one based on a genre or artist.
Songza automatically remembers your playlist history and allows you to favorite the ones you like. This way, you can easily find them on any other device you may be using, be it your iPad or your Android phone.
Pandora is an internet radio that generates automatic playlists based on a song, artist, genre or composer and makes it into a personalized smart radio station. All the stations you listen to are automatically backed up in the cloud and can therefore be easily accessed on any other device.
2. Photos & Videos
Showing media such as photos and videos on a bigger screen is more convenient, but transferring the pictures you took with your Android phone back to your iPad — for example — can become a painful and annoying task. Thankfully, with our selection of services, you’ll be able to easily share photos and videos between your iOS and Android devices.
Some of the solutions we’ve picked for you will automatically upload all photos and videos, while others will only do it if you ask them to. The choice is yours, depending on your needs.
Method 1: Automatic Upload
The applications below will automatically detect new photos on your device and upload them to the cloud. Some may even download the files back to your other devices, while others will require you to download them manually. Most of them also support video files, so that your homemade movies can be synchronized in harmony with your pictures.
The world’s most popular social network has introduced an option to automatically sync all pictures you take with your phone to their servers. These pictures are kept in a private album until you decide to publish or delete them. While viewing them on any device is possible, it does require you to automatically upload all pictures you take to Facebook, which could be a major blocking point for many. Also, keep in mind that Facebook has automatic scripts that will remove all EXIF tags from your pictures, meaning you will lose all GPS and camera information that may have been in the file.
If you’re fine working with these limitations and tend to share most of your photos with your Facebook friends anyway, this option sounds like the right one for you. Also, bear in mind that while it’s easy to view photos on any device, downloading them locally remains a manual and time consuming task, so you may want to reconsider this option if you take hundreds of pictures a day…
Google’s very own social network is the one that actually introduced Instant Upload several years ago as an automatic option to upload all photos you take to a private album in Google+. This option is great if you’d like to gather all of your pictures natively in Android, as Google + — and Picasa — albums are integrated with Android’s gallery.
By using Google+, pictures you take with your iPhone will automatically show in your Android device’s gallery. As for your iOS devices, the pictures will be visible within the Google+ app, but won’t be downloaded automatically in your device’s memory — just like the Facebook app.
The famous cloud storage service was among the first ones to offer an automatic photo synchronization service. Like the applications above, taking a picture with your mobile device will automatically upload it to Dropbox — if you’re using an Android device, that is. On iOS, the files will be uploaded in bulk when you start the application or if it’s open in the background.
The files will also be transferred back to your computers, but won’t be automatically downloaded on your other devices — the Dropbox app doesn’t support automatic sync, therefore preventing it from instantly fetching new files and replicating them locally. However, even though the process stays manual, it remains easier to download an entire album on your phone or tablet with Dropbox than Facebook.
SugarSync, as mentioned in the first paragraph, is very similar to Dropbox but does have the ability to automatically download new files from select folders back to your devices. This way, when you take new photos or videos, not only will they be automatically uploaded to the cloud, they’ll be immediately sync’ed back to your various other devices. It seems we found the perfect app to sync all of your media!
Method 2: Manual Upload
There are various applications that let you upload files manually, be it video or photos files. However, we preferred to keep this section dedicated to photo and video services that are available on iOS, Android and the web and let you share your media seamlessly with your friends, should you chose to do it after you’ve uploaded your files.
Flickr is one the best photo sharing and storage platforms. If you’re even half serious about photography, Flickr should definitely be on your radar. Your photos will remain available no matter what platform you’re using and can be shared very easily thanks to the built-in options.
Even though Flickr’s native applications doesn’t support automatic uploads, there are third-party solutions and other workarounds that can do the trick, such as Photo Mule.
Wouldn’t it make sense to save your videos on the world’s most famous video sharing site? With YouTube, you don’t have to worry about encoding or other technicalities, you can save your video’s location and tags and share it easily with your friends and family. If you prefer to keep the video to yourself and select people, you can always make it private and only distribute the private link to the video. As for you, you’ll be able to access your content from any device connected to the internet. You’ll simply have to log in to YouTube, if you haven’t already on your device, and go to your videos.
The major drawback with this solution is that the official mobile applications will only let you view your videos. To download and enjoy them again offline, you will either have to go through YouTube’s desktop site and download the MP4 file — which is a genuine hassle, even on an actual computer — or simply use a third-party application that lets you download YouTube videos locally.
Vimeo is another video sharing platform similar to Google’s solution. This application also lets you upload content directly from your mobile device and access it later on, with easy options to share it afterwards. However — and similarly to YouTube — it doesn’t have a native option to automatically download video files and will require a manual process to transfer them.
No matter what type of media you’re synchronizing, there are many solutions to automate the process and make things easier for you. Picking the right method based on your current setup and needs is essential, and in an ever connected world, moving your content to the cloud becomes the ultimate solution. Thankfully, most solutions listed above use the cloud as a backup and allow you to replicate your data — or at least part of it — on your devices, for you to enjoy offline.
If you’re interested in getting even more from your iOS and Android devices, join us next week for Part 3, in which we will explore ways to keep applications and content in sync. This way, using different platforms can become an asset, and having your apps talk to each other will enable you to use your devices in perfect harmony.