Smartphones are great devices that let you listen to music, take photos, browse the web, save and share content, store various files, make lists and take notes, remember contact information and even save your passwords. While having intelligent devices in our pockets is great, sharing their content with computers is even better. Because computers are the most essential tool to most workers, and also because they have significantly bigger screens than phones, sharing content between our Android phones and tablets and computers makes sense.
The first thing you may want to share between your computer and your Android device is media, be it music, pictures or any other type of file. And because we’re no fans of cables and hassles, we’ll share our secrets to sending content easily from your computer to your phone and vice versa.
Synchronizing music is usually a painful task, no matter where the source files are: if you buy music on your phone, you’ll have to sync it back with your computer and other devices, and if it’s on your computer, you’ll have to send it to your phone. In most cases, this is achieved by either connecting the phone via USB and syncing it with an application or putting the SD card in the computer and dragging and dropping the files, which in both cases requires you to physically connect your phone – or SD card – with your computer. To make this process simpler for you, we’ve hand-picked a handful of apps that will let you seamlessly sync your favorite tunes.
Many iPhone users dislike having to use iTunes to synchronize content with their computer, but for people who use iTunes to listen to music locally on a computer, synchronizing it with their Android device may make a lot of sense. Indeed, in addition to just sharing your tunes with your phone, iSyncr can transfer ratings, lists, podcasts playlists and how many times you have played a song. Convinced? Read our full review for more details and then go grab your copy of iSyncr!
The mobile version of the popular music application syncs your favorite playlists but also your songs, so you can always have your favorite tunes in your pocket. You can read more about it in our full review.
This application is very similar to iSyncr in a sense that it lets you sync with iTunes. However, AirSync focuses more on wireless synchronization and also lets you share photos and videos between devices. Lastly, AirSync has the ability to stream content to other devices such as Xboxes, PS3s etc.
Google Play Music can sync your entire music library with the cloud, making your favorite tracks available wherever you are. You can add up to 20,000 personal songs to sync with Google’s server, in addition to all the music you buy from their online store. Of course, there’s always the option to download your favorite tracks back to your phone so you can play them offline. Read our full review for more details.
Sharing pictures is essential, mostly because most people now use their mobile phones and – sigh – tablets, to take pictures. However, without the right apps, the pictures will remain on your phone and won’t automatically sync with your computer. Here are our picks to make all of your pictures seamlessly synchronize with your computer and other devices.
Amazon Cloud Drive gives you a 5GB of storage to store your photos online. The application automatically uploads your pictures to the cloud and also lets you send entire albums you might have on your device to Amazon’s online storage.
Dropbox (full review) is one of the most famous online storage services. The application is very similar to Amazon’s, but instead of exclusively focusing on photos, it offers a true file storage solution that also automatically syncs with your other devices.
Even though Google+ is not an online storage service like Amazon Cloud Drive and Dropbox, it is an excellent way of pushing your pictures to the cloud. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that instead of accessing your photos through a file system like the other applications, you will have to login to Google+ and view your photos through your browser. You can still download them, but there’s no option for neither a bulk download nor a way to ensure your EXIF, GPS and other tags are kept when downloading the pictures, not to mention the file quality may be reduced after the upload. Using Google + still has advantages, though: on most Android devices, your Google+ albums automatically appear in your Gallery – usually as Picasa albums – and you don’t have to manually launch a file sharing app to recover your pictures.
Very similar to the applications above, Box allows you to store content online and sync it with your other devices easily. The major difference is that Box is a lot more focused on documents – and is actually better than some other applications thanks to its many editing features – but not so much on multimedia content, which means your photos and videos will need to be uploaded manually instead of being pushed automatically to the servers. You can check the full details in our complete review.
Some of us like to get our hands dirty by tinkering directly with files and need a simple way to share them – yes, I do mean “without a cable”. There are various reasons for manually sharing files and not syncing libraries: for instance, a video file is usually easier to dump on an Android device, rather than using a specific program that would convert it. In almost all cases, if your PC can read the file, your Android device can do it too.
Before we move on to our recommended apps, it’s important to keep in mind that Dropbox, Box and Skydrive are also great solutions to share files with your computer, but will usually upload them to the cloud and require you to download them back – which is often a lousy solution for big files. The apps below are therefore solutions that will require your Android device and your computer to be on the same network to allow for easier ad-hoc sharing.
Droid NAS makes sharing content between your Android device and your Mac computer very easy. The application actually makes any Apple computer recognize your Android device as a Network Drive, which would therefore make it appear directly in your Finder under “Shared”. Because Droid NAS uses Apple’s Bonjour Protocol, it can only work with Macs.
This application does pretty much what its name says: it lets you transfer files between your Android device and your computer over WiFi. The way it works is simple: WiFi Transfer transforms your phone into a web server that is accessible from any device that’s connected the same network as your phone. From this interface you can remotely access the content of your phone and upload new files on the phone. I personally prefer to use Droid NAS as folders on my phone appear natively in my Mac’s Finder, but WiFi File Transfer does have the very advantage of being cross-platform for Windows PC users.
AirDroid, which we reviewed earlier, is an amazingly good-looking app that lets you wirelessly manage and control your Android device from your web browser. With this app you can drag and drop files from your computer directly to your phone, send and receive text messages from your browser on the computer, access your music, photos, videos, contacts and apps and even make remote screenshots of your device. The only negative point about AirDroid is that it requires your phone/tablet and your computer to be connected on the same network, preventing you from accessing your device from a remote location.
In addition to being a great file manager, File Expert lets you easily share files and content with your computer using various technologies. You can therefore connect you Android device with your PC thanks to the built-in suite over WiFi, or with the cloud by using FTP or WebDAV solutions, not to mention accessing services such as Dropbox, Box, Skydrive etc. You can read more about the prowess of File Expert in our full review.
Articles And News
Reading articles often proves more convenient on a mobile device than a computer, simply because we either tend to read them on the go or on a tablet, comfortably sitting on a sofa or laying in bed. Nevertheless, it’s often frustrating to have to get off a bus or fall asleep and not be able to get back to where we left off our virtual newspaper.
Syncing Your Subscriptions
We’ll first look at a way to synchronize your subscriptions across computers and Android devices. Most of the apps below use Google Reader for the time being, but they will soon switch to other ways of syncing content. No matter what provider they use, the current model allows for feeds, favorite and (un)read items to be synced across devices and platforms. It would be a pity to lose this advantage when Google Reader leaves this world.
Press is an eye-candy Google Reader application that presents your news feed in a very attractive way and takes a very visual approach on how the information is presented, using color coding and little icons. Besides, Press can automatically synchronize your feeds in the background so you can read them offline. Although Press misses some extra tweaks that might refrain some people from buying it, it’s worth giving a shot because of its current great features.
Feedly is a mobile-friendly RSS reader that syncs with the cloud. Like Press, all of your subscriptions and (un)read articles are automatically marked as read as soon as you open them so that they don’t appear again, no matter where you check your feeds from. It also syncs your starred articles so that you can retrieve them no matter where you are.
Unlike the two applications above, Pulse is not an RSS reader per se and doesn’t sync read items across platforms, even though it does have built-in support for Google Reader. What does it sync then? Well, your news sources and your page setup are saved thanks to your Pulse.me account, which will make Pulse look exactly the same no matter what device you’re on. Similarly, Pulse allows you to save your favorite articles to the cloud, therefore letting you read your saved stories on other devices.
Zinio is a cross-platform service that lets you subscribe to your favorite (paid) magazines. The application automatically synchronizes your favorite papers with your Android phone and tablet and also allows you to read them on any computer. Of course, any subscription you add from your mobile device is automatically added to your account so that you can retrieve it online. Read our full review for more details.
Saving Them For Later
Haven’t you ever stumbled upon an interesting article but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to read it? What if we told you there is a way to save an article to read later from any device and have it automatically sync across all of your devices?
Pocket (full review) is a great application that lets you mark articles to read for later from a browser or any phone or tablet, then automatically downloads the article on all of your devices. The application uses a push service, so it automatically downloads your articles as soon as you save one. Pocket is fully customizable, as it lets you change the background color and the font type and size, not to mention the handful of setting options available in the menu.
Instapaper is almost exactly the same as Pocket, as it lets you save articles for later. It is a little more flexible in terms of article layout, in a sense that it lets you change the margins and fonts, while Pocket has less options for these. Instapaper also supports folders, but can only sync up to 500 articles on your device, the rest being saved in the cloud.
Readability is almost the same as Pocket and Instapaper, but its initial approach is more about bringing content forward by presenting it as an uncluttered text, which can be formatted according to your needs. Of course, it does offer the ability to save articles for later and read them this way too!
Bookmarking Them For Keeps
Now that you’ve had time to read great articles, how about saving them? But you don’t want to do this anywhere, no! Let’s save them on the cloud so you can retrieve them from any device and even share them with the rest of the world.
Springpad is a great way of saving notes, photos, coordinates, links, but also specific content such as movies, series, products, tasks and even recipes into Notebooks. All of your springs are synchronized with the cloud and can be accessed from Springpad’s website by simply logging in. These notebooks are private by default, but can be shared with the entire world so people can benefit from content you gather online! Read more about it in our full review.
PinDroid is an Android client for Pinboard, the famous bookmarking service. This application integrates well with Android’s share menu so you can easily save your articles online. The application also displays your pins that are stored online so you can review them at any given moment.
The famous photo bookmarking and sharing service’s application is a great way of sharing your favorite content and saving it to the cloud so you’re sure everything is backed up online. In addition, the Pinterest app (full review) lets you browser your collections locally on your phone.
This service is relatively similar to Springpad, but focuses more on multimedia content and links. Kullect lets you save photos, videos and thoughts to “kullections” that are uploaded online. Like most bookmarking services, you also have the possibility to share your sets with your friends by making them public.
When You Forget Your Phone Home
Forgetting your phone home is probably a very unpleasant experience, as you’re no longer able to receive important calls, texts and notifications. Despite our efforts, we haven’t yet found an app that makes your phone automatically come to you when you forget it somewhere [Editor note: unless you’re Harry Potter and can use an Accio spell!]. We can, however, recommend a handful of applications that will remotely let you check your notifications, send and receive text messages and even place calls using your phone!
Isn’t it annoying to be sitting at your desk working when your phone suddenly vibrates and you don’t want to reach for it but feel this urge to know what the notification is about? Look no more. Thanks to Desktop Notifications, all of your Android notifications are pushed to your computer through the cloud and appear as notifications in Chrome so you don’t have to physically have your phone with you to check what that latest ring or vibration was about.
MightyText is a great little app that lets you text from any browser as long as your phone is connected to the Internet. The application uses secured authentication via your Google credentials and works using your carrier’s plan to send messages. The web application supports notifications and syncs with your phone’s contacts to download their information and photos so you know who you’re texting. MightyText can even let you know of incoming and missed calls and place an outgoing call directly from the web – you know just in case you deliberately “forget” your phone somewhere… Read more about it in our full review.
Browser Texting is very similar to MightyText and has actually been around for a longer time. The approach is slightly different, in the sense that Browser Texting doesn’t use any third-party login service but asks you to flash a QR code with your phone to access your text messages. The browser extension is also designed in such a way that a small popup window appears to view your messages, which might be more convenient based on your needs.
To make it simple, Shynk, which we reviewed earlier, is an internet-based AirDroid, which means that it can do the same things as AirDroid but does let you access your device remotely, thanks to a secure AES connection. You can therefore browse files and send message using a browser, even if your computer and phone are on different networks.
Notes and Lists
Unless you’re a die-hard paper-based notes and lists person, you will definitely see an added value to having these sync between your phone, tablet and your computer.
There’s nothing worse than thinking of this great idea for your kid’s new bedroom and forgetting it a few hours later because you couldn’t write it down – or because you lost the napkin you wrote it on… Here’s a list of our favorite note taking applications that are not only great to remember everything you want, but also to let you access your notes on any device, including your computer.
Evernote is one of the most famous note taking applications. Not only does it support rich text for more detailed notes, it also lets you record audio, take pictures, attach videos and files and even geotag notes to remember where you took them. To make sure everything is presented to you in a neatly manner, Evernote lets you organize your notes into notebooks, in addition to marking your notes with tags. Of course, Evernote seamlessly synchronizes all of your notes and notebooks with the cloud, so a note taken on your phone is automatically downloaded on your PC and vice versa.
Catch is very similar to Evernote and essentially offers the same features as the first. Using one or the other will truly depend on your personal preferences, but also whether you need a native desktop client or not. Indeed, Evernote’s offering in term of computer-based note syncing is richer thanks to native apps that Catch lacks. Read more about it in our full review.
Microsoft’s note taking app can be very useful in corporate environments as it automatically syncs with the cloud, allowing you to access your notes on your work computer seamlessly. Of course, the application can also be used in a personal setting and syncs with any Microsoft Account. In terms of features, OneNote (full review) is on-par with its competitors, but the editor on the Android version could be improved to make it as good as Evernote or Catch.
Google keep is a newcomer in terms of note taking solutions and has the advantage of being very simple and easy to use. Any notes, photos, or checklists that you add to Google Keep are synchronized with your Google account so you can review them at any moment. However, given that the application is too simplistic and lacks a proper desktop application, many would still prefer full-featured solutions such as Evernote and OneNote.
Task and List Management
Don’t you just hate it when you spend 15 minutes in your kitchen thoroughly writing down what you need to buy from the store and then stand in front of the supermarket isle realizing you forgot that list at home? With this selection of our favorite to-do apps, you’ll be able to make lists on your computer and have them automagically pushed to your Android device without having to do anything more than just add elements to your list!
Wunderlist, which we’ve already reviewed, is a gorgeous and powerful task management application. Like all the applications in this roundup, your content is synced with the cloud and can be retrieved on your computer. The great thing about Wunderlist is that all the applications, no matter the platform, look exactly the same yet still respect the operating system’s user experience. As far as the features go, you can group your tasks into various lists, share them with people, add subtasks, reminders, due dates and more!
Todoist is a popular task management application that allows you to organize your lists into projects and have an unlimited amount of tasks. The service is cross-platform, with lists being stored on the cloud and downloaded to devices, which allows you to access them wherever you are. Read more about it in our full review.
Producteev is another well-known task manager. Its approach to tasks is organizing them into workspaces and assigning them to several persons. Tasks can also be labeled and set to have a due date.
This application is very similar to the previous ones, but does add some extra syncing features in its Pro version. Indeed, Remember the Milk Pro can sync with Google Calendar, Google Tasks and Outlook, which can be useful in work environments. Also, thanks to its location awareness, the application can remind you to do a specific task based on your position. However, because these features are only available in the Pro version, Remember The Milk (full review) is clearly not our favorite task management application.
When was the last time you spent 10 minutes trying to remember one of your passwords and just couldn’t get it right not matter how hard you tried? Don’t be ashamed, it’s happened to the best of us! You should be worried if it ever happens again, though, because we’re going to tell you how to keep your sensitive data safe and synced with your computer.
SafeWallet lets you securely sync any kind of sensitive data with your computer. What’s great with this app is that it integrates with your browsers on your computer and therefore remembers credentials for you, and automatically syncs them with your phone. For the rest, it lets you create specific content – passport, credit card, medical information, bank account, etc. These cards can be put into folders to facilitate organization, and the application has a built-in search system that lets you find data easily. [Editor note: while SafeWallet already has a Windows application for computers, a Mac version is in the works as well].
In addition to providing similar features to SafeWallet, this application has some little extras, such as an integrated browser that fills out your login information and forms automatically, a password generator and more. Nevertheless, LastPass requires a monthly subscription, which makes it less appealing than SafeWallet.
This app is very similar to SafeWallet in the way it saves your information, which is also displayed in cards that can be organized into folders. Your content is automatically synced with the cloud and can be downloaded back to the appropriate desktop application too.
Personal Information Management (Contacts, Calendar…)
Having your contacts shared properly between your phone and your computer is crucial, not only because it’s convenient to access them on your computer or edit them from your browser, but also because some unfortunate events, such as a forced hard reset or the loss of a phone, happen and in many cases make us lose absolutely everything that’s on the phone. Thankfully, most email services today let you sync your contacts and calendar along with your email, so your data is safely backed up into the cloud and available on your computer.
The most intuitive way to sync your contacts and calendar on an Android device is using Google’s solution as it doesn’t require any set up on your device. Because your Android device is linked to your Google account, all of your emails, contacts and calendars are backed up into the cloud. Accessing and downloading this information is a breeze thanks to the standard protocols Google is using, which allow you to import your Google Calendar into most Calendar applications and automatically sync it back with Google’s servers and your phone.
Haven’t you ever wondered who that person in your contacts list was? It’ll never happen again with Evernote Hello! Why? It’s simple: when you meet a new person, Evernote Hello records more than just their contact information, it also saves their picture, the other people you met at the same time, where that happened and the experience you shared. This combination of data makes it easy to remember people and, most importantly, the context in which you met them. Read more about it in our full review.
Thanks to this application you can sync your phone with Microsoft’s email service and have your contacts and calendars saved online. The application doesn’t integrate with Android as well as GMail but does perform well if you prefer not to use GMail as your synchronization service.
In addition to sharing articles between your various devices, you may simply want to share a particular link – or simply open any webpage on your computer and automatically see it on your phone on the go. There are many applications that do just this, and more, so that you don’t have to worry about bookmarking a site to come back to it later.
TabCloud does more than simply sync tabs across platforms, it actually lets you save an entire set of tabs to the cloud so you can review them at a later time. What’s great about TabCloud is that these tabs are really saved online and don’t automatically disappear after you open them on another device, which means you can also use it as some sort of bookmarking service, but most importantly, you can organize and name the sets so they’re always easy to find.
Chrome on your computer and your phone is capable of syncing your preferences and opening tabs across devices and platforms. All you have to do is sign in with your Google account and all of your bookmarks, passwords and open tabs will be automatically downloaded on your Android device. Check it out in our full review.
Chrome to Phone used to be one of the most famous tab syncing apps and does exactly what it says: it lets you send a link from Google Chrome to your phone. However, with the expansion of Google Chrome for Android’s feature set, this application started making little sense on most Android devices, even though it can still be relevant on older phones that can’t run Chrome, or simply for users who prefer to use third-party browsers.
This application does the exact same thing as Chrome To Phone, but has the advantage of working with any browser thanks to bookmarklets. Therefore, you don’t have to use a specific browser neither on your computer nor on your phone/tablet, but still push links from one to the other.
The two previous apps are about sending links from your computer to your phone, this one is about doing the exact opposite. And that’s convenient when you need to transfer links back to your computer, either to review later or to benefit from a bigger screen size.
With this bundle of applications, you’re all set to synchronize all of your content between your computer and your Android device to enjoy it on the go. You definitely won’t have to worry about local content anymore and will be able to have everything available with you at anytime without having to perform complicated transfer operations beforehand. All you have to do now is sit back, relax and enjoy having all of your favorite gadgets in harmony.