There are many things I love about my iPhone 3GS, but something that so often gets overlooked is the fact that it has a nice, roomy hard drive. I know some people who carry around all 30 GB of their music collections with them, but for the rest of us who don’t hoard all of our music, that means there’s a good bit of free hard drive space, and we should put that to good use, no?
Well, there’s an app for that. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Air Sharing Pro (iTunes link), from Avatron Software, is an amazingly featured and tight package that essentially turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a wi-fi thumb drive and file explorer. As long as your computer and your iPhone are logged into the same wi-fi network, you can easily move files between the two devices without installing any extra software (well, with one minor caveat), unzip folders, print and email the files, all from within the app. The software handles a huge range of documents from .pdf, .txt, .doc, .xls, and all the usual image formats. You can also add any WebDAV enabled server, such as your MobileMe iDisk. Even better, you can do that over your iPhone’s data connection.
I tested Air Sharing Pro on my Mac and iPhone 3GS, but everything I say applies to all iPhones and the iPod Touch (substituting wi-fi for data connection where necessary). Like I mentioned earlier, no extra software is required if you’re running OS X or Windows Vista. Those running XP are highly encouraged to download the free NetDrive to fill in the gaps in XP’s networking protocols, which is a minor annoyance, but hardly a deal breaker, and especially not once you see what you can do with this app.
Setup was indeed ridiculously easy, and works exactly like the app’s help page tell you to. On OS X, all you have to do was “Add a server”¦” via Finder, and enter the IP address your phone tells you to. This mounts your iPhone as an external server, and from there, everything is a matter of moving files between folders, which I’m sure you learned to do around the third grade.
The main interface for the app is a list of the servers you can access (defaulting to your computer) followed by a list of the folders and files that you transferred to the phone. From here, you can open any of the files you want to, move them around, copy, paste, or delete them, all to your hearts content. The app flawlessly handled any file format I threw at it, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering that the iPhone is pretty good at handing most formats. Still, it was nice to see my .pdf with all of the images rendered correctly, and be able to skip around the many pages using the intuitive arrowed interface, as well as open up my .xls chart and graph. Folders of images can be viewed individually or as a slideshow.
Sharing is just as intuitive. Once you’ve selected the file or files you want to share, you have the choice to upload the file to a drop.io account so you can share them on the web, or just move the file over to the email app and send it as an attachment. You can also print any of the documents from inside the app, which is still something that blows my mind a little bit every time I do it. Accessing my iDisk was also just as easy, and the app updated itself on the fly, even as I changed and uploaded files while it was navigating them.
Although I don’t know anyone else using the software so I couldn’t test this, the app can detect other users on the same wi-fi network and allow you to connect to them and share files, which is certainly nifty and very iPhone 3.0. Security wise, the app allows you to lock access with a four digit PIN, and will transfer files on any encrypted wi-fi network. If you end up storing your iDisk credentials in the app, it’s likely a good idea to use a pin.
Air Sharing Pro is $9.99 in the app store, and while I have no problem spending $5 on a cup of coffee, I’m not easily convinced to spend as much on an app for my phone. That being said I feel is actually worth every penny considering how many features they managed to cram inside it.
Think about it: while you could always attach a file you want to an email, email it to yourself, open the email, and then download it again every time you need to view it. Or you could just move it to your iPhone once, and have permanent and quick access to it, with or without a data connection.
Should you still be unconvinced (which I find hard to believe), the basic features of the app like file moving, storing, and viewing are available in the Air Sharing App for $4.99. While you won’t have access to remote servers, be able to share the files, or print, all the other basic “thumb drive” and file-viewing features are still available. Overall, Air Sharing is one sterling app, and definitely one worth a space on your home screen.