We’ve all been there. You’ve spent hours curating a document, editing a video, or photoshopping an image, only to be told the file is too large to send as an attachment via email. Of course, if you want to share the file locally, you can easily load it onto a flash drive — but what about if you need to send it to a friend or colleague on the other side of the world?
It used to be a nightmare scenario, and although web-based file transfer services started to become popular in the tail-end of the last decade, they were still slow, cumbersome, and frequently failed. Thankfully, the advent of smartphones has helped streamline the process, and there are now a plethora of apps that let you share large files directly from your Android device.
Average file sizes are growing exponentially. Higher resolution photos, higher quality audio files, and the growing propensity to keep whole TV series and films on our hard drives means the cloud-based model of uploading, sharing, and downloading is starting to become dated.
The Sunshine app does away with that model, meaning you don’t have to upload files to a server before you can send them. Instead, as soon as two people have to app installed on their device, the content in question can be downloaded or streamed almost instantaneously. A 10GB file will send in less than ten seconds.
Perhaps most importantly, the app isn’t just limited to Android. It also has releases available for iOS, Windows, and Mac. While that obviously means you can send files between multiple devices and OSes (who keeps on their data on one device?), it also means you can browse the hard drives of those devices from your Android app — no more accidentally leaving a vital presentation on your office computer when you’re heading out for a meeting.
The only really restriction we came across was that sent/received files were automatically removed from the app after seven days — but that shouldn’t impact most users. There is no maximum file size.
Like Sunshine, Send Anywhere has also moved on from the cloud-based model. The main difference between the two apps is that while Sunshine requires you to create an account before you can use it, Send Anywhere only uses SSL security and a 6-digit key to pair two devices together.
This has both advantages and disadvantages. Although it speeds up the process at which files can be sent and adds a layer of anonymity to the process, it also means no more than two devices can be paired together at any one time, and you’ll have to disconnect from one paired device to connect to another. As with Sunshine, there are releases for multiple devices — but if you want to enjoy the ability to remotely manage every device that you’ve registered with Send Anywhere, you’ll still have to create an account and log in.
Other useful features include the ability to pair devices together by using a QR code (similar to how the WhatsApp web app works), and a way to share files by Bluetooth to avoid all forms of networking if the two devices are in close enough proximity. Shared files are only available for ten minutes by default, but that can be changed in the settings.
No list of apps for sharing large files would be complete without WeTransfer. It’s been around since 2009 and has long-been one of the market leaders in the cloud-based sharing sector.
As we mentioned earlier, cloud-based sharing may not have a future in the long-term, but right now it still has an important role to play. Although the process might be slower than the point-to-point offerings, WeTransfer has one huge advantage over the two apps we’ve already discussed — namely, that it does not require both the sender and the receiver to have the app installed. Instead, you can share a file with anyone as long as you know their email address. It’s easy to see how this could be expanded to social media sharing — but that’s not yet a feature.
Unlike point-to-point sharing, the technology supporting the app means the developers have had to impose a maximum file size. In WeTransfer’s case, this is 10GB.
A word of caution, if you’re using this app on 3G rather than WiFi, you could find that your upload speeds are a lot slower and that your data plan is eaten up extremely quickly — though it’s worth mentioning that uploads can be paused and restarted as you require.
Android Beam offers a third method of transferring files: Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
NFC is possibly one of the most underused technologies in mobile devices, despite its widespread adoption by manufacturers in the last couple of years. Android Beam has actually been included in every Android release since 4.0 and lets you share almost anything, be it a YouTube video, a link, a photo, or a file.
Most phones will allow you to activate NFC within a menu setting, and if you’re running Android Lollipop, it’s also listed in the share menu. Once activated, it’s simply a case of selecting the file you want to share and putting your phone’s chip against another phone’s chip (be warned, it’s not always easy to find the chip, but they are typically located on the back and near the top).
This method will not allow you to transfer files between Android devices and an iPhone; currently, Apple’s NFC technology only works with Apple Pay, though there are rumours its functionality will soon be expanded.
What are your thoughts about the apps we chose? What about the methods underpinning the apps? Would you rather use point-to-point technology, the cloud, or NFC to make the transfer? Perhaps you’ve used some of our choices, or you’ve got some other suggestions to add to the list?
Whatever your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know your feedback in the comments section below.