FileXChange for Mac review

File transfer apps for iOS tend to fall into one of two categories: those that allow you to explore your iPad or iPhone via the device’s file structure, and those that use the device as a virtual USB drive. The latter usually work with iTunes via the app’s file sharing facility but is there an app that doesn’t need iTunes at all yet can transfer files between different iOS devices and Macs via wifi? That’s where FileXChange for Mac comes in. 

FileXChange has been around for a few years. Installed on iPads or iPhones, it allows you to connect between them on the same wifi network or via Bluetooth, using the iPhone’s Personal Hotspot feature. The app needs to be installed on each device – indeed, it needs to be purchased for each device. From the toolbar, just click on the icon that matches the method of networking. Once connected, files within the dedicated storage section can be transferred between devices. 

Now there is a dedicated Mac app, this movement of files becomes more interesting as it allows iOS devices to be used as virtual USB drives. Connection with a Mac is likely to be via wifi although a web browser and dedicated URL can also be used. The latter means that non-iOS devices and PCs can transfer data to and from iPhones and iPads, again without the use of iTunes. 

Given the capacity of some iOS devices, transferring large files will be slow via wifi (and even slower using Bluetooth). For this, the usual iTunes method can be used as FileXChange supports the iOS file sharing feature. This would be equally valuable if transferring a large number of smaller files such as photos.

The Mac app looks like something from MacOS 9 days, complete with old-style logo – but looks can be deceiving

FileXChange has some neat file-handling features. Any iOS-supported formats (including PDF, Microsoft Office and iWork files, photos, audio and video files) can be opened. Multiple files can be zipped and unzipping is also supported, another solution for bulk transference. Direct emailing is supported, files can be password protected for security and there’s even two-way access to your iOS device’s Camera Roll.

One other really useful feature is the direct support for various cloud services with iCloud, Dropbox, Google Docs and Box all supported. This makes FileXChange a central hub for file transfers – and much more than a replacement for a simple USB flash drive.

Any device with a web browser can read and write to FileXChange

In use, FileXChange performs really well with Mac to iOS device speed being about the same as standard network transfer and iOS to iOS a little faster. If there’s one criticism it would be the rather basic nature of the Mac app which doesn’t support drag-&-drop and looks and feels like a pre-Mac OS X program. Hopefully the next version will improve on this.

The other issue is that as the iOS app cannot work in the background, your device is completely tied up if you’re transferring large files. While this is primarily a Bonjour protocol problem, iStartApp is looking at a workaround.

Once on your iOS device, files can be viewed and handled in a number of ways

OUR VERDICT

If all you want to do is explore the files in your iOS device, get iFunBox – it’s free and handles this side admirably. However, if you want to transfer files between Macs, iOS devices and other smart phones and computer systems then FileXChange offers an almost unique solution.

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