By the end of this blog post you'll be able to easily transfer any file between your mac computer and an android phone both using a cable and wirelessly. However, stick around to the end because there were two apps I tested that I definitely wouldn’t recommend. Let’s get started.
If you have a lot of files to copy or they are fairly large in size - say gigabytes - the quickest way is to use a cable and the best app for the purpose is the official Android File Transfer App, which is made specifically by Android for this purpose.
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Transferring Files Using a Cable
Before plugging in your phone to your mac, download the software by either going to android.com/filetransfer or Google “android File transfer”. Note that the first result that pops up isn’t the page you want, it’s a paid link. The actual link you want is the second result that takes you to the official android website.
Click Download Now, and if you receive a Mac security prompt because you’re downloading software from the internet and not through the AppStore don’t worry, click Allow . Once downloaded, open the package, and like with most Mac software, simply drag the icon to your applications folder to install it.
Open the application and you’ll likely see a message displayed which is the signal to plug your phone into your mac using the cable that came with your phone.
Having done so, a window will pop up displaying your phone’s file system. If it doesn’t work the first time try unplugging your phone, restarting the app and then re-connecting. I say this because it didn’t work for me the first time, but after rebooting the phone, it now works every time. It just seems like you need to run the software before connecting the phone.
The other thing you may want to check is the USB settings on your phone. You want to make sure the option “File Transfer / Android Auto” is selected. If it wasn’t, having made this change, again unplug and reconnect your phone and now it should connect to your Mac.
When you see the window displaying the file system of your phone, you know everything is working correctly. You can access all the files on your phone through your Mac, as if it was another drive. Photos are usually located in a folder called DCIM.
In my YouTube video I demonstrate transferring two videos that were captured on my GoPro. Transferring files is just a simple matter of dragging and dropping files from an Android folder to one of your Mac folders..
To transfer files in the other direction from your phone to your computer, open up a finder window, find the files you wish to copy from your phone’s file system and again simply drag and drop them over to your mac.
Transferring Files Wirelessly
To transfer files without the need for a cable, I recommend using an app called Air-droid. Having downloaded the app you’ll have the option to Sign up or Sign in, but there’s really no need, so I just hit Skip in the top right corner of the screen. You’re then told the app will need access to your files, which is kind of obvious, so you need to allow permission for that.
You’re then presented with a couple of different connection options and the one to use is Air-droid web. I also recommend connecting via IP address - which means the connection is directly between your mac and your phone over wifi, rather than going via a dodgy Air-droid server on the internet. On your mac, make sure you’re connected to the same wifi network as your phone, open up Safari and type in the URL as displayed in the app. Don’t worry if the numbers in your address are slightly different to mine, that's normal.
Having entered the IP address, click enter, accept the connection on your phone and you will be presented with this desktop interface in Safari. Air-droid has a tonne of different features but to transfer files click on the Files icon over on the left and then, as before, open up a finder window and drag and drop your files to the folder on your phone where you want to store them.
A graphic indicates when the files have been successfully transferred. To transfer files in the opposite direction from your phone to your Mac, it’s just a matter of finding the file and clicking the download button. Click Allow and the file will be saved to your Downloads folder.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I tested several other tools that were mentioned on reddit and forums, which personally I didn’t like. Handshaker, for example, wanted access to my location and have the ability to make calls, which I thought was a bit odd. It also was a bit hit and miss when it came to connecting wirelessly.
ShareIt was another app that did work wirelessly, but again wanted access to make calls and my location, as well as the ability to record video and take pictures. It also seemed to transfer the files via their own servers, and it wasn’t clear whether a copy of the files were being stored on their servers.
To be very honest, I would stick to using a cable and the Android File Transfer app. I would discourage using any kind of third party app, including Air-droid if your data is sensitive. However, if you're not transferring anything too risky, then Air-droid is a safe bet.