Browsing the files on your iOS device isn’t easy, as Apple technically doesn’t allow it. However, there are a number of desktop programs that will let you browse the file system and perform all sorts of tweaks, even if you aren’t jailbroken. Our favourite is the i-FunBox, for its good interface and easy access to all the things you could want to tweak.
Note: We know this is a desktop program in the iPhone App Directory, but it just makes more sense here, as it is iPhone-specific. In addition, most iPhone explorers are cross-platform, so it doesn’t matter whether you use Windows or OS X — the best apps are still the same. If you want an iPhone app for browsing the file system, check out our App Directory page for that topic here.
- Access the file system of any iOS device, jailbroken or not jailbroken.
- Transmit files to and from your iOS device
- Batch install or uninstall apps, or back them up to an .ipa package
- Use your iPhone as a flash drive, storing files for later on its hard disk
- Access saved games, app settings, and transfer documents to apps like video players and ebook readers without iTunes
- Preview images, change their resolution and preview them as wallpapers on your device
- Copy music and videos from your iPhone or iPod to your computer
- Shortcuts to the most frequently accessed parts of the file system, like app document folders, ringtones and more (though some of these are jailbreak-only)
i-FunBox’s most attractive feature is that it makes it easy for anyone to access files on their device without having to navigate its cryptic folder structure. Instead of having to go to /Library/Ringtones, for example, you see Ringtones right in the left sidebar, with an icon next to it and everything. Instead of having to find your favourite video app and go into its documents folder, you can find it right under “App File Sharing” in the sidebar. The ability to preview images as your wallpaper and back up apps as .ipa files is just icing on the cake, and being able to use your iPhone as a makeshift flash drive is just plain useful. The app is just super easy to use, which is really nice.
The app only has a couple downsides, and they’re pretty small. Sometimes, dragging and dropping a file from your device to your computer doesn’t work, but you can always hit the “Copy To PC” button to perform the same function. There are also some ads when you first start it up, but they aren’t popups and if that’s what it takes for the app to be free, then I’m down. I haven’t found any other issues with it, other than those small gripes.
iExplorer is the most popular iPhone explorers, but these days I don’t really see any reason to use it. It’s slow, glitchy, has annoying popups, and forces you to reopen the app every time you access more than a few app folders. I don’t recommend using it. However, the company that makes it does make another cool program called Phone Disk that lets you mount your phone as a disk on your computer. It isn’t free, but it’s pretty cool, and some might prefer it to running another full-blown explorer.
DiskAid is another competitor, and for most things it’ll work just as well as i-FunBox. It doesn’t have all the handy shortcuts that i-FunBox does, and its focus seems to be a little more on the pro version of the app, which lets you do things like transfer contacts, notes, voice memos and SMS messages to your computer. If that’s more of what you need, then DiskAid is a good choice, otherwise I prefer i-FunBox for its great shortcuts and easy-to-navigate interface.
Think of any others we didn’t mention that you really like? Share them with us in the comments.
Lifehacker’s App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.