Google doesn’t have a dedicated PC or Mac client for Android devices, but you can still manage your smartphone or tablet from a desktop with AirDroid.
With AirDroid, you can send text messages from your computer, manage your contacts, apps and media, and paste links or clipboard items to your phone from your PC. It runs off a web browser, which makes it completely platform agnostic.
Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux/Chrome OS
Price: Free ($1.99/month for Premium)
- Send and receive text messages
- Manage all files on the device
- View, download and upload photos
- Play, import and export music or videos
- Manage ringtones and notification sounds
- Manage contacts, dial from web interface (Premium)
- Export app APKs, install apps from APKs
- Upload files, paste links, paste text directly to clipboard
- Find lost phone, remotely wipe or lock phone, take photo of intruder (Premium)
- Connect and switch between up to six devices (Premium)
- Take screenshots (rooted phones only)
Where It Excels
AirDroid lets you perform most of your common phone tasks through a PC. It’s easy to set up and get running, and you can use it on multiple computers. AirDroid works best when both the PC and the phone are on the same network, but you can also connect through USB. Most of the features do exactly what they say. Reading and replying to text messages works well too, although MightyText is still our preferred client. The app also works without a wireless network, just in case you’re using it outside home and don’t trust the network you’re on. However, that has a data limit of 100MB per month, or 1GB with a premium plan.
Where It Falls Short
It is disappointing to not have a simple backup and restore option in AirDroid. You can manually export all your data, but an automatic solution would be better, so for now, you’re still better off using Titanium Backup for rooted phones, or the new Helium if you aren’t rooted. AirDroid also can’t play videos directly off the phone, which is an annoyance with every Android desktop manager we tried. Also, AirDroid needs an active internet connection and won’t work if your mobile data and Wi-Fi network are both switched off.
If it wasn’t Windows-only and if its Wi-Fi app wasn’t inexplicably pulled from the Play Store, MoboRobo (free) could have edged out AirDroid as the most powerful desktop manager for Android. It has a simple backup and restore button, and it can be set to automatically backup whenever you connect your device. It does not require an internet connection to work, and it has screen mirroring — you can see your phone’s screen on your PC screen. Plus, it’s completely free, with no hidden payments. It has its shortcomings though, like requiring either a USB or shared network connection. Again, the SMS feature is best left to MightyText, and MoboRobo’s clipboard and notification features aren’t great, so you should rely on Pushbullet instead. It also does not have a Find My Phone feature in case you lose your device, which means you’ll need Android Device Manager for that.
There’s also Wondershare’s MobileGo ($US39.99), available for both Windows and Mac. It requires a USB cable connection and does most of the things that both AirDroid and MoboRobo do, but at a steep price of $US39.99, it’s hard to recommend over AirDroid or MoboRobo.
If you’re looking for something to just interact with your text messages, manage multimedia, and install or uninstall apps, then have a look at Snappea (free), available for Windows and as a web app. The Windows client especially is a low-maintenance way to manage the basics of your Android phone.
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