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Monday, January 10, 2011

How To Best Export Photos from Your Android Phone

Here's the scenario, you just took a picture with your Android phone, and you want that file on your computer. Sure, you could drag out the cable and plug in your phone to transfer it over. But what is this, the stone age? Android is designed to be a connected operating system that doesn't rely on being tethered to a PC. So why break out the cable when you need to move some images off?

We’re going to tell you about some great ways to move files off your phone without that cable.

Email It

This is perhaps the most roundabout way to accomplish a feat of cable-free image transfer. You need to rummage around the Gallery, find the image, Share it to Gmail, send the message with the attachment to yourself. Then download the file on your PC. This is convenient in that you don't need to do any set up. All you need is internet access, and you can get the files where it needs to be.

Android does not scale the images you send in email, so if the file in question is a large video, you will want to make sure you're on Wi-Fi. This method is good in a pinch, but grabbing multiple images from Gmail can be a little clunky.

Wi-Fi File Browser
If you are on the same Wi-Fi network with the phone and the PC, you can use one of several very good Wi-Fi file system browsers. With this method, you only need to have an app on the phone. The PC will need no special software to access your files. With most of these apps, you just type a local network address into the to see the files.

We really like an app called WebSharing. It will cost you $2.99, but it is very well designed. There is a tab at the top of the browser interface for different types of files. One of these is Photos, but you also get quick access to Video and Music. If you click one of these, you can see all the folders on the phone with images. This relies on you knowing where the files are though. Once you find the file you need, just click on it and use the integrated File > Download command to save it to the PC. You can also control-clock to select multiple images, and download them as a ZIP file.

If you use an FTP client on your PC, you might like to just add you Android phone to hat program for quick access. There are a few FTP server apps on Android that we like, but the best seems to be SwiFTP. This method is a little more complicated, but more powerful. These methods are excellent choices because you can grab any file you like, not just images.


There are a few services you can have you images uploaded to, making it fairly easy to just download them on your PC. Picasa is Google's own photo sharing site, and it is already built into your phone. Find the image, or images you want to move to the cloud and go to the Share menu, then choose Picasa. You will get a nice option screen where you can add a caption if you like, choose the folder you want them in, and even use a different Google account.

If you're just using the Picasa web interface, you will have to go there and download the image. But if you are using the Picasa Desktop software, you can get access to the newly uploaded pics much faster. This method requires little configuration, and is fairly fast.

If you are willing to branch out to third-party apps, you can get use something like Photobucket to automatically upload your pictures. This is a great solution if you often need quick access to images on your PC, and you have a solid data connection. This app will copy all your snapshots to your Photobucket site. The only problem, is that you need to have this set up ahead of time. Otherwise, it's not much more convenient than the cable route.

You should probably have a Dropbox account anyway, so many will have very little setup to do. If you are not a Dropbox user, sign up, and get the desktop program and the Android app. Dropbox will tie in with your Gallery Sharing menu. So all you have to do is find the files you want to copy over, then use Sharing > Dropbox. This will pull up a Dropbox file browser that lets you pick the folder you want to put the files in. Hit "Send to this folder", and you're done.

The files will upload to Dropbox, and will be replicated on all your linked devices. So your computer should receive the file automatically. Depending on your settings, you could even get a handy notification the file is there. We really like this method because you should probably have Dropbox for other reasons anyway, and it is a simple one-step process.

Whichever method you choose, it is worlds better than using a cable to transfer files. If you have a home Wi-Fi network you will be able to get things done very fast, and use more powerful options like Wi-Fi disk and FTP apps more easily. Picasa is great if you like to have images in the cloud, and don't mind downloading them via the web or Picasa software. But Dropbox is definitely our favorite. As long as you have it set up, this is the most convenient way to wirelessly get files onto your computer.

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