How to transfer files from Android to macOS
Android and macOS have never been our biggest friends. While Android app development is an easy feat for Apple’s desktop operating system, the situation is very different for simple file transfers. Google’s Android File Transfer app exists, but the program is hopelessly old and difficult to crash and prone to crash when transferring a lot of data at once. You don’t have to rely on Google’s transfer tool, though – there are plenty of third-party apps out there that better solve file transfers between Android and macOS.
When it comes to establishing a wired connection to a computer, Android relies on MTP (Media Transfer Protocol). Unlike something like exFAT, this won’t give your device full control over the device’s file system, effectively preventing you from messing with the system partition and other important files. While both Windows and macOS support built-in Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) support, only the former is able to install MTP devices locally. MacOS generally must rely on third-party software to do this.
As for any of the tools below, I recommend using the cable that came with your phone to make sure it’s high quality and won’t disconnect during the process, but if you don’t have it on hand, any cable rated for data connections should be fine. When connecting the cable for the first time to your desktop and phone, make sure to open the Android notification center, look for the Android system notification, and tap it to change the connection mode to File Transfer / Android Auto. Depending on your phone and Android version, you can alternatively choose the connection mode via a popup when connecting the cable.
Free and open source: OpenMTP
OpenMTP is a fairly new project from a developer frustrated by Google’s lack of an Android file transfer tool released in mid-2019. It gives you a two-part view of the files on your device and those on their Android phone or SD card (or any other device) It connects via MTP, really). The program supports drag and drop and comes with a selection of keyboard shortcuts, although it is a pity that some of them do not match the ones in Finder.
The tool works fine with my Pixel 3 device, but others on the Android Police team have reported that OpenMTP won’t recognize some devices at all. Like Google’s File Transfer Tool, you also can’t use it to view or edit files on your phone – you first have to transfer them to your Mac. You might also not like that OpenMTP doesn’t feel very original on macOS (it’s an Electron app), but hey, it’s free and open source and should work well enough for most people.
- Get OpenMtp
Finder integration: MacDroid
MacDroid is perhaps the most elegant solution for connecting your phone, as it connects directly to the Finder and displays your Android device just like any other external drive. Setup is fairly easy: start the program, select MTP mode under Add devices, and follow the instructions. Once you set up your phone for the first time, it will automatically appear in the Finder sidebar when you connect it and select the file transfer mode.
Minor gripe: By default, MacDroid adds newly installed devices to its Finder favorites list, not locations. You can place it there by drag and drop, but it won’t maintain that position between disconnections.
If you only want to transfer files from Android to macOS, you don’t need to pay anything, but once you want to transfer things the other way, you’ll have to give away $ 19.99 a year.
- Get MacDroid
Full-blown Finder replacement: Commander One
If you don’t particularly like Finder anyway, Commander One might be for you. It’s a two-part file manager written in Swift language, and it copies and enhances the feature set that Total Commander (also known as Windows Commander) is famous for. It offers multiple tabs, customizable hotkeys, root access, advanced search options, custom file previews, and more.
To connect your Android phone to Commander One, you will need to get the Pro version which gives you additional features like FTP Manager, Dropbox and Drive integration, Process manager, themes, file compression and extraction, Terminal emulator. It comes at a one-time $ 29.99 price tag. If you are still hesitant, you can test it for 15 days. Be sure to check out our comprehensive Commander One review, too.
- Get Commander One
Local network solutions
The following solutions use your local network – no cables required. Once set up, these tools are the most convenient and time-saving way to transfer files from a to b or from Android to macOS, and some offer more than just regular file transfers.
The simple webtool: Snapdrop
If you don’t want to continue with the Nearby Sharing setting, you can just open Snapdrop.net in both of your device’s browsers. You can then drag and drop the files into the browser window to send them to your phone, or click the random Mac codename on your phone to send things the other way. When you tap and hold or right-click, you can send messages, which is useful when you need to copy login codes or phone numbers.
The open source tool is a progressive web application that you can save to your Android phone’s home screen and it is designed with WebRTC, WebSockets and NodeJS. Files are transferred in your local network, but the initial connection is established between your devices over the Internet. If you do not trust the developers, you can host your own instance by using a docker.
The FTP server: Solid Explorer
If you don’t want to rely on any external services that require an internet connection for handshakes at all, you can also use an app like Solid Explorer to start an FTP server on your Android phone and connect to it via Finder.
Once Solid Explorer is installed, open the hamburger menu on the left and scroll down to the toolbox, where you will find the FTP Server option, which reveals a simple interface titled FTP. To secure your files from other people and devices on your network, you must set a user and password in the three-dot menu in the upper right corner. Then press start. On your Mac, open a Finder window and head to Go -> Connect to server in the menu bar. Enter the FTP address displayed in Solid Explorer and the specified username and password.
The full version of Solid Explorer must be opened via an in-app purchase.
SMS sync and notification mirroring: EasyJoin
EasyJoin is more than just a tool to transfer files from a to b. Like Pushbullet, it lets you send SMS from your computer, make voice calls, match notifications, share your clipboard, and it gives you remote control of your computer. The connection is end-to-end encrypted and local, so it does not depend on external servers that transfer your data. The app uses accessibility services for some of its features.
EasyJoin is $ 13.99 on the Play Store. Once purchased, you can use the Pro version on all your devices including your desktop, and you can share your purchases with your family via Google Play Family Sharing.
- Download EasyJoin for Mac
Cloud solutions require an internet connection and files will pass through some servers, but all service providers take measures to ensure the data is encrypted. If you are not satisfied with your files’ internet connection, some of the following tools also have local modes that do not require sending files over the Internet.
Simple webtool: FileRoom
FileRoom.io is similar to Snapdrop, but it’s primarily intended for transferring files between friends and family. When you open the website on both your phone and your Mac on the same network, you will see both of them as code names for anonymous animals. Press the send to all button or select your preferred device to transfer files. There is also a room messaging section that you can use to convey icons and text. When sharing the public room icon, you can also transfer files between devices that are not on the same network. You are limited to 2GB per file, and the company pledges that files typically do not stay on its server for longer than 10 minutes.
Notification mirroring and more: AirDroid
If you prefer a locally installed website tool, you can use AirDroid. On top of letting you send files between your phone and Mac, AirDroid mirrors your notifications, lets you control your phone on your computer, provides you with a remote viewfinder, and helps you find your phone if you slide it off. AirDroid comes to your Mac as a web app (on airdroid.com) or as a suitable app installed.
AirDroid is free when used on your local network, but if you want to connect over the Internet, you are restricted to 200MB per month and cannot use the remote camera. You can upgrade to the premium version to work around these limitations.
Backups and more: X-Transfer
If you routinely connect your phone to your computer to backup your files, it might be time to automate the process with X-Transfer. Besides providing simple file transfers, the tool allows you to backup personal information such as contacts, text messages and call logs. You can repeat transfer tasks so that you don’t have to manually select everything you want to copy. The service is available on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows, although the supported functionality may vary.
The tool is also able to create a Wi-Fi Direct connection if you don’t want to send your files over the Internet.
Any cloud service
If your internet provider gives you sufficient bandwidth, you may also want to use your existing cloud service to send files from your phone. This is possible with almost any service, such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, etc.
If you still want to physically transfer the files, you can also use a USB drive. Depending on your phone, you may need some additional software to enable USB drive support. There is a paid USB OTG plugin for Solid Explorer, but you can also use Google’s free Files app. Some USB drives even have a USB-A and USB-C plug, so you can use this solution if you have an old Mac that doesn’t have USB-C yet.