25
Apr
airdroid

Even in its current and somewhat dated form, AirDroid is easily one of the best apps on the Google Play Store. The sheer flexibility and polish of the remote access tool has made it one of the first things I install on any new device. The original AirDroid is still great, but for the last few months the development team at Sand Studio has been beta testing AirDroid version 2, with a ton of new features added to its original toolset. AirDroid 2 will be live on the Play Store in a few hours - here's an exclusive preview of the final build.

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Setup

The setup for AirDroid 2 should be familiar for current users. Hop on the same WiFi network, start the app on your phone or tablet, and use your PC browser to log in at the given URL - beta testers have been using V2.airdroid.com, but it should go back to web.airdroid.com upon final release. You can also use a local IP address. Here's where things start to get different: instead of the existing code-based authentication scheme, you'll log in with a dedicated AirDroid account, which can be bound to your Google, Facebook, or Twitter login. No more looking back to your phone for a string of numbers, though you've still got the option for a quick camera unlock via a QR code.

FireShot Screen Capture #018 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com 2013-04-24 19.43.52

The most useful part of this is that it's no longer necessary for your phone and PC to be on the same network, or indeed, anywhere near each other. Once you've started AirDroid 2 and set up an account, you can access it from anywhere, as long as your device is connected to the Internet. Of course, this kind of remote access puts strain on AirDroid's servers, so when you're not on the same network you're limited to 1GB of data access. The 1GB limit has been in place during the beta stage, but users may be able to pay for more when the app goes gold.

Desktop

The web desktop looks a lot like it always has, but that doesn't mean it's the same. The new Toolbox widget on the right side condenses some of the more useful tools: file upload, non-Market APK installs, clipboard sharing, and URL forwarding. The search bar on top has three new options: Call, Setting, and Sign Out. They're pretty self-explanatory. Settings opens up a new menu centered around your AirDroid account, including a list of your connected devices and data usage - more on that later.

FireShot Screen Capture #004 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com FireShot Screen Capture #007 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com FireShot Screen Capture #014 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com

There are a few more shortcuts on the main screen, most notably Camera and Phone Location. Beta testers will be familiar with both, but for those of you who haven't sampled AirDroid's latest and greatest, they're pretty cool. Camera gives you a live view from your phone or tablet's rear camera - and here's the crucial bit - without actually activating the camera app on your phone. It updates about once a second, and you can take manual photos. This feature should be handy for a little home surveillance; remember to keep it legal.

FireShot Screen Capture #019 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com

You can also add direct links to folders on your device's internal storage or SD card. Right click an open area and click "new folder" to make one. This should be useful for quickly adding or retrieving files to your favorite directories, or some easy root-enabled modding. The multiple desktop feature (accessible from the four-square icon in the search bar) isn't new, but the ability to move icons between desktops is. Right-click a shortcut to move it to any of the other three workspaces.

Find Phone and Calls

The remote login feature enables another useful tool: location. AirDroid can access your phone or tablet's GPS radio to get a pinpoint location. It takes a minute, but it's just as accurate as Google Maps, which AirDroid uses to display the location. Obviously this isn't all that necessary when you've got your device handy, but if you lose it, you'll be happy it's there. (Hey, Google: why haven't you done this yet?) For those who are concerned with privacy, the feature can be disabled in the Android app.

FireShot Screen Capture #012 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com FireShot Screen Capture #005 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com

Users can also start calls right from AirDroid, a la Google Voice. Click the phone icon in the search bar to bring up a dialer, which will automatically call from the phone when engaged. It's useful for anyone who spends all day chained to a desk - copying and pasting numbers in is great. Calls can also be initiated from the Contacts list.

Interface

There isn't a whole lot that's new in the UI department. Everything in AirDroid has been given a nice layer of spit and polish, but the biggest change is to the Messages (SMS) mini-app. The function has been cleaned up and is considerably faster. A complete history of message logs con be accessed in the same way that you can access calls, with search and emoticons thrown in.

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The Windows-style taskbar for open "programs" is the same as it ever was, and open windows can be minimized, maximized, and resized at will. On the right side of the taskbar you'll find a new cloud icon, which shows the used portion of your 1GB data allowance when clicked. The old battery and signal indicators are still in place. Icons have been tweaked, and a new link for feedback has been added. Users of the original app will be happy to hear that drag and drop is now supported on compatible browsers. You can also add quick contacts that show up as shortcuts. A "Recommends" link lets AirDroid bring in a little sponsored revenue.

On Your Device

As with the original app, AirDroid 2 is split into three tabs on your Android device. The default tab is Connection, which is pretty much the same save for a username and a data meter once you're logged in. Tools now includes a quick link to the Tethering menu, for those who want to access their device while using it as a WiFi hotspot or tethered access point. The Recommends tab is basically the same thing as the link in the web desktop. In the menu bar you'll find links to a Server State window, your user account, and a Settings menu.

2013-04-23 19.39.36 2013-04-25 00.23.50 2013-04-24 23.40.23

In Settings you'll find some interesting additions. You can enable or disable the remote login "push" feature and remote location settings, a power saving mode (which seems to speed up and slow down the refresh rate for remote login), and enable or disable a forced HTTPS connection. A good inclusion is the ability to select a notification icon, notification sound, both, or neither - very nice if you prefer to keep your Android notification area spic and span, and use AirDroid constantly. A few quick links to the Android settings menu are also present.

Conclusion

In its second incarnation, AirDroid remains the best app of its kind for remote access, thanks to a good selection of new features and consistent performance. The inclusion of a truly remote login system is executed well, and will be a handy tool for any advanced user. Most people should never go over the 1GB remote data limit (for now) in the free app, and those who do should have an option for increasing their allowance soon. An in-app purchase or subscription on the Play Store would be a good addition here.

FireShot Screen Capture #006 - 'AirDroid' - v2_airdroid_com

If there's one thing that I'd like to see in future versions of AirDroid, it's the ability to pay for the app. I've used AirDroid so much over the last year that I'd be happy to do so, and while I don't begrudge the developers their inclusion of some sponsored links and the search bar, it would be nice to be able to pay for an ad-free experience. Even so, AirDroid is an app that has earned its place on every power user's device, and I have no hesitation in recommending the latest release for everyday use.

Version 2 of AirDroid will be published on the Play Store this afternoon.

Update: The 2.0 update is live. Go get it!

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Swapnil Chitnis

    Love the Bing Bang Theory messages ;)

  • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

    Awesome!!

  • skippy

    intergrate whatsapp and i am sold!

    • http://twitter.com/LiiIiikEaBau5 LiiIiikEaBau5

      That's what i was supposed to ask for!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000209056572 Joris Griffioen

    Jeremiah or AP, do a ctrl+f for "con". ;)

  • http://twitter.com/s99nj S. Ali

    It would be sweet to use apps or play games.

  • flippingthecoins

    So basically it can work as mighty text for sending SMS?

    • http://www.zadig.info Mario Gaucher

      it won't work like mightytext... airdroid will still drain the battery faster while you are connected compared to what you are getting with mightytext. Mightytext is essentially using google cloud/push to receive/send your sms. But for airdroid, you are directly connected to your device when you are using it.

  • fggdgdfgd

    How about they finally make the freaking notification icon as it should be, pure white?

  • http://www.lotusmarketing.ca/ Etienne Dupuis

    Great stuff. I loved Airdroid 1, #2 look awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    I've been waiting for this to launch for awhile since v1 and v2 stopped working for me months ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yerst Gerson Garcia Cruz

    excelente...muy buena herramienta de conectividad.....

  • Kcls

    So is there any difference between this and the beta?

  • oh great….

    Just what we need more apps with useless social login integration.... why does everything I love go to $#!t... now i gotta decompile the app just to tear that stuff off great.. ofc I could inspect the elements and delete them but overtime that's more work and in vain

  • RitishOemraw

    Have been using the beta for so long I already thought it went live.
    Experienced no bugs or anything.

    This is one of the first apps I get on my android devices and I recommend everyone to download it!

    AWESOME APP!!!!

  • Shane Milton

    FYI, the released version gives you 100MB or data, not 1GB like it was in Beta. Also, let them send a Tweet for you and they'll give you 2 months of free "Premium" access. I have no clue what "Premium" is, but I have it!! :-P

  • https://twitter.com/#!/SydHaven Syd

    Awesome to see this app get a solid update!

  • Cherokee4Life

    Can I sync multiple phones to my "airdroid" account? say my kids phone and mine? so I can GPS locate it if its lost or what not?

  • Bjorn P. Munch

    Access the phone from anywhere? Well that's fine when you need it but I hope it still provides the local network only access? I'd feel a little safer that way. :-) Not to mention it's fast and unlimited.

  • Yunacchi

    Gee, that sentence scared me for a second. For those who were somewhat misled by it, like me, do know that it is still possible to log in to your phone without any Internet access. You'll get an authorization pop-up instead of a code, though; and you'll be thrown in 'lite' mode, which is basically everything without the online bells and whistles, so no change.

    >[...] instead of the existing code-based authentication scheme, you'll log in with a dedicated AirDroid account, which can be bound to your Google, Facebook, or Twitter login.

    • Yunacchi

      Oh, and without any 100MB/1GB limit, that should go without saying.

    • Simon Belmont

      Good to know, I love this app. I prefer it that way.

      I really only use it for local stuff anyway. File transfer, music, texting, while I'm home or at work.

  • Freak4Dell

    I'm confused, or maybe I'm doing something wrong. For me, AirDroid needs to be running on the phone for me to log in from the website. AirDroid only runs if I open it from the app drawer. Granted, I probably could leave it running after opening once, but I'd rather not have the app itself open at all times. So, if the app isn't open, how are you supposed to log in from your computer and access the location information?

    • xdapao3

      Same problem here on a Note II N7100 running latest JB MC3.
      It's still a fantastic app and it's also much improved but AFAIK this version should be able to be "auto-started" (both on Wi-Fi and 3G) from a remote web connection on a PC. The "Push setting" and the 2 processes running in the background after boot are there for this reason... Hope it's fixed soon (provided it's a bug), it would be an awesome additional feature to an already awesome app.

  • Philipp Junghannß

    can it work still when I dont have an internet connection, e.g. when DSL is broken, in prev Airdroid I could either enter a string or a password I set in the settings...

  • http://twitter.com/Dave_BG Dave Bg

    It does not work if you have proxy ... in other words it does not work at work where you will mostly need it.

    • Gilberto Valentin

      What if you set your phone to use a Proxy server as well? Or what if you tell your computer to bypass proxy for local network addresses?

      • Dave

        On the phone i have no proxy , its the PC version...

  • techquestioner

    I really liked the passcode - my tablet doesn't have a camera, and a passcode allowed me to keep a wall between the app and my email / social network accounts (I don't see a need for me to have this app connected to them). Alas, while the app was fantastic, I won't be using it anymore...

  • shanthandro

    Its awesome..

  • Kuribo Danu

    Their web login page (web.airdroid.com) sends your login credentials in plain text (not https), essentially broadcasting the keys to wipe your phone, lock you out of it, or whatever you've enabled the app to do. I've used this app for about a year and LOVED it! But have lost confidence in their ability to maintain basic security. Sadly, I've uninstalled it.

  • Lanze Langill

    Hey, Does anyone know where I can get some help with my install? Samsung galaxy tab 2... Every time I open AirDroid it just shuts down saying that the application has stopped. :( It sucks 'cause I really like the software.

  • ZombieDoggy

    Premium at $45/year ??
    I'm not prepared to pay that. Fixed price of say $20 fine, but ongoing fees ? NO WAY.

  • Zen

    NO ENCRYPTION. Why would anyone use the remote access features of this app when it sends your data & passwords over the internet completely in the open & unencrypted? Airdroid have known about this issue for ages, but still aren't using SSL connections.

    I'm astounded no one here has even mentioned this & seem to show zero concern about what would happen if their connection was intercepted, giving hackers full control over & full access to the contents of your phone. Please tell me I'm missing something here, because this seems just too basic a security requirement for it to be ignored by everyone.