Android File Transfer: How to Move Data Between Your Phone and Other Devices

You can even move Android info to a Mac or iPhone

Google Pixel 2 and MacBook Air

Many smartphone owners use their mobile devices as a primary source of storage, but there comes a time when they may need to perform an Android file transfer to move data from one device to another.

Those who use Apple products have it pretty easy, as there are several easy ways to move files from iPhones to MacBooks to iPads and so on. Transferring files from Android smartphones to other devices can a little more challenging, but not impossible.

in fact, there are several methods for transferring files from Android smartphones to other devices, be it from Android to Android, Android to Mac, Android to iOS, or Android to Windows.

Transfer Files From Android to Android

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is likely the easiest way for two Android users to share files between devices. This method doesn't require an internet connection or cables. Users need only have their Bluetooth connection on to pair the devices. From there users can find the files they wish to transfer and download from one device to another.

OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S8 connecting via Bluetooth
OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S8 connecting via Bluetooth.

Connecting devices via Bluetooth

  1. Have both devices unlocked with their Bluetooth connections on.
  2. Access Bluetooth via the drop-down menu or via Settings in the Connections option.
  3. In the Bluetooth settings, devices may automatically show other devices available for pairing or users can access Pair new device to search for available devices.
  4. Initiate the Bluetooth pairing on one handset and both handsets will be prompted to confirm a passkey. Once confirmed, the devices are paired.

Sharing files via Bluetooth

  1. Go to the files manager on one of the devices.
  2. Access the folder where the file for sharing is located and access the file.
  3. Select Share in the bottom left corner of the screen, select Bluetooth, then select the device for sharing. The user receiving the file will have to confirm the file share on their device to initialize the transfer.
  4. Once the transfer is complete the recipient will be able to access the file in the downloads folder on their device. 

Unpair Bluetooth connected devices

  1. Access Bluetooth settings on one of the connected devices.
  2. Next to the paired devices, select the Settings icon, represented as a cog.
  3. Select Unpair.

NFC

NFC (Near-Field Communication) is another method of simple wireless transfer between Android devices. It's very similar to a Bluetooth connection, except users must touch the backs of two smartphones together to initiate a connection.

Connecting a OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S8 via NFC
Connecting a OnePlus 6 and Galaxy S8 via NFC.

Connecting devices via NFC

  1. Have both devices unlocked with their NFC connections on.
  2. Access NFC via the drop-down menu or via Settings in the Connections option.
  3. In the NFC settings, enable Android Beam on both devices.

Sharing devices via NFC

  1. Go to the files manager on one of the devices.
  2. Access the folder where the file for sharing is located and access the file.
  3. Press the backs of the two devices together, then follow the Tap to Beam instructions on the device sending the file.
  4. Press the backs of the two devices together a second time to initiate the file transfer. This should happen automatically with minimal download time.
  5. Once the transfer is complete, the recipient will be able to access the file in the downloads folder on their device.  

Disconnecting NFC

Access the NFC settings on the connected device, then disable Android Beam.

Note: Keep in mind the NFC connection enabled to support mobile payment systems such as Google Pay are active, so it may not be necessary to turn off NFC.

Cable Transfer

Using a cable to transfer files from one Android smartphone to another is another simple method, in theory; users won’t know how devices will react to being connected until they attempt the function. Ensuring the devices have proper connection compatibility is one issue, while another is navigating the Android file transfer system, which often prompts automatically and in different ways depending on the device.

OnePlus 6 and Pixel 2 XL sharing via cable
OnePlus 6 and Pixel 2 XL sharing via cable.

Connecting devices via cable

  1. Figure out what kind of input port each device has. Current devices will typically have either a Micro USB or a USB-C port. Users will typically need an adapter or an OTG (On-the-Go) cable to connect two devices.
  2. Gather the cables and/or adapters needed to establish a connection between two devices.
    1. Note: If both devices are USB-C, users may need an OTG cable to complete a connection between a standard USB and a USB-C charging cable. If one device is USB-C and one is Micro USB, users may need a USB-C to Micro USB adaptor or Micro USB to USB-C adaptor to complete the connection.
  3. Plug the cable into both devices via their respective ports.
  4. Once the devices are connected, wait to see if either device prompts any file sharing action. Some devices may suggest users access the Downloads folder. If a device prompts this option, select it, as it will automatically connect the two devices and take users to the folder where the other device’s files should be visible.
    1. Note: Alternatively, users will see an Android System notification in the drop-down menu of at least one of the smartphones. Select Tap for more options > File Transfers to access the folder where the other device’s files should be visible.
  1. Users will know the two devices are connected if they see the Internal shared folder from one smartphone on the screen of the other device. They can also select the three-line menu icon in the top left corner of the Downloads folder to see both devices listed in the files manager.

Sharing files when your smartphone is the connected source

  1. Whichever smartphone has both devices listed in the device manager menu is the connected source. Users can access all folders from the other device from the screen of the connected source.
  2. Find the file users wish to share from the other device. A camera image, for example, could be accessed by navigating to the DCIM folder> Camera folder > and the image to be shared.
  3. Select the Download option from the three-dot more icon in the top right corner.
  4. Return to the main file manager and access the other Download folder from the connected source device. Users will find the file downloaded from the other device in this folder. 

Sharing files when your smartphone is not the connected source

  1. Users may get the devices connected but may want to share files from the other device to the connected source device. This is also possible using the file manager on the connected source.
  2. Find the file users wish to share from the connected source files. For example, a camera image is accessible by navigating to the DCIM folder> Camera folder > and the image to be shared.
  3. Select the file with a long press, then select Copy to from the three-dot more icon in the top right corner.
  4. Select the Menu tab in the top left corner and select the other smartphone. This will take users to the field of the other device. Select the folder to copy the file to and users will find the file in this folder.

Once the transfer is done, simply unplug the devices from the cable to end the connection.

Transfer Files From Android to Mac

Transferring files from an Android smartphone to a Mac computer isn't that challenging, but there are a few annoying steps. What makes an Android to Mac transfer tedious is that most of it is manual. First, if the Mac is brand new or has never before connected to an Android device, users will need to install the Android File Transfer app.

Android File Transfer on a Macbook
Android File Transfer on a Macbook.

Installing Android File Transfer App

Find the Android File Transfer app here. Download AndroidFileTransfer.dmg, then open and install it by dragging the app to the Mac Applications folder.

Connecting an Android smartphone to a Mac computer

  1. Unlock the Android smartphone and connect it to a Mac computer or MacBook with a compatible cable.
    1. Note: Older MacBooks may have USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports to allow for a direct smartphone-to-computer connection. Newer MacBooks feature only a single USB-C port, so users will need a USB-C to USB-C cable or a USB to USB-C compatible OTG cable to establish a connection.
  2. Once plugged in the Mac will likely show a prompt that reads, “Make sure your device is unlocked" and File Transfer or MTP mode is selected.
  3. Open the drop-down menu on the Android smartphone and select Android System > USB charging this device > Tap for more options.
  4. Select Transfer files on the smartphone and close the prompt on the computer.
  5. This should close and reopen the Android File Transfer app automatically. If it doesn’t open automatically users can quit the app and reopen it manually to access files.

Sharing files between Android and Mac

  1. Users will see all the files from the Android smartphone in the Android File Transfer window.
  2. Select the files for transfer. For example, find camera images by selecting the DCIM folder > Camera folder.
  3. Users must manually drag and drop the files they want to share from the Android File Transfer app to the Mac desktop.
    1. Note: Users cannot preview the files but can identify them by name or by the “last modified” date. 
    2. Tip: Select multiple files to drag and drop by pressing the Command key while selecting the items. Alternatively, create a folder on the desktop and drag all the files at once to avoid a messy screen.
  4. Similarly, users can drag and drop files from the Mac computer into the Android File Transfer app. Users will want to drag and drop into a specific folder to ensure easy access on the smartphone.

Disconnecting an Android smartphone from a Mac computer

Quit the Android File Transfer app, then disconnect the cable from the Mac and Android smartphone.

Transfer Files From Android to iPhone

Android and iOS smartphones are largely incompatible, making it a challenge to share files between phones the way users can share files from one Android smartphone to another. There are many apps and programs, such as Move to iOS, designed to enable users to transfer their entire Android system to an iOS device, and vice versa. If users want to share just a few files, the options aren’t as seamless, but it's still not impossible.

Google Docs on an iPhone
Google Docs on an iPhone.

Using a Mac computer

If users have a Mac computer on hand they can transfer files from either an Android device or iPhone, then transfer files to the other device. While this isn’t the simplest task, it's a viable option.

Sharing from Android to Mac to iOS

Transfer files from an Android smartphone to a Mac computer using the Android File Transfer instructions detailed above. Afterward, transfer those files from a Mac computer to an iPhone using a simple Apple transfer method, such as AirDrop.

Sharing from iOS to Mac to Android

Use AirDrop to transfer files from an iPhone to a Mac computer, then transfer files from a Mac computer to an Android smartphone using the Android File Transfer instructions above. 

Using Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage is also a mostly painless way to share files between Android and iOS smartphones. While Android and iOS are not compatible, iOS users can install and use Google services, making it easy to connect to the Android ecosystem. Android users can send documents and images to iOS users via Google Drive and other Google connected apps, and vice versa, provided the iOS users have a Google account.

Sharing is as simple as inserting a user’s email address into the Google Drive share function, allowing someone with an iPhone to read Google documents and view images in Google Photos. Users also have the option to create a link to send via message or email. Gmail and Google services such as Google Drive and Google Photos are free and include 15GB of cloud storage.

Setting up Google services on iOS

Download the necessary Google apps from the Apple App Store. Most Android devices come with the Google suite of services preinstalled. Afterward, use a Gmail account to sign in or create a Google account.

Note: This can be done with a non-Google email if users do not wish to set up Gmail.

Sharing Google services between iOS and Android

  1. Access or create a document using, for example, Google Drive.
  2. Access the three-dot menu tab in the right-hand corner of the screen.
  3. Select Add people and type in the name or email address of the Android or iOS recipient.
  4. Select the send button, located next to the menu tab and represented by a paper plane icon.

Alternatively, select Link-sharing to copy a link to the document. Send the link to an Android or iOS recipient via message, email, or any other communication method, such as through Twitter, Facebook, Direct message, etc.

Transfer Files From Android to Windows PC

Despite running different software, Android and Windows devices play pretty well together. Sharing files by simply plugging an Android device into a Windows computer is still one of the easiest ways to share files.

Windows Surface laptop
Windows Surface laptop.

Connecting an Android to a Windows PC  

  1. Much like a Mac computer, users will have to ensure they have the right cables, connectors, and/or adapters to connect an Android smartphone to a Windows computer. However, many Windows computers will have standard USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, making it easy for users to plug in their standard charging cables.
  2. Unlock the Android smartphone and connect the cable to both devices.
  3. The Windows computer will show a prompt indicating the phone has been connected. Tap this option to open the file manager. 

Sharing files from an Android smartphone to a Windows Computer 

Drag and drop files from the file manager to the Windows desktop. Similar to Mac computers, users can drag files directly to a folder instead of to the desktop.

Users can also drag files from the Windows computer into the file manager and they will appear on the Android smartphone. 

Disconnecting an Android device from a Windows computer

  1. Find the connection icon.
  2. Select Eject device.
  3. Disconnect the Android smartphone from the Windows computer.