Stock Android requires MIUI’s file sharing feature

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

MIUI has been around for ages ⁠ – it was actually Xiaomi’s first product back in 2011. Over the years, the Android skin was the first or one of the first, bringing features popular today like scrolling screenshots, dual apps and per-app volume controls .

However, there is one under-the-radar MIUI feature that I’ve recently become a fan of, and that’s the built-in FTP functionality.

Continue reading: A look at all the major Android skins

How FTP sharing works and where it shines

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is a long-standing standard for transferring files over a network between two devices. One device acts as an FTP server while another can browse the content of that server/device. For example, you could run a PC as an FTP server and access its files over the network using a phone or another PC.

The kicker is that many Android smartphones don’t have native FTP server functionality – but Xiaomi’s file manager for smartphones and tablets is the exception here. The integrated file manager has an FTP function conveniently tucked away in the side menu. Once you’ve activated it on your phone, simply enter the address provided into your computer’s file manager and you’re good to go. No additional apps required.

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This feature is pretty handy as it allows you to wirelessly browse the contents of your phone as if it were plugged into your computer (i.e. using your PC’s file manager). This means you can navigate between the different folders and copy/paste/delete files and folders as you wish. It also works over a local network, saving your internet bandwidth and data allocation.

FTP support is also widespread among desktop platforms, so you can use this method on Linux and Mac in addition to Windows. However, Android devices require an app to browse an FTP server, so instead you’ll have to rely on tools like Nearby Share for local Android-to-Android file sharing without an app.

With FTP, you can wirelessly browse the contents of your phone as if it were connected to your computer.

Additionally, FTP can be more practical than email, messaging apps, and Google Drive when it comes to handling large numbers or sizes of files and folders. For example, Google Drive doesn’t support folder uploads on mobile devices, while the FTP feature allows you to simply copy and paste as you would any other folder on your PC.

Where FTP stumbles

Xiaomi FTP functionality on a tablet

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

There is one massive downside to FTP, however, and that’s the fact that transfer speeds aren’t very fast and can vary wildly. For example, copying a 1.4GB file from a PC to the Poco F4 GT took just under four minutes, although transferring it the other way took over eight minutes. For comparison: A wired transfer between PC and phone via USB 2.0 each took about 40 seconds.

I found the speed sufficient to transfer a few gigabytes between PC and phone, although the limitations aren’t as severe when transferring smaller files (e.g. music tracks, a few photos). It can also be faster than Nearby Share at times. Still, I appreciate the ability to go wireless for a round of local file sharing, although some people would understandably place more value on faster transfer speeds.

Pre-installed FTP functionality on a smartphone has its advantages and disadvantages compared to other solutions.

It is also worth noting that FTP is a significant security risk, as content on the origin server and credentials can be viewed via simple attack techniques. Fortunately, there are some workarounds, such as: B. the SFTP standard (Secure File Transfer Protocol). Nevertheless, it should be sufficient to temporarily enable FTP access on your own network and then disable it when the transfer is complete.

Another somewhat disappointing move is the decision to deprecate FTP functionality from browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome. However, this isn’t a problem if you’re viewing and transferring phone files via your PC’s file manager anyway, which is my main use case.

How do other sharing methods perform?

Share Android nearby

When it comes to alternatives to FTP, Google’s Nearby Share is a popular option. Google’s sharing tool can be noticeably faster than Xiaomi’s FTP feature, although I’ve certainly experienced the opposite on occasion. But it’s a proprietary protocol and the desktop compatibility is the real downside compared to FTP, as it only supports Chromebooks and not Mac, Linux, and Windows computers. So you’re out of luck if you want to share from mobile to PC here.

We’ve also seen OEM-specific sharing solutions between Android and PC, starting with Huawei and Xiaomi. These are pretty seamless, but the glaring problem is that they only work between devices of the same brand. So you can seamlessly share files between a Xiaomi phone and Xiaomi laptop, but not between a Huawei phone and Xiaomi laptop.

Our selection: Best Android Apps to Transfer Files from Android to PC

Another notable mobile-to-PC solution is Microsoft’s Your Phone feature. However, the ability to wirelessly access your phone’s files on a Windows PC is limited to Samsung and Surface Duo devices. So you’re out of luck if you have a Mac or Linux computer, or if you don’t have a Samsung or Microsoft phone.

A final practical alternative to FTP functionality is the KDE connection App that allows you to do numerous tasks from your PC, e.g. B. Search your phone’s files, share links, get phone notifications, and more. The downside compared to traditional FTP support is that KDE Connect requires an app to be installed on both PC and mobile.

A modern home for an old log

Xiaomi’s FTP-based implementation is pretty seamless and definitely one of the most convenient solutions from a device-independent point of view. It’s clearly not perfect as speed is its main weakness while security is another factor to keep in mind. However, the ability to wirelessly browse your phone’s contents on your PC without the need for additional apps is certainly welcome.

It’s really the sort of feature we’d like to see on stock Android unless Microsoft’s Your Phone file-sharing feature expands to more smartphones, or Nearby Share doesn’t come to Windows and other desktop platforms. But even if both of these scenarios occur, the built-in FTP functionality still gives these alternative solutions bang for the buck in terms of convenience.

If you don’t have a Xiaomi phone or one with FTP functionality pre-installed, there are a couple of handy apps on the Play Store that you can try FTP server (from developer The Olive Tree) and MiXplorer are our recommended picks.

How do you access phone files from your PC?

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