Review: Magnetism Studios FileMagnet
On August 19, 2008, we reviewed a collection of four different file storage applications for the iPhone and iPod touch in a roundup entitled iPhone Gems: Every File Storage App, Reviewed, updating it on August 22, 2008 with two new entries. This review contains a review of one application from that roundup; additional comparative details can be found in the original full story.
Though iPods have included this feature for years, Apple did away with Disk Mode—a way to store non-media files for transfer to a different computer—when it released the iPhone and iPod touch. Fortunately, as with other features missing from the iPhone and iPod touch in their native configuration, enterprising third-party developers have stepped in to fill the void, albeit in somewhat different ways than you may expect. New apps not only store and transport your files, but also let you actually view them on the device itself if they are in a supported format.
However, these tools don’t actually provide the old-style “Disk Mode” that the traditional iPod models do—rather than operating over USB and appearing as an external storage device, these applications all work over Wi-Fi using various network protocols. Your iPhone or iPod touch and your computer will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network if you want to transfer files to and from your device.
was the first App Store file storage app release, as it was actually available at the App Store’s launch. It lets you transfer files to and from your iPhone or iPod touch using the company’s own file transfer application for Mac OS X, downloaded free from the Magnetism Studios web site link on FileMagnet’s App Store page. Unfortunately, as of this writing there is no Windows version of the uploader app available, meaning this application will presently be of little use for Windows users.
Downloading and using the app is very straightforward; it requires no special network configuration knowledge or customization. Loading the app provides a simple transfer window that displays the content of your connected device, as well as any content that has been queued up for transfer to the device.
The FileMagnet app finds the iPhone or iPod touch automatically as long as they are on the same Wi-Fi network, a process that we’ve tested on a couple of machines without any sort of issue. As an added security measure, FileMagnet will prompt you to authorize your connection the first time you use the FileMagnet app on a new computer.
Adding content is as simple as dragging it from your Finder window into the FileMagnet desktop application. If the iPhone or iPod touch is connected, files will begin transferring immediately; otherwise they are automatically queued up and transferred the next time your device is connected.
Any files in the pending file queue will remain there awaiting transfer until they are either successfully transferred or manually removed. Files transferred to your iPhone or iPod touch will appear directly within the FileMagnet app as soon as you click on it.
Files can also be transferred back from the device via the FileMagnet desktop application, or deleted directly on the device in the usual manner: swipe left-to-right across the file entry, or tap the EDIT button and tap the delete symbol beside each entry. Note that there is no way to create folders directly on the device to organize your files, however transferring an entire folder from your computer will create a sub-folder entry on your device for those files. You cannot move existing files between sub-folders.
You can transfer any file or folder to your device via the FileMagnet desktop app, but as an added bonus, FileMagnet also provides support for viewing popular file formats. Specifically, FileMagnet will allow on-device viewing of JPG, PDF, HTML, text, Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents, Apple iWork Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents, and any video or audio file that could otherwise be synced to the device from iTunes. Files that can be viewed on the device will have a small arrow to the right of the file listing. Tapping on the file entry will open a viewer window.
During viewing, the usual zooming and panning features are available, while rotating the device will also reorient the viewer to landscape mode, although oddly only the content is rotated—the interface itself remains in portrait mode.
In addition, FileMagnet is the only application we’ve reviewed that will remember your place if you exit it while viewing a document and automatically return to it when you re-launch the application. All of the other applications return to the application’s main screen when re-launched.
FileMagnet is a very useful no-frills solution for those who simply want to carry a few files around with them on their device and do not mind using a companion desktop application for file transfer. This application also offers the best range of file format viewing support that we have observed, specifically in the area of iWork formats, and seems to have no issues with larger files. We were able to open and display our Free iPod + iPhone Book 4 in about 10 seconds; some minor lagging was observed on this particularly large file when rotating the device (changing orientation) and scrolling through the document, but this was not unexpected, and the same delays were observed when opening the same file from the iPhone Safari browser or Mail application. It should go without saying, however, that this is considered a more extreme example of file support, and that the typical user’s much smaller documents will not exhibit these problems. Most average documents we loaded responded very quickly to loading, panning, zooming and scrolling gestures.
While the use of a secondary computer-to-iPhone/iPod transferring program may limit the usability of FileMagnet across multiple computers, the app itself is a simple and quick download that requires no actual installation on the computer, and has the significant advantage of automatically establishing the connection between the FileMagnet app on the device and the computer with no user configuration or intervention required. Further, the use of a dedicated transfer app can offer a small security benefit over other solutions that simply expose your device’s content via standard network protocols such as HTTP.
In summary, FileMagnet is a good solution for those Mac users who simply want to carry around a few documents on their device, don’t want to deal with configuration issues and aren’t too concerned about maximum portability between computers. At $5, it’s reasonably priced, too.