Air Sharing Brings Missing File Storage Functionality to iPhone

Silicon Florist writes about an iPhone app out of Vancouver, Washington that in less than a week of it’s release has shot to the top as the #1 free download on the iTunes App Store with over 700,000 downloads. The app, Air Sharing by Avatron Software, adds some a very glaring functionality omission from the iPhone: the ability to use it as a portable, wireless hard drive. For all the amazing capabilities of the iPhone, Apple provides no way to directly access it’s storage, or transfer generic files to or from it. Previously, the easiest solution involved jailbreaking the iPhone and installing OpenSSH; such simple functionality shouldn’t require warranty-voiding software modification.

Air Sharing screenshot

I’d already tried Air Sharing myself last week, and can report that it works as advertised, and well too. Unlike far too many iPhone apps on their first release, Air Sharing isn’t unstable or glaringly missing features. When you start the program, it gives you an address to connect to from any computer on the same network. It uses WebDAV, an open standard, which is supported on the Mac, Windows, and most Linux setups (A read-only web interface is also available). From there, the iPhone appears as a mounted share, and copying a file over is as easy as drag and drop. On the phone, the files are then viewable from within the Air Sharing app. Supported file formats include iWork, Microsoft Office, HTML, PDF, RTF, plain text, and any iPhone supported formats of movies, audio, or images. Bonus neat functionality for the developers out there: syntax highlighting in source code files.

A few limitations: Air Sharing isn’t able to access the full directory structure of your phone, meaning you can’t copy music or photos that iTunes put there. Also, the files you copy over are read only; with some editing functionality, Avatron could make the next #1 app on the store.

The iPhone’s App Store has received some bad press recently for inconsistent and unclear policies on what apps get accepted. Apple’s role as sole gatekeeper to the platform worries some developers. But Air Sharing’s rapid success is a reminder that there’s over 10 million of Apple’s touch devices out there, and it’s a ripe crowd eager to try new apps and expand the functionality of their devices. A developer that turns their back on that platform does so at their own loss.

In a strategy that numerous apps have played, Air Sharing is free for another week and will cost $6.99 after that.