Look Ma, No Wires! How to Transfer Files to and from your iOS Device using Wi-Fi

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Introduction

This guide will focus on completing the task of transferring a file via Wi-Fi from your Mac or PC to your iOS device, from one iOS device to another, and vice versa. The actions which can be carried out with the transferred file will also be discussed.

It should be noted, the file transfer methods covered in this guide are based on Wi-Fi, and do not consider other methods which are available such as Bluetooth. Additionally, there are other applications which allow you to access all the files on another storage device which are great, but the scope of this guide is limited to the area of Wi-Fi File Transfer only.

Please note, if you do not have a Wireless Network setup for internet access, don’t worry. It is possible to create a Wi-Fi network on your Mac which is sufficient to complete the file transfers discussed in this guide. To do so, simply select create network from the drop down menu which is available after selecting Wi-Fi from the menu bar.

Why Wireless File Transfer is Relevant

Have you ever been in a situation where there was a file present on your Mac or PC which you wanted on your iOS device, but didn't want to get your trusty USB cable out, open iTunes and go through the standard file sharing procedure?

Or have you ever been in a situation like the one described above, and you thought "I Know! I'll use Dropbox or another cloud storage provider", but you were disappointed to find that it is going to take several minutes, or even hours, to upload your files?

If both of those methods are out of the question, what are you left with? You might be thinking "I'll send it in an email". However, a lot of email providers specify a size limit for attachments, and the length of time it takes for the message to be sent will be determined by your internet connection speed.

Well, you will be happy to learn that there is a solution, and it is Wi-Fi File Transfer. Transferring files via Wi-Fi is convenient, fast, easy and quite user friendly. The best part is the speed at which a file is transferred is not dependent on your internet connection.

Ok, I'm Convinced! How Do I Transfer Files via Wi-Fi?

I’m glad you asked! There are two ways a file can be transferred from a device such as your PC or Mac to another device such as your iPhone, iPad or IPod Touch, or indeed the other way around. You can choose between either of the following options.

  1. Use a web interface to upload the file to your iOS device.
  2. Download a dedicated application to your iOS device and PC and/or Mac.

In the first option, even though you will be dealing with a web interface, you need an iOS application to create a bridge between your PC and/or Mac internet browser and somewhere to store the files on your iOS device. In this guide the application I have chosen to discuss is WiFi Transfer for iOS, but there are many and more applications to choose from in the App Store.

In the second option, a dedicated application will replace the web interface with a more user friendly layout. For the purposes of this guide, I have chosen to discuss InstaShare for iOS as the application taking care of the file transfer for us, and I have found this application to be particularly easy to use.

The applications mentioned above are simply examples, and I would urge you to explore the various options which are available on the app store as there could be another application which better meets your needs.

1. Using the Web Interface

Transferring a file with a web interface is generally fully accessible and it is as easy as adding an attachment to an email. As mentioned, In order to enable such a web interface, you need to download an application such as WiFi Transfer.

WiFi Transfer is a free and very easy to navigate iOS application, and there is an optional in-app purchase to upgrade to the Pro version. If you should wish to access the settings/options of this app, they are accessed by double tapping the button labelled “14 Gear” located at the bottom right of the screen.

The below steps are assuming the following.

  • You have downloaded WiFi Transfer on your iOS device
  • You have connected the devices you would like to transfer files between to the same WI-FI network.

In light of the afore mentioned assumptions, to transfer a file from your PC and/or Mac to your iOS device using WiFi Transfer, please follow the below steps:

  • Open WiFi Transfer on your iOS device, and close the advertisement which may, or may not, load.
  • If you move your finger to the bottom left of the screen you should hear “Switch button, off”.
  • Double tap this button to switch it on, and beside this button should now be a URL.
  • This URL will be something like http://192.168.0.255:2222.
  • You should now open your internet browser of choice on your PC and/or Mac and visit the URL displayed on your iOS device.
  • A simple web interface should open on your internet browser, and you can now transfer a file to your iOS device.
  • Doing this is as simple as choosing a file and selecting the upload button, and you’re done.

In my experience, you can transfer almost any file using WiFi Transfer, but this does not mean almost any file will open within this application. For example, I may be able to transfer an executable file, disk image or application file using this method, but none of the afore mentioned files will open on an iOS device.

It is also important to note, for the file transfer to be successful, you must keep your iOS device open while the transfer is taking place. It might be a good idea to turn off the auto lock feature when you are planning to transfer a file. Alternatively, you can just tap the screen once, or flick to the left or right, whenever VoiceOver announces “Screen Dimmed”.

To access and/or download a file transferred to your iOS device on another Mac or PC, you can follow the procedure as outlined above apart from the last two points. Files which are present on your iOS device in WiFi Transfer are organised in a table which is displayed when you visit the URL mentioned above. Getting the file from your iPhone to another PC or Mac is as easy as selecting the name of the file, which just happens to be a link. The file will begin downloading exactly like if you were downloading a file from a website or Dropbox.

It is also possible to transfer a file between two different iOS devices using WiFi Transfer, and this is accomplished by scanning a QR Code with the iOS device that you want to share a file with. Please follow the below steps to transfer a file from one iOS device to another.

  • Open WiFi Transfer on the iOS device with the file you wish to transfer.
  • Locate the file you want to transfer, and double tap the button labelled "32 iPhone" which is located to the right of each file.
  • After double tapping, a QR Code will be displayed on the screen of your iOS device.
  • On the other iOS device you want to share the file with, open Wi-Fi Transfer or any other QR Code scanner.
  • It is completely your own choice, but I would recommend using WiFi Transfer to scan the QR Code as I am sure it works correctly and is accessible.
  • If you are using WiFi Transfer, double tap the button labelled "14 Gear", double tap "Scan Transfer" and point your iOS device in the general direction of the other iOS device's screen.
  • If you are using a third-party QR scanner, follow the instructions to begin the scanning procedure, and point the camera of your iOS device in the general direction of the other iOS device's screen.
  • In the case of WiFi Transfer, a dialogue will appear on your iOS device, and you can monitor the progress of the file transfer in percentages announced by VoiceOver.
  • When the transfer is complete, the file will be stored in the applicable category of WiFi Transfer, e.g. Music, Movies, Texts, etc.

WiFi Transfer is developed by Notable Group, and while it is not related to file transfer, another Notable Group application which may be of interest is Snippets. This application is expertly demonstrated by AnonyMouse of the AppleVis Team on a podcast which I would encourage you to listen to. Snippets was originally called TextSync, but the developer decided to change the name for reasons unknown.

2. Using a Dedicated Application

If you are not comfortable with switching between internet browsers, web interfaces and URL’s, you may prefer to use a dedicated application such as InstaShare. This is a very user friendly application, and there is only 1 minor aspect which is not 100% accessible for VoiceOver users in my experience. The said aspect is the built-in Photo Transfer option which is offered as an additional feature, but the same action can be performed manually from the standard Photos application if desired.

The iOS version of InstaShare is free with an optional in-app purchase for ad-removal, but the said advertisements should not affect the accessibility of the application. The PC and Mac versions of InstaShare can be downloaded from InstaShareApp.com for a relatively small cost, but if you only intend to transfer files between iOS devices, it is not necessary to download the Pc or Mac version.

Please note, I have not tested InstaShare on a PC, and therefore I cannot comment on its accessibility and/or usability. However, InstaShare is accessible on Mac, and there is one unlabelled button which is basically the only button you need to use.

The below steps are assuming the following.

  • You have downloaded InstaShare on your Mac and your iOS device, or you have downloaded InstaShare on 2 or more iOS devices.
  • You have connected the devices you would like to transfer files between to the same WI-FI network.

With the afore mentioned assumptions in mind, please follow the below steps to transfer a file from your Mac to your iOS device using InstaShare.

  • Open InstaShare on your Mac and select the first button in the application which is unfortunately unlabelled.
  • Find the file you would like to transfer in the window that opens, and select choose/open at the end of the open window.
  • Open InstaShare on your iOS device, and a push notification should give you the option to allow or always allow file transfers from your Mac.
  • It is completely your decision, but I would recommend choosing always allow to save time in the future.
  • The file should then start transferring, and that is it, you’re done.

As mentioned, it is possible to transfer a file from your iOS device to your Mac, and to do so please follow the below steps.

  • Open the file you would like to transfer from your iOS device, and double tap the share button to bring up the share sheet.
  • After double tapping on the share button, locate InstaShare from the available options, and double tap once again.
  • InstaShare will open, and you should be presented with a screen with a list of the available devices you can transfer files to.
  • If it is not already running in the background, you will have to open InstaShare on your Mac.
  • You should get a notification on your Mac stating that your iOS device would like to transfer a file.
  • You can choose to Cancel or Allow the current transfer, or Always Allow transfers from your iOS device.
  • The file should then start transferring, and that is it, you’re done.

It is also possible to transfer a file from one iOS device to another using InstaShare, and to do this follow the above steps replacing your Mac with the other iOS device.

Aside from temporarily disabling the auto lock feature which I previously mentioned to ensure the file transfer is not interrupted, there are 2 points I would like to make you aware of regarding InstaShare.

Firstly, the iOS version of InstaShare does not have the ability to play audio and/or video in the background, and such a file must be transferred to another application to enable background playback. For example, I have transferred mp3 files to my iOS device, and I have opened them in another application to be able to listen to them while my device is locked.

Secondly, if you are running InstaShare on a Mac and there are several iOS devices, there does not seem to be a way of choosing the device which you would like the file to be transferred to. To overcome this I just make sure that I have InstaShare open on only the device I want to transfer the file to.

How Can I Use Wi-Fi File Transfer in Real-life?

Recently, I decided that I would remove all music from my iPhone, and store everything on my iPod Touch which has more storage. However, sometimes I am using public transport and I want to listen to music, but I am also expecting a call which I cannot miss.

In such a situation, I have used InstaShare to transfer the music to my iPhone, and because of the background playing restriction I mentioned earlier, I use another audio player to play the transferred music. The outlined process of transferring music and playing it in another application takes mere seconds, and it is a very easy and straight forward process.

If you do not have a flash drive/memory stick to hand, and you need to share a file you have created on your PC or Mac, it is possible to use a web interface to transfer any file to your iOS device. For example, you could transfer the file to your iOS device using WiFi Transfer, and then download the file on another PC or Mac as outlined earlier.

Conclusion

I believe Wi-Fi File Transfer to be a viable alternative to transferring files via cloud storage, email attachments or other methods, but that is just my opinion of course.

Having said that, there are alternatives, and if Wi-Fi File Transfer does not meet your needs, I would recommend researching applications such as File Browser or File Explorer.

I hope you have found the above guide interesting, and if you have any questions, I encourage you to post them in a comment.

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Disclaimer

The guide on this page has generously been submitted by a member of the AppleVis community. As AppleVis is a community-powered website, we make no guarantee, either express or implied, of the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this guide.