As someone who writes about iOS software and jailbreak tweaks for a living, I am constantly using software to connect to my devices. The right software can make it a snap to access the file system, transfer photos, manually install software, and make backups, but the wrong software can make your work flow slow to a crawl.
This is an overview of some of the most popular tools for browsing the iOS filesystem from a computer. Depending on your preferences, you might choose one tool over another…
I’m covering WinSCP as it’s the FTP client I’m most familiar with, though it’s similar in functionality to other FTP clients like Cyberduck and FileZilla, which are available on Mac and Linux. FTP clients are utilities that can wirelessly browse files from any compatible server, including a jailbroken iPhone running OpenSSH. WinSCP is open source, which means users can inspect the program’s source code if they want to.
The weakness of using a wireless FTP client to transfer files to and from an iOS device is that wireless transfers tend to be noticeably slower than USB. Since it’s a client for a multiplatform protocol, these FTP clients don’t have built-in shortcuts to key points of the iOS filesystem; you’ll have to make bookmarks yourself. Connection isn’t exactly ‘plug and play’, but you can find a guide to using FTP clients here.
It’s also important to set your password to something besides “alpine”, if you ever plan on having OpenSSH running on your iPhone in public.
iTools (Windows, Mac)
iTools’ biggest strengths are its clean design, intuitive interface, and a complete lack of distracting ads. Plug in your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, and iTools just works. There are easily accessible shortcuts to photos, apps, the iOS filesystem, and a built-in ringtone maker. You can even drag and drop .deb packages to be installed in Cydia and access the calendar, notes, and message history on your device.
The downside of iTools is there also doesn’t seem to be any way to alter user permissions through the software.
We’d say iTools was our favorite program of the bunch, if we weren’t just a little paranoid that the company behind iTools could be collecting information limited to our “name, gender, age, date of birth, identity card number, home address, education level, company situation, industry, and hobbies.” It’s likely a standard website TOU statement for a company running out of Shenzhen, but it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
When you open iFunbox, the first thing you are greeted with is the Find More Apps page, which is a browser full of ads and sponsored links. If you open the iFunbox Classic tab, you’ve got access to applications, ringtones, media, and the raw system file of your device. There’s even an App Inspection button which explains which apps might leak your personal data, according to the APIs they plug into, which is always handy to know.
Compared to iTools, iFunbox’s user interface isn’t as nice. It lacks the shortcuts for automatically importing messages, and it displays ads when you open the program. Both iFunbox and iTools are closed source programs, and include features geared to pirates, which you might not be comfortable with.
Bottom line: I prefer the speed and functionality of programs like iTools and iFunbox, but I would be more confident recommending well-known open source software like WinSCP to friends and relatives.
What software do you use to connect your iPhone to your PC? Share your recommendations in the comments.