The need to move files from Device A to Device B is an ancient problem that was once addressed with floppy drives and more recently flash drives. But we increasingly live in a world of devices that are getting too thin for USB ports. This can make sharing among devices that may be in close proximity unnecessarily complicated.

Companies such as Apple and Samsung are making it easier to exchange files between their devices, but what about sending a file -- or a lot of big files -- from an iPad to a Android phone or from a Windows device to an iPhone? Cloud services have become a default option. but they have a number of limitations. They are slow, in part because they require separate uploading and downloading sessions. They may raise privacy or security concerns. They are often limited in their capacity. And since they require an Internet connection, they can consume a big chunk of a data plan if you're not in a Wi-Fi network.

But a free cross-platform app from an unlikely source does an admirable job of addressing the issue. SHAREIt, developed by PC maker Lenovo, is available for iOS, Android, Windows and Windows Phone. Once it is launched, it scans for other devices that are also running SHAREIt on the same Wi-Fi network. (No Internet connection is needed.)

Once they're identified with and connected, SHAREIt allows you to choose any files or photos on the device to send off. It uses a custom protocol to send files to the other device faster than would normally be possible. The app can send gigabytes in a matter of minutes, about 40 times faster than Bluetooth. And it can even share with a group of devices although this isn't supported in the PC version.

Of course, one limitation is the need to download SHAREIt before the transfer takes place. If you're in a location without Internet access and haven't downloaded the app, it may not be an option. And the lack of a Mac client is an obvious hole in the app's compatibility.

SHAREIt features great speed and an approachable user interface, but it's not the only app for shuttling files between devices that bypasses the cloud. Xender is organized more around file types. Pushbullet includes the ability to support chats and push different kinds of information to your phone. And Sunshine (a cloud alternative, get it?) is a freemium offering that can transfer files between devices regardless of their location.

Published on: Sep 30, 2015