Review: SymFTP


Sometimes, we all have to deal with file transfers. For Symbian, the choices have been USB, Bluetooth, and even Sneakernet with a memory card. Fortunately, SymFTP, available for S60 5th Edition and Symbian^3, provides another option. It is an FTP server that runs on your phone, allowing access to its files remotely from your computer and other devices. Could wireless FTP be the new Bluetooth? Read on for our full review.

Author: Bansal

Version Reviewed: 1.2.6

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SymFTP's big red button - touch to activate the server

SymFTP's big red button - touch to activate the server

On first impressions, SymFTP has the most simple user interface of all - a big red button. This big button activates the server, turning green to indicate its status, another tap will deactivate the server. Simple eh? Well yes, but there’s a little bit more to it than that!

SymFTP's big green button - indicating all systems go

SymFTP's big green button - indicating all systems go

To use SymFTP, you have to be connected to a WiFi network, you can’t set yourself up as a server on the Internet, via your mobile network. Once the server is activated, it displays your phone’s IP address, so you know what to type into the clients you’ll be using. If typing an IP address into your PC’s file explorer sounds at all intimidating to you, don’t worry. SymFTP has a clearly written help page, for Windows users at least.

SymFTP's help page SymFTP's help page

SymFTP's help pages

The basic server settings are all configurable in SymFTP. The port can be changed from its default value of 2121; changing it is useful if you have some byzantine port blocking on your home network. SymFTP also supports anonymous FTP or username/password authentication.

SymFTP's setting page

SymFTP's setting page

One limitation however, is that SymFTP will only share one of the phone’s drives at a time. This shouldn’t be a problem for most phones which just have a memory card slot for E: drive or mass storage. However, some of the more advanced Symbian phones have both an internal mass storage drive and a memory card. In which case, you may have to shutdown the server and switch drives, as needed.

Another minor limitation is that there's no indication on the server application of how many clients are connected. Nor is there any indication of in-progress file transfers. Considering the context this application is likely to be used in, I wouldn't rate this as a major issue The phone is not likely to be left in server mode while unattended.

Choosing which drive to share in SymFTP

Choosing which drive to share in SymFTP

In terms of performance, SymFTP works very well. I’ve seen peak transfer speeds of up to 1Mbit/second, I’ve also had up to four simultaneous sessions logged into the phone, browsing files.

Downloading files from a Nokia C7 via the Filezilla desktop FTP client

Downloading files from a Nokia C7 via the Filezilla desktop FTP client
I have not found any compatibility or performance issues with any individual clients. I’ve tested with:
  • FileZilla (recommended)
  • FTP command line client (Linux)
  • Nautilus (Ubuntu file browser)
  • AndFTP (an Android FTP client)
That latter client, running on another phone, throws up an interesting way of transferring files between portable devices on your home network. As nerdy as FTP may sound, there’s arguably slightly less hassle involved in connecting via pre-configured FTP connection than initiating a Bluetooth connection, and WiFi has greater data transfer speeds.

Taking the idea of mobile to mobile transfers a step further, it is possible to use SymFTP in conjunction with JoikuSpot, the WiFi tethering application for Symbian. In this case, the user could set up a WiFi hotspot; running SymFTP will create an FTP server on the same IP address as the WiFi network gateway. Any other users in range could browse and share files on the phone’s server. A great way to share information in the field without needing to fiddle around with Bluetooth pairing. Having checked with SymFTP’s author, this method works without a hitch.

If you want an easier way of transferring files to and from your phone, or you just like tinkering with networks, then I suggest you give SymFTP a try . It works as expected, without any problems, and is available on the Ovi Store for £1.50. Version 1.2.6 has been reviewed here, but at the time of writing, 1.2.7 is in the approval queue at the Ovi Store.

Highly recommended.

David Gilson for All About Symbian, 7th April 2011.

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