Cloud storage has a number of limitations: space is capped, uploads are slow and you have to trust your data with third-party servers located who-knows-where. Wyse Technology's PocketNow Explorer turns your Internet-connected home or work PCs (up to 10 at a time) into remote file servers you can access from your phone or tablet. Though the app and service have been out for a few months now, the company just released special Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS versions this week, as it showcased some new and upcoming features.
How PocketNow Explore Works
When you buy the $4.99 PocketNow app (currently on sale for $.99), you also download a desktop client to install on your noteobook or desktop PCs. As long as your computer(s) remain powered on and connected to the Internet with the companion software running, their files will be visible and even searchable by your tablet or phone.
Unlike remote desktop solutions that force you to launch a full Windows or Mac OS client session to access your computer, PocketNow explore lets you navigate through a remote PC's file system using its own File explorer-like interface. Better still, you can search for files across all your connected PCs and the app will find them based not only on their file names but also on their content.
In a brief demo, a Wyse Technology rep showed us how he could search for a particular word that was in one of his presentation files and, in just a second, the app found the file, even though the keyword was not part of the PowerPoint presentation's file name. Windows has long had this functionality built into its internal search, but it's impressive to see a remote app that's able to conduct that kind of search from across the Internet. Just imagine that you need a document desperately from the road, but you can't remember the file name but know that it has the phrase "revenue" in it; PocketNow explorer would find that document for you.
Once you've located a file that you want to access, you can tap on it to download the contents directly to your phone and open them. If you want to then share that file with another person, you can tap the share button and PocketNow Explore generates an email message with a unique URL in it that you can send. When your friend gets the email and clicks on the link within, he'll be granted instant access to that file via a web interface. Amazingly, the file he accesses through that interface will be living on your PC's hard drive, not somewhere in the cloud.
With PocketNow Explorer, you can now also stream video content directly from your computer without waiting for a full download. Just imagine keeping your full library of movies on that 2TB hard drive in your PC and then accessing them from your phone, whenever and wherever.
Upcoming Features: Beam and Web-Based
In the near future, users with NFC-capable Android devices will be able to share files using the Beam feature. In our demo, a Wyse rep simply long pressed on the file he wanted to share and selected Beam sharing. He then touched the back of his Galaxy Nexus handset to another rep's phone and we watched as the second phone downloaded the file over the Internet, directly from a laptop PC that was running the client software.
In addition to Beam, Wyse Technology is planning to add a robust web-based interface for the PocketNow Explore service in the near future. Users will then be able to grab files from their PCs by visiting a web page.
Traditional Cloud Available
For users who want to turn their PCs off once in a while, PocketNow Explore comes with 2GB of free cloud storage that you can use in lieu of a computer. Users who want additional cloud storage will have to pay extra.
Pricing and Service
The app itself costs a one-time fee of $4.99 ($.99 on sale as of this writing). However, if you want to use more than one PC, download files larger than 25MB, or stream video/audio that's longer than 30 seconds, you need to pay a $4.99 ($.99 on sale) monthly subscription fee.
Final Thoughts on PocketNow Explore
Though many users are storing data in the cloud, having the option to grab the files directly off of your PC is truly compelling. PocketNow Explore makes remote file access and sharing truly simple for mobile users.