Best remote access apps for Android

May 8, 2012
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Although smartphones and tablets are quickly replacing conventional computers, the complete switch has yet to be made. This is because there are still many tasks that can only be performed on a desktop computer. For this purpose, we sometimes require remotely accessing computers to perform certain tasks. For example, one may require collaborating with a friend via remote desktop or might have to log in to a remote server at office to perform maintenance.

Letā€™s take a look at some of the best remote access applications for Android, which can help you remotely work on a desktop computer.

TeamViewer For Android

TeamViewer is one of the most famous remote desktop and collaboration applications. It is available for all major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. This provides users with the capability to collaborate and share their desktop, regardless of their operating system. With TeamViewer you can remotely access computers and assist friends or family members with system issues via desktop sharing.

TeamViewer has both a free and paid version. The paid version is ideal for the corporate environment to collaborate and to remotely provide support to clients, as well as to administer computers. TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use; however a commercial license is required for corporate usage and to acquire advanced features. The paid version provides additional options like enhanced multi-monitor support, faster drag and drop, the ability to save connection settings per computer, AVI format conversion for recorded sessions, optimized performance and more. With TeamViewer you can even take part in group chats and be a part of meetings on the go. Other than remote access, TeamViewer also offers options for VoIP, conference call, whiteboard, and scheduling meetings.

Android-VNC-Viewer

If for some reason you are looking for an alternative for TeamViewer, then android-vnc-viewer is the perfect application for you. It allows users to remotely access their desktop via an Android device and is capable of connecting to most VNC servers including RealVNC (Windows and Linux), TightVNC, x11vnc and Apple Remote Desktop (Mac). You can also import and export settings to a file from your SD card and URLs for importing settings. The latter can be quite useful for deploying a number of devices with the same configurations.

Other major features of android-vnc-viewer include keyboard zoom, the option to configure multiple connections, multiple input modes and more. android-vnc-viewer is a good application for performing basic tasks such as accessing files on your computer and remotely managing uploading and downloading functions. The only problem with android-vnc-viewer is that it requires a VNC server and many users might not have the knowledge to setup a VNC server on their desktop computers.

GPP Remote Control

If you are looking for an application that does not have a complicated interface and focuses on providing the most basic options to remotely control your computer, the GPP Remote Control is just what you need. GPP Remote Control has been designed for users who wish to remotely access their computer to copy, download, upload and delete files, manage upload/download tasks, monitor your home via your computerā€™s webcam, monitor your childā€™s computer usage, keep an eye on employees at office, and much more. GPP Remote Control has a simple interface that displays options to manage files, control system processes, access the webcam and use installed messengers on your computer. The best thing about GPP is that it is extremely easy to install, even for people with little knowledge about remote access. For the kind of features that GPP provides, it is obvious that it is not a free application. Nonetheless, the price of US$2.00 is not much to pay in return for an app that can provide you with remote access and home surveillance features.

Splashtop Remote Desktop

Many remote access applications either provide their own interface instead of displaying the remote desktop or suffer from lags when displaying the shared/remote screen. Furthermore, the quality of the remote desktop display is also not very commendable for a majority of apps. Splashtop Remote Desktop is an application that resolves this problem by streaming the desktop of a PC or Mac to an Android device.

What makes Splashstop better than a majority of apps is its ability to provide a high resolution display, which enables you to work with the applications, multimedia files, games and more on your computer. Due to its robust functionality Splashtop was awarded as the best mobile app of CES 2012. It is an ideal app for use over Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G networks for making full use of high quality media content on your computer, via your Android device. You can setup a remote connection via Splashtop by installing Splashtop Streamer on your computer. The mobile app will then automatically find your local computer. Alternatively, you can stream your computer via the internet by signing in to your Gmail account. Splashtop costs US$4.99 and can be used with computers running Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X 10.6+.

PocketCloud Remote RDP / VNC

PocketCloud Remote RDP / VNC is another robust application for Windows and Mac users who own an Android device. It provides remote access to your computer over a Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G network. It is ideal for business class users who require remote access, virtualization, and good connectivity options to remotely access their computer. With PocketCloud, you can remotely perform critical tasks such as making presentations, collaborating with friends and colleagues, editing important documents (such as spreadsheets), and grabbing files from your computer.

PocketCloud provides connectivity options for both novice and advanced users. You can either connect to your computer by following a minimalist setup or use the ā€œAdvanced Setupā€ to connect to a computer running VNC or RDP via the computerā€™s hostname/IP address. What makes PocketCloud quite useful is its ability to pack a number of useful features in one application. These include remote connectivity via three major options (RDP, VNC and via Google account), high accuracy screen control, auto activation for keyboard, custom keyboard, and more. PocketCloud also has a paid version which costs US$14.99 and delivers extra features such as connectivity to multiple computers (free version is limited to 1 computer), encryption, and VMWare View support.

YouTube Remote

Remote access is not always about going through complicated configurations to access your entire computer. Sometimes remote access can include anything as small as the utility to turn your Android device into a remote control. YouTube Remote is a simple application that enables using Android-based tablets and smartphones as a remote for YouTube videos streaming on a computer or Internet TV.

Using an Android device as a remote can be more convenient than simply using a mouse. This is particularly true for systems that may be hooked up to an external display screen such as a TV via an HDMI or analog cable. All you have to do is to visit youtube.com/leanback via the host device and head over to My YouTube -> Pair with mobile device. This will allow you to control your YouTube videos via Android. Furthermore, you can select the ā€œTopicā€ option to see details about the video you are watching. The application displays related links for the video including links to IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, a related (official) website, and Wikipedia.

VLC Remote

Speaking of remote control, it is more likely that you will be using a media player instead of YouTube for watching videos. When it comes to watching videos or listening to audio tracks, one of the most robust media players is the opensource VLC Media Player. VLC Remote is a similar app to YouTube Remote, except for the fact that it provides remote access and control for the VLC Media Player.

VLC Remote allows you to control the VLC media player across a number of platforms including a PC, Mac, or Linux. The major features of the free version of VLC Remote include control options for volume, play, pause, and position of the track, as well as demo features of the paid version such as DVD, subtitle, audio track controls, delay option, access to external drives and file browsing control to allow playing files from your computer. The paid version of VLC Remote costs US$2.99.

PhoneMyPC

PhoneMyPC is perhaps one of the most comprehensive Android-based remote access application for Windows users. It provides a large range of useful features for connecting to your PC and performing necessary tasks with a secure SSL connection. There is no configuration required to use this application and you can instantly start accessing your PC via an Android device over a Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G connection.

You can setup PhoneMyPC by downloading the PC client and following the simple instructions from the developerā€™s website. With PhoneMyPC, you can control your computerā€™s processes, windows, and webcam. You can even get instant video and audio of your house via your webcam. The application is optimized for Honeycomb and ICS tablets, which makes PhoneMyPC even more useful. This is because it is much easier to control and manage your computer remotely on a larger tablet screen than a small smartphone display.

All connections established through PhoneMyPC are secured with SSL, despite the fact that the basic connectivity options do not require elaborate IP configurations. However, users can perform advanced configurations in accordance with an advanced network setup. PhoneMyPC is currently in its beta stage and costs US$14.99.

ConnectBot

While most applications are usually targeted at novice and intermediate users, seldom do we see an application that caters to the needs of hardcore IT professionals. ConnectBot is a free application for IT professionals who require remotely working on UNIX servers.

This opensource Android application is a SSH (Secure Shell) client for managing numerous SSH sessions simultaneously. With ConnectBot, you can create secure tunnels, connect to UNIX-based servers and copy/paste content between applications. An application like ConnectBot is a blessing for UNIX users as most IT professionals who work on UNIX servers face a dearth of useful apps. It is no hidden secret that connecting to a server remotely is no longer a utility but rather a necessity for system administrators. What makes ConnectBot handy is that it eliminates the need to run over to the nearest computer to fix sever issues, as a system administrator can do this from her or his handheld Android device.

Jump Desktop

Jump Desktop is another feature-rich application that can be used by all kind of end-users. It provides multi-protocol support for RDP and VNC, with multi-touch support for pinch-to-zoom, mouse dragging, two-finger scrolling and three-finger taps for viewing/hiding the keyboard.

Jump Desktop can be used with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux based computers. Other than basic connectivity options for remotely managing your computer, you can also use Jump Desktop to create secure SSH tunnels. Jump Desktop has been built on open standards, with built-in support for encryption. Connections are established by using the IP address and hostname of the computer, provided it has RDP or VNC configured on it.

Jump Desktop has a free and paid version. The former allows connecting to one computer, whereas the pro version allows connecting to an unlimited number of computers. The paid version costs US$10.13. Jump Desktop works with Windows 200/XP/Vista/7/Server 2003 and 2008, Mac OS X, and Linux.

The use of mobile applications for remotely accessing and managing desktop computers/servers can be extremely helpful for end-users. However, many remote access applications still lack smooth functionality and better access features via the Internet. This, however, is likely to change as Android developers step up to create more robust remote access applications in the wake of improving hardware specifications for Android devices (e.g. quad-core processors).

If you’ve got a favorite remote access app for Android devices, share it with us in the comments section.

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