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FrostWire for Android brings quick, slick P2P file sharing to your phone

FrostWire for AndroidUntil now, there hasn't been a true peer-to-peer application for Android, or indeed any smartphone. There are a slew of helper apps, like the excellent Transdroid, but their main purpose is to allow remote, on-the-move management of your installed-at-home BitTorrent and Gnutella clients. FrostWire is different: it brings P2P transfers to your phone -- yes, FrostWire shares ringtones, camera photos, music and apps that are stored on your phone.

FrostWire for Android is just for phone-to-phone transfers, too. Despite there being an excellent desktop version of FrostWire, the Android version doesn't seem to search the same network. Perhaps that's a good thing, though: do you really want to download 700MB movies over 3G? It is quite fun to download photos from other people's phones, however...

First off, I should warn you that I haven't tried FrostWire over a cellular network -- I honestly don't know how well it would perform, or even whether mobile operators allow peer-to-peer transfers over their networks. I used my local Wi-Fi network and it worked well -- but even then, some transfers refused to start. Basically, FrostWire has all of P2P's usual problems -- and probably a few more!


Setup

When you first install FrostWire (grab the free version if you don't want to spend $5 on the Market), the first thing you're asked to do is provide a nickname, and select which file types you want to share. There is no folder/directory selection, so be careful! If you select 'pictures', every JPG, GIF and PNG on your phone will be shared with the world.

You have the choice of sharing Pictures, Videos, Applications, Documents, Music and Ringtones. I wouldn't suggest you share everything, but it's up to you.

Searching & Chat


Finding stuff to download is as simple as on the desktop: either click a peer and pore through their files, or hit 'search' at the top and type something in. There weren't a whole lot of peers online when I did my testing (20 or so), but there was plenty of stuff to download, from pictures to ringtones, TV episodes to applications. As FrostWire for Android grows, I am sure you'll be able to find just about anything.

FrostWire for Android also has chat functionality built-in, if you feel like chatting... about stuff. There's a global chat room (which would no doubt be unusable with thousands of peers), and you can also send private messages. During testing no one returned my private messages, though, so I have no idea if they actually work.

Downloading


Here's the rub: ultimately, you're only going to get decent download speeds if you and the other peer are using Wi-Fi on a decent Internet connection. If the uploading peer is on 3G -- or 2G! -- it feels almost like Napster with a dial-up modem.

Still, files on mobile phones tend to be small -- ringtones, music, photos and apps are only a megabyte or two each -- so it rarely takes that long to download a file with FrostWire.

Conclusion


No matter which way I look at it, I can't see FrostWire as anything other than the first serious piracy app for Android. There will be those that claim there are valid, legal uses of FrostWire... but other than voyeuristically sharing photos, I can't see any.

I'm also uncertain that cellular peer-to-peer is ready for prime-time. If the American mobile network is already struggling to keep up with demand, imagine what the crushing force of peer-to-peer traffic would do!

FrostWire for Android Tech Specs

  • Installed Size -- 700KB
  • Speed/Responsiveness -- Nippy, could not discover any slow-downs (Android 2.1 @ 600 MHz, LG GT540)
  • User Interface -- Not fantastic, but easy enough to learn -- it's a very simple app, after all
  • Configurability & Extensibility -- Lots of network configuration available -- but I still don't see why you would use this app on your home network... and you can't control your mobile operator's network setup!
  • License -- Free, open source, but it costs $5 from the Android Market (free download here)

Tags: android, file sharing, FileSharing, frostwire, mobile, p2p, peer to peer, PeerToPeer, piracy, review

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