One of the nice parts about iOS is that file management is relatively easy. Just connect your iDevice to iTunes and manage away. Syncing content and moving material back and forth between a computer and an iDevice is easy. Unfortunately for Android fans, there’s no official equivalent for Google’s flagship mobile OS. Sure, doubleTwist can handle your media files, but it won’t do quite as much as iTunes will do with an iPhone. iTunes can do backups, restore the iPod, etc. That stuff isn’t in doubleTwist.
It is, however, in QtADB. Don’t let the awkward and generic name fool you. QtADB is one of the most useful tools we’ve ever come across. It doesn’t do a whole lot of “new” things per se, but what the app does it does well. What can QtADB do for you? Simply put, a whole lot. We came away from our time with this app very impressed with its easy interface and all-around usefulness.
QtADB is the Swiss Army knife of the Android enthusiast- not perfect for anything but pretty good at nearly everything. Here’s why you should definitely look into QtADB.
What Is It?
At its most basic level, QtADB is a souped-up file manager for Android devices. Where it excels is in the impressively large number of features it offers. QtADB is several good rooting apps molded together into one awesomely useful program. For a service that advertises itself as still in beta, QtADB is very polished.
The service is a program for Windows, OS X, and Linux. It integrates with the Android Software Development Kit (SDK), using the SDK software to send commands to your phone from the PC. This allows you to execute a number of useful actions from an easy-to-use desktop program.
What Does It Do?
QtADB is jam-packed with features. We already alluded to its file-managing capabilities. The desktop program places files from the PC hard drive and the phone SD card side by side for easy drag and drop. Moving files back and forth is very streamlined.
Using the SDK capabilities, QtADB also lets you take screenshots of your phone quickly. The screen captures load with relative speed and can be saved directly to the hard drive, a nice touch. Even though we could already take screen captures with CyanogenMod 7, QtADB’s screenshots were much faster.
Another miscellaneous addition is the Info section. Here QtADB lists battery level, phone model, bootloader version, radio, and available memory by section. It’s not mind-blowing, but it is useful to know more about your system.
The desktop program also claims to be a text manager. Unfortunately, this part is still very much in development. We could read texts but were unable to send or respond to any. It appears from the developer’s website that this functionality is limited to the HTC Magic and Wildfire. We unfortunately could not get it working on our HTC Evo 4G.
This is a particular shame because the text manager looks particularly cool. Reading and responding to texts with a PC (on a real keyboard, no less) sound like excellent features. Here’s hoping it gets implemented on more phones soon.
Then there’s the app manager… oh, the app manager. It’s basically the free version of Titanium Backup, on the PC. You can uninstall apps right from the desktop program. Alternatively, you can store backups of the app, the app’s data, or the app and its data… just like Titanium Backup Free.
The ability to save app backups directly to a PC is very convenient. Whenever we flash a new ROM, we end up transferring Titanium Backup files back and forth between the PC and SD card. Now the files are stored on the PC and can be restored directly to the phone.
QtADB threw in a few extra features, just for good measure. Selecting an app also displays its technical information. File size, developer, package name, that sort of thing. It also comes with direct links to that app in the Market, PC and phone version.
For app developers, QtADB included shell commands. Those of you who are more technically savvy and know this stuff can send remote commands to the phone via QtADB. Not so useful for ordinary users, but helpful for developers.
Similarly, QtADB provides easy access to Logcat. This is more or less a record of the system debugging output. The log itself lists system events like an app launch, starting or stopping charging, etc. Again, developer stuff.
Rooting and Recovery
Hidden away in the top “Tools” menu is a set of very useful power options for your phone. QtADB is more than happy to help reboot your phone normally, to bootloader, or into recovery. While that’s a pretty popular feature (it comes with CyanogenMod 7 and ROM Manager), it’s still a nice addition.
Once in recovery, you can actually do rooting-flashing-things right from QtADB. Saving a nandroid backup or restoring to one is as easy as a single click in the desktop client. It even lets you flash .zip files and do factory resets. It’s an easy way to control your recovery system.
That’s why it was such a shame we couldn’t get the recovery features of QtADB to work on our Evo 4G with ClockworkMod 184.108.40.206 installed. We contacted the developer, who confirmed that only Amon-Ra recovery is compatible with QtADB. This is a shame as CWM is quite popular as a recovery system.
Setup and Availability
This is where it gets a little messy. QtADB requires a working copy of the Android SDK in order to work. That’s a fairly large download. QtADB isn’t, though. Just download the desktop client (which comes with an .apk for the phone-side app) and install it on top of the SDK.
Once that’s done, setting up a connection is easy. Connect your phone via USB cable and turn on USB debugging (Settings > Applications). QtADB should automatically find the linked device. It offers the ability to connect via Wifi, but we don’t recommend it. Wired is much faster than wireless.
And, of course, QtADB needs root access. Something this useful would never be able to run without root.
See QtADB in action in this video:
All in all, QtADB is a very impressive app/program. We really liked its wide range of features and unintimidating interface. QtADB makes the nitty-gritty parts of Android modification (like app backup and saving nandroids) a little more smooth.
Our only criticism is that QtADB doesn’t really do anything new. All of its main features have been done before in other apps. Titanium Backup and ROM Manager alone cover most of QtADB’s capabilities. However, what makes this service special is that it brings all these features under one roof. It’s got several apps worth of features.
For those of you who don’t mind being tethered to a PC (or god forbid enjoy using one), QtADB is an incredibly useful way to manage your phone. The sheer amount of convenience packed into this little app is impressive.