iPhone FTP server & file transfer

FTP is a standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host to another. It is commonly used for sharing files between a client and a server. The client initiates a connection to the server to upload or download files. For example, web masters use FTP clients on their computer to connect to web servers to publish website stuff, upload and download files between local machine and remote server. You can also configure your computer as a FTP server and use other devices or clients to connect to your computer or the FTP server on it. Today, even some smartphones borrowed this idea. Xiaomi is a good example, we can find the FTP transfer feature in its stock file manager app.

In this article, we will demonstrate how to setup FTP server on iPhone and transfer files between iPhone and computer, iPhone and Android.

Part 1. Setup FTP server on iPhone

To use FTP for local file sharing, you can set up an FTP server on the iPhone, Android or computer and use an FTP client on other devices to connect to the server and transfer files. Using FTP for local file sharing between an iPhone and computer typically involves installing a third-party app from the App Store that acts as the FTP server instead of FTP client. It is because iPhone currently doesn’t provide FTP functionality. We can’t use the built-in Files app or other stock apps from Apple to create FTP server or connect to FTP servers. On the computer end however, we can simply use Windows Explorer as the FTP client without installing extra software.

The stock Files app on iPhone doesn’t natively support FTP for file transfer and iOS itself doesn’t provide native support for hosting FTP servers. Fortunately, there are various third-party app FTP server software options available on the App Store. For example, you can use FTPManager, Owlfiles app or similar alternatives. Both FTPManager and Owlfiles apps are free apps(with in-app purchases) from the same developer, Skyjos.

In this article, we will use Owlfiles File Manager version 12.5.3 to show you how to turn your iPhone into an FTP server so you can connect to the FTP server on iPhone from other phones and computer to copy files between them.

owlfiles file manager - my files on iphone
Owlfiles File Manager version 12.5.3

Download and install the file manager app on your iPhone, then open it. Tap on the More tab from the bottom right corner, choose Built-in Servers from the Toolbox section at the lower half of your screen.

owlfiles file manager settings and more tools on iphone
Owlfiles file manager(version 12.5.3) settings and more tools

Optionally configure the FTP connection, such as User Name, Password, FTP port, Path(root directory of the FTP server). If the files you like to export are saved in other apps on iPhone, you need to copy the files to the file manager app first.

After that tap on Start Servers at the bottom. After that you will be provided with both the Web Server URL and FTP Server URL. The file manager creates both web server and FTP server at the same time so you can choose to access your iPhone storage and its files using a web browser or FTP client on other devices. Note that the FTP server IP address is actually the iPhone’s IP address in the local Wi-Fi network.

owlfiles file manager built-in servers on iphone
owlfiles file manager(version 12.5.3) built-in servers on iphone

Part 2. Transfer files between iPhone and computer via FTP or HTTP

Now you have configured your iPhone as the FTP server. You need a FTP client on your computer to access the iPhone FTP server for file transfer between them. You can use FTP clients, such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, FlashFXP, to connect your iPhone.

Mac users can connect to FTP server from Finder without the need for any extra software. Finder on Mac has the Connect to Server feature allowing users to connect to FTP severs directly.

The recent Windows OS also provides the native support to FTP connection in the stock File Explorer. To connect the FTP server on iPhone from Windows PC, run the File Explorer, type ftp://youriphoneIP:2121 in the address bar and press Enter on your keyboard to access the FTP server on iPhone. You can then copy files from Windows computer to iPhone or vice versa using the File Explorer for Windows, just like you copy files between different hard drives on your local machine.

Other than that, you can simply launch your desktop web browser to access the web server on your iPhone to upload or download files between your iPhone, iPad and Mac or PC wirelessly. As you can see, the file manager turns your iPhone into both FTP server and Web or HTTP server at the same time.

Part 3. Transfer files between iPhone and Android via HTTP or FTP

You can simply launch your mobile browser on Android to access the web server on your iPhone to upload or download files between them over Wi-Fi.

Is it possible to connect iPhone and Android via FTP? Some Android phones have the built-in FTP connection support. Notably the Samsung galaxy phones. If your mobile phone does not support FTP natively, you need to download a third-party FTP client app from Google Play Store.

Bonus tips

  • Make sure that your iPhone and the computer are connected to the same local network, otherwise you won’t be able to connect to the FTP server.
  • Specific steps may vary based on the version of the app you use on your iPhone.
  • You can also choose to turn your PC or Android phone into FTP servers and then use the above file manager app on iPhone to connect the computer or Android running the FTP server.
  • Depending on the type of files you want to transfer, there are more file sharing methods may suits your preferences better, such as email, chat apps, cloud storage services, third-party file transfer apps, etc.

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