Younity

28 03 2014

Younity by Entangled Media Corp. (USA) is an iOS app for remote access of files stored on local hard drives. A desktop companion app has to be installed on the computer to provide information about files and folders on iOS devices. The version I reviewed was 1.7.4 of 2013-12-19. The app is a free universal app that means, there is just one version for the iPhone and the iPad. The app was first released on Feb 1, 2012.

The company in it’s ‘About’ section …

Younity is brought to you by Entangled Media, a company focused on changing the relationship between people, data and devices. While we obviously design and build software/online services, we consider ourselves a user experience company. Our design philosophy is structured around user behavior and unlocking the potential we all see in the technology and content around us. That is, the potential for it to exist simultaneously everywhere for us to access easily and on demand.

Younity is similar to point.io but for local storages (Point.io offers access to several cloud storages with just one login; see my app review of Point.io under ‘Related links’). Younity doesn’t include remote control, it’s just intended for viewing or downloading files from remote computers.

The company about it’s app …

Younity gives you access to all your files, from all your devices, without ever needing to “sync” your mobile devices again. With younity, you have all your music, photos, videos and documents on all your devices regardless of storage. All your files, from all your devices, all the time. You can share any file, stored on any device, with any of your friends right from your iPhone or iPad. No planning ahead required!

Younity creates a personal cloud for all your files, generated by the stationary devices. The Personal Cloud is a private cloud – younity as the provider doesn’t store your files online, it can’t access them and doesn’t know anything about you or your files (promises the company).

You don’t have to log into each computer or browse them separately. You don’t have to put files in special folders or flag them to be synchronized. There is no storage limit because you are streaming files from your devices, so you can have 2GB, 2TB or 2PB of files. If you want to download your files to a local storage of an iOS device for offline use, you can, but it isn’t required. Younity gives you instant, easy access to all your music (including iTunes libraries/playlists), videos, photos and documents on every computer you own.

Installation …

Install Younity on your iOS devices and all computers you want to have access to.
Register for the service from within the apps by using an email address and and a password. It’s recommended to use the same registration procedure on all of your devices to avoid different authentications.

You will get a confirmation mail for every registered device.

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On the desktop companion app select the folders you want to have access to.
Younity then starts a scanning process to retrieve just basic information about files on the computer.

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Scanning an entire hard drive takes a long time.
I used a pretty fast Windows 7 PC with a 115 GB hard drive with 95 GB storage utilization and it took about 2 h to scan the drive and generate the meta data containing information about all locally stored files.

Note
Younity generates metadata files which are retrieved by the iOS device later after the scan process is complete. On a computer Younity will typically use about 0.1% of your computer CPU and usually uses less than 100MB of memory (although it will often report more because that is “reserved” for use if necessary). After the scan is complete Younity typically “listens” and updates the metadata if changes of file locations or file names are made. The iOS app then downloads the updated metadata.

When you first open Younity on an iPhone, after having registered at least one computer, younity will download metadata about your files. The speed at which it does this depends on your mobile hardware (i.e. newer mobile devices are much faster than older devices) and the number of files you have. For example, 30,000 files worth of metadata going to an iPhone 4S will take about 4 minutes with a 30 MBit/s WiFi connection, whereas an iPhone 5 will take about 3 minutes. If you have over 100,000 files (only photos, videos, music and documents), it may take a very long time.

The features …

Younity offers these basic features

  • Easily and securely share files with your friends via younity or Facebook.
  • Search for files across all devices simultaneously, without having to even know which device or cloud service (ie. dropbox, google drive, etc…) the file is stored on.
  • Converts unusable file formats (e.g. WMA, OGG, etc.) to iOS-compatible formats in real-time when you stream so you can keep your media in whatever format you like.
  • Compatible with iOS, Mac OS X, Windows and soon Linux.

If you need a file that is saved on a desktop computer Younity helps to view or even download the file to your iOS device for further actions e.g. mailing it to somebody, share it on Facebook, or use the iOS ‘Open in’ command to transfer it to an appropriate app.

The core value of Younity is that there is no need to intentionally sync files to make them available and that there is just one place to access all registered ressources.

First impressions …

After installing the app on an iOS device and entering the credentials you will see this Home Screen

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with the following settings

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A really useful ‘Search’ functionality is available which shows all files on your registered computers matching the search term. Searching within content is not supported.

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To display a file stored on a remote computer just tap on it and some standard actions are available.

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The cons …

I found the following cons in the actual version of Dec 2013:

  • 1 Complex MS Word/Excel files are not shown correctly.
    Apple’s iWork file formats for Keynote, Numbers, and Pages are supported.
  • 2 Many file types are not shown at all, e.g. exe, ini, cfg, etc. This is a bit confusing although they cannot be handled on an iOS device they should be shown in file lists.
  • 3 Really nerving is that if you tap on a file to display the content and return to the file list it’s not positioned on the file you choosed. So you always have to scroll within the file list of Younity to go to the next file.
  • 4 An option for sorting files is not available.
  • 5 Information about files is incomplete. If you start a file search the file list doesn’t show the device and folder where it’s located. Younity lets you filter views so that you can see only files that you’ve downloaded to local storage and/or only see files that are available (i.e. they are on a device that is online and ready to stream files), but you can not browse files on a per device basis.
  • 6 Uploads of files from an iOS device to a remote computer is not supported.

During my app review the iPhone version didn’t show all ressources of my Windows 7 PC.

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The problem couldn’t be solved although I removed the iPhone app, installed it, and registered the device again. The app showed the ‘Downloading metadata …’ message but still didn’t show the missing resources.

Summary …

The idea is pretty good but but there is still some work to do for the developers.
The main benefit compared to many other remote access apps is that there is just one place for accessing all computers.

Related links …

Point.io

TeamViewer

Apps for File Management

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