Box is a cloud-based storage and sharing service for your photos, videos, documents and other files, making the latest versions of each accessible to any device with a web connection. The company is currently running a very tempting offer to encourage new sign-ups to its updated Android app.
A free Box account usually affords you up to 5GB of online storage space - itself rather more generous than the 2GB of our favoured Dropbox client – but download the Android app before 23 March and you get a free account upgrade to 50GB. With memory expansion limited to 32GB on current Android handsets, getting an extra 50GB of storage space will make a lot of sense to some users.
Box has previously offered 50GB of free storage to users of LG Android smartphones, the HP TouchPad and Apple handsets; it's now available to all Android users, albeit to those who download it within a limited time only.
Version 1.6 of the app is also said to offer better interface and collaboration support for Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We tested Box for Android on a Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc smartphone running 2.3.4 Gingerbread. See Best Android Apps.
Simply download the app from Android Market, then register for a new account. The registration form offers three fields for your email address, password, and password confirmation (although you won't know this until you tap each one and, even then, the explanatory text is very faint). Click Register, and the app automatically logs you in. A message will pop up onscreen to confirm that your Box account has been upgraded to 50GB of storage and sharing.
The interface is clear and intuitive. Two tabs offer links to Files and Updates: Files displays a list of files and folders stored in your Box account; Updates records any changes made since your previous login – useful if you're also accessing your Box account online. A search option lets you quickly find specific files, although you can also use folders (and sub-folders) to keep things organised.
At the bottom of the screen are three icons. The first enables you to create a new folder; the second lets you create a new photo, video or audio file, using your handset's built-in camera or mic; and the third is used for uploading a photo, audio, video or other file stored on your smartphone. You can also directly upload files to Box from Android's Gallery using the Share option, a process made significantly more straightforward if you opt to remain signed into Box in the app's Settings menu.
Box says that once your files are on its servers, they aren't going anywhere. It claims to be "a pioneer in sophisticated content-management security". In any case, storing copies of your photos, videos and more makes for a useful backup if you lose or break your phone.
Files uploaded to Box's free personal account are limited to 25MB in size, while the 25GB and 50GB accounts accept 1GB files. Missing in the Personal version are the ability to password-protect files, sync files with your desktop and view version history.
You can click on any file to view a thumbnail image. Box lets you open, share, and make or view comments on the file. You can also change the filename, delete the item or download it to your handset for offline viewing.
Sharing options differ slightly for individual files and folders stored at Box. Both can be shared via Bluetooth or a link sent via email, but with folders you can also invite collaborators – simply enter an email address or choose a contact. Using the online version of Box, we were able to set access privileges for collaborators, but had no such luck with the mobile app. Also present in the online version but missing in the app is file tagging. Email notifications inform you when a file has been delivered.
With 50GB of storage at your disposal, chances are you could run up a pretty hefty data bill. We recommend using Box over a Wi-Fi rather than 3G connection wherever possible.
Box for Android: Specs
- Google Android
- 8.15MB storage space
- Google Android
- 8.15MB storage space
With 50GB of free online storage up for grabs, Box is certainly worth a try - but you'll have to get in quick. After 23 March, you'll get 'only' 5GB storage with a free Personal account. The mobile app has a very clear, user-friendly interface, but it's missing some functionality when compared with the online service. Upgrade to a Business account to enable password-protection, desktop sync, version history, and more. And, importantly, be sure to keep an eye on your data usage if you're not using a Wi-Fi connection.