Update: BitTorrent clarified to us that the one-time fee is “per user, per platform,” meaning that once you buy it for one device’s operating system (i.e., iOS), you can use it on any device running that same OS.
Ever tried sharing a photo or video from your phone to a friend’s? It’s easy and fast between two iOS devices using AirDrop, or two Android devices using Android Beam. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, and iOS and Android devices don’t like to play nicely with each other, sharing between these two OSes requires several steps. It may involve email, messaging apps, network-attached storage, cloud service like Dropbox, etc. – essentially some type of middleman. BitTorrent’s new photo app, Shoot, eliminates the need for this in-between. It lets you send and receive photos and videos between iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices, and what’s spectacular about it is the straightforward approach and very fast transfer speeds.
You might be more familiar with BitTorrent as the peer-to-peer file-sharing technology that people use to illegally download software or first-run movies and shows (don’t do it). While Shoot is from the same company, this isn’t that. Shoot is based on BitTorrent’s Sync technology, a cross-platform file-sharing tool that works between devices, and bypasses the cloud. BitTorrent says Sync is 16-times faster than uploading to cloud-based services, there’s no file size limit, and, perhaps more importantly, the file-sharing is private because data is never stored on a remote server. The devices also don’t have to be on the same network.
Shoot is a stripped-down version of the Sync mobile app, which lets you transfer documents, in addition to photos and videos. Shoot is about photography and videography, but BitTorrent says it’s also about spontaneity – sharing during the moment it happens. You can share a single photo, or a batch containing photos and videos. While the app is free to download and it doesn’t cost anything to receive, it costs a one-time fee of $2 (per user, per platform, i.e., you pay once for all devices running on the same OS) to send. If you want to try it out first, you do get three free sends.
Here’s how it works. We downloaded the app on an Apple iPhone 5S and Nokia Lumia 520, and you’ll need to give the app access to your camera roll and rear camera. With the exception of differences in logo designs and fonts, the user interface and functionality are the same for either OS (and Android). To send a photo, you can select one or multiple photos and videos (divided by date, or moments); you can also tap on a photo to expand it, to preview it before sending. When you select a photo or video, Shoot tells you the size, or the total size of a batch; since there’s no size limit, it doesn’t matter. Once you’re done selecting, on the next screen, a QR code will appear. With Shoot on a receiving device, you simply scan the QR code to trigger the transfer process.
How quickly files transfer depends on the size, but during our usage it never took more than 10 seconds. A photo transferred in less than two seconds, while a 13-megabyte video required less than five seconds. We conducted the send/receive process back-and-forth between the Lumia 520 and iPhone 5S, and never encountered an issue. The app is super-simple to use (there’s a brief tutorial that walks you through the process in less than a minute) and stable, and, true to BitTorrent’s word, it’s fast.
BitTorrent isn’t the first company to tackle easy sharing of photos. Apple, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, and many, many others have their own methods of getting photos and videos off your phones and tablets. Shoot, however, requires two or more devices to be near each other, so it doesn’t work if you want to share with grandma who lives across the country. It’s also very basic, and lacks the bells and whistles that apps like Facebook Moments offer. But for times where everyone’s together, and where different phones are used, Shoot is far more effective, not to mention faster. And, you’re sharing only with people who are in front of you.