The good thing about Android is that it gives you access to the device’s entire file system without requiring you to “root” the phone (or tablet). Android, the vanilla edition, itself doesn’t include any file manager app but there are literally hundreds of apps in the Google Play store that fill the void and let you easily manage files and folders stored on your mobile device.
An ideal file manager app should support basic file operations (copy/move/delete/rename), it should provide access to the phone’s internal storage and the SD card, it should let you search and sort files, it should have thumbnail support for media files, the app should look good on both phones and tablet and the developer should be actively updating the app.
I have tested about a dozen file management apps for Android and some of these are almost as feature-rich and powerful as Windows Explorer or the Finder app on your Mac.
1. Total Commander - This is the most popular file manager app listed on the Google Play store with an average user rating of 4.9 though the interface is confusing and poorly designed. With Total Commander, you can zip and password-protect files and folders with AES encryption.
2. Astro File Manager - Astro is a unified file manager for your local files and the cloud. It can connect to your Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and other cloud storage services and you can thus easily access and mange all your files from one central app. ASTRO is ad-supported and sometimes their full-screen interstitial ads feel intrusive.
3. ES File Explorer - This is again a feature-rich and extremely popular file management app for Android that has a clean interface and does too many things. It can connect to various cloud services, you can also transfer files from FTP servers and shared folders on your home network plus there’s a disk analyzer app to help you discover the space-hogging files.
4. File Expert - An ad-supported file manager app with an easy-to-use UI and the paid version offers some unique features like File Shredder (for deleting files permanently) and Safe Box (for hiding files in a secret folder). The app offers a tabbed interface, commonly seen in browsers, and that makes it easy to jump from one open folder to another.
5. Xplore File Manager - This is a very popular app and jam-packed with features but the app’s layout is so bad, you can easily skip this one.
6. Sliding Explorer - This has a modern (flat) look and packs no extra or confusing features. You can add folders to your favorites list and access them quickly with a simple left-to-right swipe. There are light and dark themes to choose from, the app supports file previews and you can compress multiple file as a single zip. There’s no search feature though.
7. File Wrangler - A basic file manager with a beautiful UI and a dual-pane interface making it easy for you to copy/move files from one folder to another. You can tap the Search icon to locate files in the current folder. There’s also Quick Draw to help you bookmark your most-used folders and files for quick access.
8. Fylee - Another clean and simple file manager app for Android with just the essential features and free of advertising. Like Sliding Explorer, Fylee misses a search function too.
9. Google QuickOffice - While QuickOffice is more of an Office productivity suite from Google, the app also double as a file manager. Tap “Internal Storage” and you can browse the device’s file system, move or copy files between folders and there’s a search feature that simultaneously searches your phone and Google Drive. You can compress files too with QuickOffice.
10. AirDroid - AirDroid includes a file manager that you can find under Tools -> Files. This is a basic file management app but the real magic happens when you connect your phone to your desktop over Wi-Fi through AirDroid. Once connected, you can access and organize your Android files from the desktop inside a Windows Explorer style interface.
To conclude, if you already have QuickOffice or AirDroid on your Android phone, you don’t really need to install another file manager app. Else you can go with File Wrangler - the app has a nice, easy to use interface, free of advertising and supports a dual-pane interface. If you want your file manager app to do more than just file management, ES File Explorer is a good option.