The question:

I'm looking for a tool to remotely access/administrate Android devices within the same network (so no cloud based stuff, please). I'd like to

  • see the display/screen content
  • be able to launch apps
  • be able to access settings
  • be able to interact with "activities" (i.e. control apps, change settings)
  • access to calls/SMS is not required
  • the app should not require excessive permissions
  • FOSS solutions strongly preferred, other free solutions welcome. Paid solutions are only acceptable if there's a "trial" available (I don't want to buy a pig in a poke).
  • the client preferably runs in a web browser. If it requires a native application, that must support Linux.

Note that Airdroid already disqualified itself completely (see below for details).

Some background explanation

Obviously, a kind of VNC server running on the Android device would be a good choice – but all existing solutions are outaged (last updated 2013 or earlier). I'm currently using PAW Server, but that doesn't cover all requirements (e.g. I cannot see the device's screen or interact with apps). Airdroid1 and Webkey are out of the equation as they work via the cloud (unfortunately, as Airdroid would fit quite nicely apart from requiring quite a lot of permissions – and Webkey would meet the FOSS part even) – and all other candidates known to me are again outdated.

Solutions requiring a rooted device are welcome (all my devices are rooted), though solutions not requiring root might be preferable.

Related questions I've already checked:

1 PS: Reading the Airdroid FAQ I just found it should be possible to use "LAN connection" (i.e. not via the Airdroid server) without an account at the Airdroid site. It also describes a Lite Mode, described as "connect your Android devices directly, without passing through the AirDroid web servers" but pointing out that "Some AirDroid web features are missing in Lite Mode." So if someone is using this and can point out how to ensure that no data will leave the local network, Airdroid might be a valid option (obviously depending on what features go missing (which the FAQ lacks to say), and if the remaining features still match my requirements ;). Airdroid's permission requirements are well explained so I could live with that (Xprivacy can deal with them).

I've just given Airdroid a try on a "clean device". While I remember its usefulness from the early versions (whee it did not have any cloud service), it's an absolute no-go now:

  • right at the first start, before you even get to see the app's interface, it already wants to connect to Facebook (EEEK!!!)
  • checking the config (first thing I usually do), I see it has some "push service" enabled – and also "sending crash reports" (without asking me, to me this is a privacy violation)
  • it offers neither https (at least not in local mode) nor a password protection. Having to confirm a connection on-device is one thing – but it's impracticable when the device is not near (but e.g. at the other end of the house)
  • invoking the web interface from my browser I see I can do almost nothing: a blank screen with a status bar, a search box (Google Play and Quixey – WTF?), an "about button", creating a message or making a call, turn it off (switching screen size (to "mobile view" and back) seems to have brought the missing elements at least, and enabling cookies (which Airdroid didn't ask for) enabled interaction).
  • the web interface has Google Analytics embedded (EEEK!)
  • even in local mode, the web interface loads stuff from the mothership. I found no setting to disable that.
  • the final kick: after all those concerns, it wants root permissions to show me the device screen. No way: you've already lost my trust, Airdroid.

So as nice as it might be with cloud, it's completely out of the equation for the privacy-concerned.

Solutions checked

  • Airdroid: no-go, see above
  • Vysor: Requires Chrome (which again is known to "phone home" a lot) and ADB (one of the devices in question is at the other end of the house, and I couldn't get "ADB via WiFi" running on it, so it wouldn't work)
  • stf: A lot of dependencies, incl. again ADB (see previous point) and more – sounds a bit heavy
  • have you tried: droid VNC server (open source), android-vnc-server, VNC server by onecent?
    – eadmaster
    Jul 5 '16 at 17:22
  • Thanks, @eadmaster – but have you checked my remark on those above ("all existing [VNC] solutions are outaged"), and compared that with your suggestions? 2012 / 2012 / unavailabe. Unfortunately not very convincing. If you could name one that's still actively maintained, things would be different :)
    – Izzy
    Jul 5 '16 at 18:41
  • Strange. Last playstore update was 2012 (the master brach matches that – that there were 5 commits in May (2 of them just the merges, and 1 just the Makefile, which leaves 2 real ones), being the only ones dating post 2012, cannot really be seen as "still maintained" but rather "a sporadic burst", sorry), and a rating of 3.4 is not very convincing. Last (and only) release according to the repo linked was even back in 2011. It doesn't help me much if they do some commits every few years but never publish a build.
    – Izzy
    Jul 5 '16 at 18:51
  • I understand, i've tried it couple of times on Android 4 and it was working, but it required root privileges.
    – eadmaster
    Jul 5 '16 at 19:05

I was looking for something similar for different reasons.

What about the desktop version of Vysor?

Unlike the old version, this doesn't need Chrome, it's stand alone.

It allows you to connect to your android device via USB or via the device's local ip.

I only tested it via USB, but it worked fine when neither Windows laptop nor phone were connected to the internet. I can't vouch for whether it ever phones home, but even if it does you could potentially use a firewall rule to prevent it from accessing the internet.

You can input via the cursor and mouse, which will let you do anything that you would be able to do with the phone in your hand.

Link: https://plus.google.com/110558071969009568835/posts/Ub7QKu2Pddu

It has Windows and Mac versions. Sounds like you might still need chrome to run it in Linux... or whatever electron-chrome is.

  • Co-incidence: I've just checked their website a couple of minutes ago, and it read like a subscription service (from US$ 2/month to 10/year or 40/lifetime). The site's "install" button still redirects to the Chrome extension. Didn't see any other "desktop version" (maybe you could provide a link to the Linux version?) – and I rather prefer to be sure it doesn't "phone home". Sure, I could setup firewall rules to only permit it to the local network – but I'd rather avoid too much fiddling ;)
    – Izzy
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:04
  • See edit. It has a linux version but running it Windows or OSX looks simpler
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:10
  • Oh, and it has a free version. Don't know if that's any good to you
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:13
  • "Looking simpler" on Mac/Win doesn't help me, as I'm not using those systems. And being chrome-based (whatever flavor) makes it a no-go for me, sorry. electron-chrome is chrome API based on NodeJS. Oh, interesting side-mark: It's developed by Koush (Koushik Doutta), and he uses that to distribute Vysor.
    – Izzy
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:14
  • Just trying to help buddy! Wine or virtualbox might be worth exploring there
    – Ne Mo
    Mar 21 '17 at 17:17

I don't have actual experience with this, But it sounds like it would work for you. Check out scrcpy https://github.com/Genymobile/scrcpy It uses ADB, however you can use any ADB over ethernet app and OTG cable to bypass the wifi limitation.

  • Thanks – but as I pointed out in my question: and I couldn't get "ADB via WiFi" running on it, so it wouldn't work – and cable-bound solutions won't work either as the device is "not in cable range".
    – Izzy
    Jun 17 '19 at 6:54
  • Sorry, I misunderstood. I thought you couldn't get ADB over Wifi running on Vysor, not on the device.
    – user218076
    Jun 17 '19 at 12:20
  • 1
    No, on that specific device (a good old and stable Motorola Milestone 2 running Android 4.4 thanks to CM; still good as a night stand and morning alarm – could do more if… well, see the question). Thanks nevertheless: your answer might be helpful to others!
    – Izzy
    Jun 17 '19 at 19:07

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