Paragon today announced the availability of a two-in-one driver solution on the Google Play Store. The beta driver provides access to both Windows NTFS-formatted file systems, as well as Apple’s HFS+ file system. HFS+ is used on all OS X installations today, as well as is the underlying file system for iOS devices.
The availability of this driver for Android will allow for USB host devices, namely hard drives and flash drives, to connect to Android in a similar manner to how one would plug them into a traditional PC.
As Android tablets and smartphones increasingly add support for USB host mode, the demand from consumers to plug in a USB hard drive has been rising. While Android supports FAT and FAT32 file systems, through an open source driver, Android has not integrated support for other filesystems. The FAT and FAT32 support stems from microSD card integration, but Google has seemed reluctant to add support for NTFS and HFS+. Both NTFS and HFS+ have one key advantage over FAT32: both can handle files that exceed 4GB in size.
Paragon’s driver has a major downside though, it requires root access to operate. This is necessary because as a file system driver, it must be able to have permissions and authority to operate on the same level as part of the Android system.
For many, this means the driver will be relegated to hackers and enthusiasts, for now. Paragon’s main motive is to sell this driver to device manufacturers, who will be able to tout that their tablet/smartphone can play back large files and hard drives that their competitor’s (Android) devices cannot. When integrated into a device, the driver will require no intervention from the user, HFS+ and NTFS will “just work” as if the support came directly from the Android platform.
Paragon will benefit from enthusiast feedback, and stresses that the driver is a beta. Since this is a filesystem-level driver, we do not suggest using any drive that is not backed up fully before connecting it. Filesystem driver bugs can render entire drives unreadable. Even though Paragon is a reliable company, beta filesystem drivers warrant this level of precaution.