Using Dropbox on a phone to listen to media files offline

A version of this was originally posted here, this is updated with screenshots and adapted for playing files offline.

It’s fairly straightforward to save media files to your Dropbox and set them up on your phone so that you can listen or watch them when you’re without internet.

To begin with you will need

  • a laptop and a smartphone
  • a free Dropbox account
  • and the Dropbox app installed on your smartphone
  • wifi connectivity (you won’t need it later though)

Instructions

  • Save the media file into your Dropbox folder on your computer
  • open up the Dropbox app on your phone, and wait for the file to appear / sync, or if it’s already there just search for it or navigate to its folder

The example shown is a short beep (listen) from the machine checking tickets at the Royal Albert Hall (at a performance of a Star Trek film with a live orchestra!).

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Step 1. Click on the three ••• dots on the right hand side.
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Step 2. Click on the Make Available Offline option and wait
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Step 3. The rotating sync icon will take however long is needed to make the file available offline. I assume you will need some space on your phone to do this, especially for larger files.
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Step 4. Once you have the white arrow on the green circle icon you should be able to use that file without internet access. Check! If it doesn’t play check that your phone is able to play that file type.

Dropbox’s own help pages have a list of files that will play including music and video: https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/photos/play-movie-audio-mobile – note that you may need to convert some files to a type of file that your phone can play so check before disconnecting from wifi / signal. They suggest Handbrake for conversion though I’ve only used Zamzar and Real Player).

Media filetypes that I’ve successfully played on my iPhone via Dropbox

  • .avi
  • .flv
  • .m4a (these are meant for iTunes, but work fine)
  • .mp3
  • .wmv

Music files listed on Dropbox help files that should work: .mp3, .aiff, .m4a, .wav

Video files previously listed on their help files that should work: .mov, .mp4, .m4v

Filetypes that I’ve not had much luck with

  • .m4r – ring tones, but these can be converted to .mp3 files via http://www.zamzar.com (I’ve just tried it, works fine)
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