The name Parallels is synonymous with software for running the Windows OS on a Mac, but over the past couple of years, the company has turned into so much more. Last year, we reviewed Parallels Access, an application for the Apple iPad that allows the iPad to serve as a conduit for remotely accessing either a Mac or Windows machine. In our review, we noted how blown away we were with the speed and performance of Parallels Access. The software makes accessing and using a computer via the iPad’s touchscreen a breeze, and it provides a huge convenience factor for those times when you need to access something on your home computer but do not have the machine with you.
The application is far and above other remote desktop client applications because of its integration with iOS, OS X, Windows, its speed, and its overall reliability. Parallels Access utilizes gestures, iOS’s native keyboard with autocorrect and editing, “SmartMagnification” and “SmartTap” to make the computer feel responsive and alive on the iPad’s display. The application allows you to use your Mac swiftly and connects over the internet. Now, Parallels is bringing the Parallels Access experience to the smaller screen of the iPhone. In some ways, since it is not a computer replacement like an iPad is for some people, the iPhone feels like a more logical device for using Parallels Access…
Earlier this month in San Francisco, Parallels executives previewed the new iPhone application for me (and I have tested it myself the past few days), and I see myself using Parallels Access often. In fact, it will be getting a spot on my first iPhone Home screen. The application quickly loaded up a selection of different computers connected to the demo Parallels Access account. The computer that we chose in the demo was based in Russia, yet it loaded up quickly over an LTE Personal Hotspot connection. Moving between applications was fluid and manipulating the Mac’s content worked quickly.
One of the coolest features from the demo, which is new to all platforms in this new 2.0 version, is the ability to use the iOS Device’s microphone to power sound input to the remote computer.
Another impressive feature in Parallels Access, which was previously available on the iPad variant, is an OS X-Launchpad like menu for selecting applications.
This app launching interface is custom designed by Parallels for the Access app and it is native, not simply a remote representation of Launchpad. In fact, as you can see in the image above, it even works on the Android version (which is also debuting today). The effect of this interface is essentially another app launcher on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, but one which accesses and launches apps from your computers. This is very cool, and you have to actually use it to fully grasp the true power of the software.
Navigating between multiple applications is also intuitive with a gesture swipe interface and customer touch controls (as seen above). The gesture controls and quick navigation between open apps previously existed on the iPad version.
Besides bringing the existing feature-set over to the iPhone and Android devices, Parallels is adding a significant new feature for all Access platforms: a file browser. Now, a user can access all files on a computer via an OS X-Finder like file browser. In the demo, the file browsing was very quick and the effect of remotely being able to access your files in a browser setup is very powerful. The iPad version of the file browser (shown above) has a split-screen view, while the iPhone’s version is tailored to the smaller display.
Another new and important feature is wake-on-LAN mode. This feature will allow you to access a computer that is in sleep mode as the application can now use the computer’s internet connection to wake up the machine. Other new features in the 2.0 update include the ability to login to your Parallels account via your Facebook username and password and enhanced resolution support for the new platforms.
As we detailed in our review of the iPad version last year, the setup process is simple. You need to download the Parallels Access agent on your computer, create a Parallels Access account, and login with the same information on both the computer app and the iOS or Android app. This process does not change with the new versions. Before downloading the Agent app for your computer, you need to signup for Parallels Access on the Parallels website and choose a subscription plan.
A one year subscription costs $19.99 and a two year plan costs $34.99. Parallels, however, is offering a two-year subscription for $29.99 until June 30th. Based on my experience with Parallels Access, the price is definitely worth it. Parallels is also offering optimized plans for business accounts. The application itself on both Android and iOS is free, and runs on iOS 7+ and Android 4.0+ devices. The standard one and two year subscriptions allow connections to up to 5 computers, but all 5 machines need to be registered on the same account. The Agent works on OS X 10.8+ Macs and Windows 8+ PCs, but a build for the in-beta OS X Yosemite is not available for those wondering.
Parallels Access further unlocks the capabilities of iOS devices by allowing them to serve as points of access to your Mac and Windows computers, and the intuitive and native functionality makes usage a breeze. I highly recommend trying out the software.