September 08, 2011

My fondest hope for iOS5?

Frictionless camera-to-Carousel hand-off.

I really, really want to think that AirDrop will enable truly seamless integration with Eye-Fi and similar wireless networking/storage cards. Pairing a Wi-Fi-enabled camera with a phone or tablet needs to become as trivial as pairing two Bluetooth devices. Once it’s done once, the camera needs to be able to transfer images the nearby devices anytime, regardless of whether they’re in use, running a special app, etc.

Then–and only then–can we lay to rest the current dilemma: good dedicated camera with laborious transfer/editing/sharing experience, or lousy(-ish) phone camera with immediate editing/transfer? And with the proliferation of 4G phones & tablets, camera->-device->-cloud->desktop will become slick as hell.

Posted by John Nack at 8:35 AM on September 08, 2011

Comments

  • David — 8:59 AM on September 08, 2011

    There’s no AirDrop in iOS 5;

    [Really? Was I totally wishfully hallucinating? AirDrop on Macs seems only marginally useful relative to the myriad other ways I already have for sharing files (shared folders, DropBox, iDisk, our Time Capsule...). Sharing files immediately between *devices*, however, remains a major stumbling block. It's bizarre that I can instantly send the video I just captured to my television, but not to my Mac. --J.]

    it’s a Lion feature. However, Photo Stream works really well. As long as you switch it on, all Camera.app photos go up to iCloud and then down to all enabled iOS, Mac & PC devices. I’ve set my PC to store these in a Dropbox folder, so the images then further percolate to other devices that way. Although iCloud saves only 30 days of photos (sliding window), all images already synced down to a PC remain there (since it’s your own storage).

    Photo Stream is also two-way. Photos placed in a designated upload folder will move automatically from a Mac/PC to other enabled devices.

    • alex kent — 11:41 AM on September 08, 2011

      re: shared folders, DropBox, iDisk, our Time Capsule

      iDisk is going away.

      [My eyes are dry, as it bites me as much as it helps: Twice now I've tried to transfer a large ZIP of email from my parents' old Mac to mine via iDisk, and twice it's failed. (Of course none of this would be necessary if Mail import from Leopard to Lion just worked, but that's another matter.) The whole "'closing file...' for minutes/hours on end" thing has always been bizarre. --J.]

      Time Capsule to share stuff?

      [Why not? It's just a little server sitting in the house. --J.]

      DropBox has to be installed!

      Shared Folders, which are fine and all, but just too complex to discover / understand / use for normal people. Obvious example: which user/password should you put in the box when you pick a target machine from the Shared list in Finder, is it the local u+p or the remote machine’s u+p? to normal people this isn’t intuitive.
      the idea of ‘sending files’, like physically posting them is much more obvious. i still see people using Bluetooth to transfer files between Mac laptops, because it’s stupid easy to understand whats going on.

      [I suppose I should reserve judgement on AirDrop's utility until I put Lion on my wife's Mac. I still doubt it'll represent some great step forward, and I have to think that the whole point in adding it was to enable device-to-computer sync. --J.]

      AirDrop makes sense (at least to me) as a Lion feature, but i totally agree with John, it would be awesome if it made the leap to iOS as well.
      Maybe it could do a code swap with AirPlay? So we could stream videos and presentations from our Macs to our AppleTVs.

  • George Penston — 7:09 PM on September 08, 2011

    I don’t know. AirDrop is pretty disappointing for me as it is. It only is supported on newer Macs (go figure) and even then I’ve only got it to work once with someone at work. So it’s success rate is spotty at best. I just bought my wife a new Mac mini and I can’t AirDrop to her Mac, which is the only reason I would use it.

    AirDrop reminds me of the empty promise of Back to My Mac. Sure you needed a .mac account (now MobileMe, now defunct), but even then I could never get it to work.

    [Yeah, I too have struck out with Back to My Mac. I was able to connect to my wife's MBP upstairs, but only if it was open/on. I had no luck connecting to my mom's iMac back in Illinois. --J.]

    The Apple apologist in me would say they’re trying to solve really tricky things to solve but I can’t help but be disappointed because the marketing makes it seem like a slam dunk — which it isn’t.

    But it’s good to know people are working on this issue. And with Apple new no-PC/no-wires endeavor, I’m hoping we’ll see something that actually works in the next couple of years.

  • Glyn Dewis — 3:16 AM on September 09, 2011

    John that would be so darned cool; especially with the speed that Airdrop works.

    Fingers are firmly crossed.

    Cheers,
    Glyn

  • David — 9:17 AM on September 09, 2011

    Well, trademarked feature names aside, here’s what iOS 5 does do to help with file transfer/sync. These all fall under the umbrella of iCloud but are functionally distinct enough to warrant separate itemization:

    1. Photo Stream:
    If it goes into your camera roll on one device (or upload folder if on a Mac/PC), it automatically shows up in Photo Stream and ends up in the Photo Stream folder of all your devices, Macs and PCs, assuming you turn the feature on. So, this goes along way to solving photo sync and transfer. There’s a 30 day limit on how long the servers will hold this data, but this doesn’t apply to images already transferred to Macs/PCs and is easily enough time to move images into permanent folders on a device.

    2. iTunes store “media” sync:
    This isn’t really a sync feature, but is a buy-here, use-everywhere feature. Buy music, books or apps on one iDevice or on iTunes on your Mac/PC and it will show up everywhere you’ve enabled the feature.

    3. Document sync:
    iOS doesn’t expose the file system or even work on the idea of a file system. Instead, it’s document/app based (apps register with iOS as being able to support a given type of document and you can send a document from one supporting app to another as desired). Here, iCloud allows apps to sync documents on the iCloud server so that any device running that app will have the document synced to them as well. This is Dropbox like, but built around the app/document-centric paradigm. It also requires that apps support it, so don’t expect to see this functionality for any given app until that app comes out with its iOS 5 update.

    4. iTunes Match:
    This is server storage of your music. For tracks that match the iTunes database, the 256kbps ACC version already stored in the store catalog is used. For other tracks, your music is actually uploaded. Then, from within an iDevices music app (called Music on both iPhone and iPad now), you can access either your local music or your cloud music, seamlessly from the same interface. This isn’t really sync, but on-demand download from server storage.

    5. iCloud productivity apps:
    This is the category that includes email, calendar, contacts and reminders. Here, any device syncs to your common account as with any similar service. There’s also a web verson of each client for browser access.

    That’s iCloud in a nutshell. Of these, only (3) isn’t out of the box, requiring explicit use of new APIs that apps must decide to support (and you can bet that most major apps will).

  • David — 1:40 PM on September 09, 2011

    Oops. Forgot one:

    6. Backup:
    You can set your iPhone or iPad to backup to the iCloud server rather than to iTunes. If you do this, the backup can be triggered manually or will happen automatically overnight if the device is plugged into a charger. Also, although automatic backup to iTunes is disabled when you turn on iCloud backup, you can still do a manual iTunes backup if you want. This also counts against your storage (5GB for free). However, it’s configurable so that you can uncheck the backup of data from apps that can easily redownload their own content (a great example is the book “Our Choice” which consumes a whopping 1GB of backup but which can just redownload its contents again if necessary).

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