The iOS update lets Dropbox users manually or automatically upload photos and video from the phone directly to the cloud using Wi-Fi or cell connection, according to the iTunes Store. Once your content is uploaded, you can skim through thumbnails in the gallery view.
I never have used Dropbox for any type of photo sharing, but when I heard about this new feature I was interested enough to take a look. Sharing photos from an iPhone is a bit cumbersome. Either you have to send photos via email or SMS, or share them from iPhoto after they have been synced via Photostream. I find that I often don’t share photos even when I have the best intentions because the process is not as frictionless as it could be.
This new Dropbox feature automatically uploads all of the photos from your iPhone (you can select to import existing photos if you’d like or just new ones) to a Dropbox “Camera Uploads” folder.1 Once your photos are uploaded, you can create folders in the Photos directory which in turn can become shareable photo albums once you grab the public link.
Unfortunately, you can’t create photo album folders or get your shareable link from the iPhone interface. You have to do that from a computer. So let’s say you go to an event and have a half dozen pictures you want to share with your friends. Here’s what you have to do:
- Open Dropbox on your iPhone. Wait for the pictures to sync to the Camera Uploads folder.
- Go to your computer and create an album in the Photos folder for the event.
- Move or copy the pictures from Camera Uploads to the event folder.
- Get the public URL for the event folder, and then email it to your friends.
Dropbox lost me somewhere around step 3. That’s a lot of work to share some photos. Not to mention if you are also syncing with iCloud, you have just created a lot of duplicate files and unmatched photo libraries.
After a couple minutes of testing this out, I remembered that Apple announced shared photostreams in iOS 6 which seem to elegantly solve the problem I was trying to fix in the first place. I suppose Dropbox photo sharing could be a good solution for iPhone / Windows users, or as another level of backup for your iPhone photos, but for those of us entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, I just don’t see it as a killer feature.
The rub though is photos can only be updated when the Dropbox app is open, not in the background due to API restrictions. ↩