Dropbox: Now Native on Your iPhone

Dropbox Icon

Of all the file syncing solutions available, one of the most popular is Dropbox. As one of the solutions that is also cross-platform compatible, many Mac users have embraced Dropbox as a more reliable and robust solution than other alternatives, like MobileMe’s iDisk. Diehard Dropbox users can now rejoice as the Dropbox team is at it once again with the release of a native iPhone app, allowing users to access their dropbox on the go.

For a while, Dropbox has provided users with an iPhone-optimized web site for accessing their contents on the go, but that left many users desiring more. Even with 3G speeds, web browsing through Mobile Safari is not as fast as an application that can read/write to its own resources and sync with a server.

Native App, Native Features

With a native application, the Dropbox team has managed to provide full access to your dropbox contents as well as several interesting iPhone-specific features.

One of these is the ability to take photos or video directly within the application (or use existing content on your device) and have those photos synced to your dropbox automatically. Dropbox then gives users quick access to generate an email with an appropriate link to view the content and share it with others.

The application itself is very usable and functions like most other native apps. As expected, you can delete items from your dropbox just as you would an email (swipe to delete). To prevent users from experiencing lag (as would have happened with a web app), the application caches a copy of the directory structure once you’ve viewed it at least once. (This later is re-synced if changes occur elsewhere.)

Typical application file types that are supported on the iPhone (images, PDFs, Keynotes, Pages documents, Word documents, etc.) are all supported within the application. Word documents even support copy and paste! If you have video files that are of a supported type (QuickTime and the like), they will also stream from your Dropbox. For those who love sharing content, just like the aforementioned photos, a mail icon in the lower left corner allows users to generate emails for any content stored on their dropbox.

Dropbox also supports a “Favorites” feature which allows you to sync your favorite files directly to your iPhone, even further speeding up response time. To favorite a file, simply tap the star icon at the bottom of the screen when viewing the file.

A Few Shortcomings

One little complaint that I have is that Dropbox uses its own picture browser. As such, when I load an image, I’m unable to pinch to zoom like what happens when browsing photos elsewhere on my phone. Support for the accelerometer is present, though, as rotating my phone allows the photo to reorient itself. I’m assuming this is just a bug and something the Dropbox team will work out in a future update.

Another interesting piece that is missing is the fact that Dropbox supports Growl on its desktop version. Though it may be annoying, some users may be wishing for push notifications for any updates to their dropbox. Again, as this is an initial release, this is something that could come in a later update.

Dropbox is a free download from the App Store but does require a valid Dropbox account. Users can sign up for a free Dropbox account (limited to 2GB), and there are paid options for greater storage (50GB or 100GB). As someone who has used Dropbox for over a year now, it’s a very robust solution for file syncing and in my tests, a lot more stable than MobileMe’s iDisk. If you’ve used Dropbox or the new Dropbox app and have thoughts on the matter, tell us your experience!