WiFi Photo Transfer, an app from Janos Barkai, is available for free at the
Thursday’s iPhone Rumor du Jour suggested that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) may begin offering over-the-air iOS updates. Under such a system, new versions of iOS, whether they’re tiny tweaks or major overhauls, could presumably be beamed directly to the phone. As it stands now, iPhone users have to physically link up with the mothership — a PC or Mac running iTunes — in order to partake in a new iOS version.
There are benefits and drawbacks to going over-the-air instead of through-the-wire to get an operating system refresh. Personally, I don’t at all mind having to attach the umbilical. It lets me control the timing of the update for when it’s convenient for me, and I do like the idea of backing up the phone’s entire contents to the computer if something goes horribly wrong.
Wireless data sync, though — that’s a different story. I’d like to be able to sync music, videos, photos and other data directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi, no wire required. Hooking up a wire isn’t what I’d call a killer inconvenience; wireless just seems like it would be a smoother operation if it’s implemented just right.
WiFi Photo Transfer doesn’t give you full data-sync capabilities between phone and desktop. But it does take the wires out of one of the more common reasons for doing a sync in the first place: Getting photos from the phone to the computer.
Setting up WiFi Photo Transfer (WPT) is simple. There’s no registration, no server adjustments, no calibration. The only thing you have to do is allow location services. Other photo-oriented apps have put me off in the past for insisting that I allow location services even when the app doesn’t seem to have anything to do with location. I’ve since learned that it’s usually rooted in an iOS technicality over which third-party devs have no control. WPT is at least upfront with its intentions:
“Because the photos in the photo library contain information about the place they were taken, the OS only allows access to the picture files after you have allowed this app to access Location Services. The app DOES NOT collect, analyze or send data about your current or former location.”
OK, that sounds fair.
From there, the app gives you a URL. Punch that into a browser on a computer, a tablet or even another phone, as long as whatever device you’re using is on the same WiFi network as your iPhone. Then you’re taken to a minimalist Web page on which you can access all the images on your iPhone‘s Camera Roll and Photo Library.
The gallery is presented as a set of thumbnails. Click on an image and you’re given options for seeing it in four different sizes. Drag and drop to your desktop to download it. Or you can slurp up multiple photos at a time in the form of a .zip file.
WPT does exactly what it says it will — it gets your photos from the phone to the computer with no wires involved. I didn’t hit a single glitch, so long as the phone’s WiFi connection stayed active. But it makes me think about how much better real over-the-air sync would be if it was built into iOS.
With WPT, you still have to take out your phone, bring up an app and remember not to use the phone for anything else while you browse your images — close out of the app and the connection is cut. You also have to enter a fairly awkward series of numbers and periods into your computer’s browser in order to get going. The process doesn’t feel substantially easier than plugging in the wire, opening Explorer and doing things the old fashioned way.
And with the app, the transfer only works one way — there doesn’t seem to be a way to take photos from the computer to the phone over WiFi.
Under certain circumstances the app might be a perfect fit. Phone-to-phone photo trades would need no computer as intermediary. If you want to get your images to an unfamiliar computer and don’t like the idea of the two physically rubbing up against each other, this could be a safer barrier. And I guess if you’re out of USB ports, well, WPT is there for you too.
WPT also says it can be used to download short videos, but I can’t say the app excels at interacting with the videos on your iPhone. Like in Camera Roll, your videos are mixed in amongst your photos on the WPT thumbnail page. But there’s no movie camera icon to indicate it’s a video — you just have to know what it looks like as a still.
Once you’ve found your video and clicked the thumbnail, you’re taken to a larger still image of the video with “get the .mov file” presented above as a link. Click there and you’ll be able to watch the video through your browser. However, it may take a while to warm up — I waited about 30 seconds for a 30-second clip to start running, for instance. If you recorded the video in landscape mode, you’ll have to watch with your head tilted sideways. And playback seemed jerkier than watching the video on the phone or from a file saved on the computer.
Speaking of saving files to the computer, your options are limited when it comes to videos, at least if you’re using a PC. Dragging and dropping a video from iPhone to computer is easy if you’re connected by wire, but to save a video through WPT, you’ll need to right-click on the movie and select one of two options — both of which require you to buy QuickTime 7 Pro.
The most common complaint about WPT you’ll see among its App Store reviews is that it just doesn’t work. That was not my experience at all — with a reliable WiFi router and an eye on whether the phone’s WiFi had gone to sleep, my connections had a 100 percent success rate.
But under normal conditions — when I’m just porting photos from phone to computer — WPT makes me feel like I’m using wireless for its own sake. Bringing up this app and punching this numeric URL into my browser isn’t easier or more graceful than docking the iPhone and bringing up Explorer.
Despite that, I’d still recommend downloading it, throwing it into a Utilities folder, and hanging onto it just in case. It’s free, it doesn’t take up a lot of room, and it’s one of those apps that could serve you well in an odd situation.
You must be logged in to post a comment.