Sunday, April 19, 2015

iPhone Storage

Apple has a set business model that has made them a revenue generating powerhouse. It works very very well, for them. Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone, my MacBook Pro, Apple TV and every other iDevice or product I have ever purchased. They are all made exceedingly well, and last well past what would be a comparable devices normal life cycle. Apple makes products to last. They also make products you want to buy, and that is the secret sauce.

However, when it comes to storage in most Apple products, you get what you pay for. Nothing else. A 16Gb iPod will forever hold 16Gb. Less if you account for the space taken by iOS.

There is hope on the horizon, sort of. A few companies are trying to break the barrier, but they are doing so in the same manner that made Apple what it is. The Leaf Bridge is one such example. Yes, it is stylish. Yes it is over priced for what it is. So yes, they should do well with those who buy Apple products. Basically, it is a just a regular USB thumb drive that comes with a custom app that lets you actually move files between the drive and your phone. One file at a time. Ok, the app needs work, but it’s a start.

There is also this guy. Yet another contender to the burgeoning market of iPhone storage. The iStick (that name though … ) is another example of lack of forward thinking. Then again, it may be just that. If the idea is to get people to buy more than one of something, then I guess this would be one way of doing that.

There are others out there, some better than others, some worse. Some even let you connect micro SD Cards of various sizes. Each device has its own custom app that must be used with a particular device. Each has its set of features that promise the world, and most fall short. Some of these are not entirely the fault of the app developer.

Apple places strict limits on what any one app can access. This makes the iPhone very secure when compared to Android, and probably has something to do with why government agencies are slated to begin issuing iPhones in favor of the venerable Blackberries that government employees previously used. Security on iOS is very tight, as long as you don’t jailbreak your device. For the most part this is a good thing, but sometimes it makes development a real pain in the … epidermis.

As an example an App like DropBox can’t really access the files you saved in iCould when using such apps as Pages, Word, or even the Notes app. What apps like DropBox can do is use an “open with” option, to open the file in an external app. Apps like Camera+ need special permission granted to it in order to access the photo’s you have saved on your phone. Even then, there are “hidden” files in the same folder as your folder that neither you nor “Third Party Apps” can see or access.

Even with these restrictions in place, it is possible to develop a great app for external storage. There are several such apps in the App Store for accessing Network Attached Storage (NAS) and share drives from other desktops. While such Apps go a long way, they are still missing the point of the Post-PC era. To work and play effectively without a traditional PC.

So, what is the right answer then? I have always been a fan of choice. Strange sentiment from a iPhone user I know, but it’s true. I personally own thumb drives, SD Cards, external hard drives and a few standards that didn’t quite survive the popularity wars. I would like to be able to use all of these things, or at least most of them.

My idea then? Two parts, an app and a piece of hardware. Go figure. However, the app would be free and the hardware would cost just $24.99. The secret is, the hardware is just a dongle with a female USB port. This would allow you to plug in any standard SD Card reader, external hard drive, thumb drive, flash card reader, whatever. Any type of mass storage device that can operate over USB can be plugged in. If that works out, then why not a “Pro” version for $50 that allows you to connect two devices at the same time so you can move files between the drives. Something like copy the files from your cameras SD Card to a 1TB external HD. The app is just there to handle the transfer, or to copy the files to your phone for editing.

Honestly, this doesn’t even have to be a dongle. It could be a small wifi box with USB and SD Card ports. Think of a Wifi GoPro Camera without the camera. The GoPro file handling app works well enough on it’s own for this to work. Think of filming on the iPhone 6 Plus, in Slow-Motion, with the massive file sizes that it generates. How nice would be to be able to dump that off to say a 3Tb hard drive. You could keep shooting without to much interruption, and still have the files for post processing.

In the long run, it may happen, it may not. But whatever happens, mobile storage solutions are a real need that could be filled for very little investment.