A Well Designed Application = MobileDropCopy.

by rmtwrkr

I have installed quite a tidy bunch of apps on my iPhone now, and a few are proving to be invaluable. One unassuming application is MobileDropCopy. This application is designed to allow drag-n-drop file transfer between iPhones and Macs. I know, you’re probably thinking ‘Huh? but there are so much COOLER native apps to talk about than this!!’

Well, I happen to disagree. The reason is because the developers of this particular application have done something that is BETTER designed than what Apple will probably do in the future. Currently there is no official way to copy files (disregarding iTunes of course) to and from the iPhone. There is a high possibility that Apple will improve the Bluetooth stack on the iPhone to allow file transfer. If that happens, then it would be used in the same way that other phones can be used in OSX. You would have BT switched on the iPhone, you would then go to the OSX menubar, select the BT icon, and click either Send File or Browse Device. Depending on where your iPhone is, it will be detected or not (10 meters or more away and it won’t be seen). Then you have the laboriously slow transfer speed of BT to deal with. Ever tried sending a music file via BT? Jeezus…And forget sending Movie files, or large images or PDFs. Horrible, even with the BT 2.0 standard.

Now with DropCopy, you download and install a tiny app on your Mac (sorry, no PC version yet). It shows up in the menubar, and creates a ‘Haloed Circle’ floating on your desktop. After a 30 second initial config of the app, it’s ready to go.

Then go to Installer.app on your iPhone and download MobileDropCopy. After install open the app. It will automatically detect and other devices running DropCopy. Its ready.

So now back on the Mac desktop, grab a file, say a large PDF, and just drop it on the floating circle on the desktop. Then it is whisked away to your iPhone. On your iPhone you can QUICKLOOK! the incoming file, then choose to open it with PDFViewer. Excellent. What I like about this way of file transfer is that it is far more intuitive and ‘Apple-like’ than the usual ways of getting files onto other devices:

AFPd on the iPhone is cool, but I don’t want an always-broadcasting iPhone on a network, plus it nails the battery.
Samba is ditto.
SSH via an FTP client is great for more hardcore functionality, and directory access. But it is overkill for just moving files around, and again I don’t want the SSH server always running on the iPhone for the usual reasons.
Bluetooth if implemented, is slow and relatively cumbersome to use. PLUS again you need to have BT switched on all the time to make it feel seamless.

In my opinion DropCopy is by far the easiest and fastest way to get files on or off the iPhone. It is only broadcasting on the network when the app is launched. Quit the app (or jump to another app) and you have left the network. If the iPhone sleeps, again, the network connection is closed. This means that it is a ‘no maintainance’ application. You don’t have to remember if you left it switched on in the background. As another bonus, it uses WiFi so it doesn’t have the same distance restrictions as BT, so in theory you could have a whole bunch of people in your office with DropCopy able to instantly send you a file (or send them a file). It also can work over WAN if you have a dyndns-like fixed IP address for your devices.

Of course, improvements can be made to DropCopy on the iPhone:

I would like more security functions like passkey-binding, so you don’t have everyone with dropcopy on your LAN able to see you/send you stuff.
It would be great if DropCopy had more file-suffix recognition, thus allowing for the correct applications to be launched if a file is opened (not just PDFs)

Overall I am ultra happy with this application, as it has made me have a ‘why doesn’t Apple do something as intuitive as this??’ moment. I like those moments. I hope this application makes it through the cut, so when the next firmware/SDK/iTunes is released, I can grab it again.