Why is this so hard… Apple

It’s 2012 and the web and mobile devices are capable of amazing things, which is why it’s so surprising to me that some of the simplest things are still so hard.

I’ve got the latest iPhone with its 8MP camera and HD video camera, complete with iOS 5 and I pay for extra storage on iCloud. Apple’s supposed to be the best at designing simple user experiences across hardware and software – and I believe they are.

So when I want to take a bunch of photos and videos that I took from my iPhone and share those with some family members, it should be simple right?

Yet it’s not. Sure, there are some solutions:

  • The “Share” button in iOS that only lets you send one video at a time.
  • Facebook app so you can worry about privacy and exclude your family who’s not on Facebook. And still not easy to upload a bunch of photos/videos.
  • Dropbox app is alright for uploading but then you’re worrying about how much space you’re using (those were HD videos, after all, and you don’t want to reduce quality), you have to wait for uploading, you can’t browse your photos/videos by thumbnails – only filename, and worst of all there’s no easy way to share several photos/videos at once to somebody.
  • Kicksend – getting closer, but can’t send both photos and videos together, can’t compress or send while the app’s not open, and the recipient has to download the files to their computer and open them one at a time. Seems simple enough but that is tough for some people – why can’t there just be a simple way to look at them online?

Even dragging out the USB cord to plug my phone into my MacBook Pro doesn’t yield a simple solution. Open iTunes, iPhoto, etc. – haven’t found the answer. Dropbox comes the closest with its new “Camera Uploads” feature (which has been out less than 1 year) but still doesn’t cut it when it comes to sharing specific photos/videos after uploading.

Here’s what I would hope for from Apple in 2012:

  • Buy latest iPhone.
  • Take photos and videos on iPhone.
  • Tap a couple buttons to select photos and videos to share.
  • Choose who to share them with, press Send.
  • My family gets sent an email link to a webpage with thumbnails of the photos and videos sent, with a one-click way to view each of them. Could even be a native app experience if the recipient is a Mac or iOS user.

What’s important are the things that shouldn’t have to be a part of the process:

  • No large email attachments or file downloading required for the recipients – a web browser can be a great way to browse media and is certainly the simplest, and Apple has already been killing the file metaphor on mobile.
  • No long on-screen waiting for uploading or compressing – Apple is already uploading my stuff in the background for Photo Stream so this should be simple.
  • No special apps to download – Apple has always been a “we take care of all of the basics ourselves” type of company.
  • No worrying about storage space in the cloud – this is 2012 and disk space is super cheap, and I’m already making Apple gobs of money on the hardware. Fine, I’ll pay extra for iCloud even but it shouldn’t be something I could fill up easily like Dropbox. It should feel unlimited.

As a developer and product designer, I recognize that pulling this off is no trivial task. You’d have to design a whole web app for viewing this media, build a super scalable backend to handle it, make iOS changes, etc. Hardest of all you’d have to make sure this fits into a larger product vision.

But surely Apple with its nearly unlimited resources and great talent should be able to. Sadly, as plenty of people have pointed out, they still don’t get the web like they get hardware and software.

That leaves a big hole for other players to fill. Dropbox, Google, Facebook – you’ve been given a big wide open opportunity to shine, but so far have not impressed. So listen up entrepreneurs, Apple executives, and young dreamers: the field is wide open for better products – have at it!

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  1. Alex said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 1:31 am

    Press and hold on subsequent photos to make a multiple selection in iPhoto for iOS. Doesn’t solve the “easy sharing” but at least you can upload those photos to Flickr. An iCloud gallery for iPhoto/Aperture would be handy.

  2. Eric said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 1:45 am

    When using the not-so-easy-and-quick solution by USB, try using the Application “Image Capture” (standard from Apple I believe). Here you can quickly select the photo’s and video’s you want to import and set a folder where you want to import to.

  3. Stan said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 1:53 am

    This is why we need to start developing video and photo compression tools into the app client side. Waiting for a large file to upload before we start actually encoding it before kicking off to the end user is ridiculous waste of time. The client machine should be handling this so the file uses less bandwidth to go out and effectively makes the whole process snappy.

  4. Kris said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 2:33 am

    On Android, for any pictures and/or videos, you choose which app to send them to, and then send (twitter, text, facebook, email, tweetdeck, flikr, youtube etc)

  5. Samuel Williams said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 2:39 am

    Yes, I agree with your sentiment. It seems like some of the simplest “tasks” are nearly impossible with iPhone due to the locked down nature of the device. The original iPod was great because you could use it as an external hard drive, but these days it isn’t as simple. At the end of the day, its your information, why does the device have to make it so hard to access?

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    June 4, 2012 @ 3:21 am

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  7. Mosys said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 3:41 am

    True, and with mobile me galleries gone even sharing from the macbook becomes difficult. It was such a great way of sharing pictures and videos, it should be part of the iOS ecosystem, not discontinued!

  8. gmoney said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    stop being a fanboy and use Google plus to share your pics and bids

  9. Ben said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 3:54 am

    It’s been done. Connect your iphone to your mac, open iPhoto, select the photos you want to share and share to Flickr.

  10. greggman said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 4:00 am

    Or you could switch to Android where this feature has been available since the Google+ app shipped if not before.

    Actually, it’s also available for Google+ on iPhone except because of Apple’s restrictions the app is not allowed to upload your photos and videos in the background like it is on Android. You have to open the app and leave it open. If we’re lucky (I’m using an iPhone4S) Apple will add some new API that makes uploading in the background possible on iOS 5.2 or 6.0 or something.

    In either case, all photos and videos are auto-uploaded. Once it’s done, they are all on Google+ in a private collection and you can easily share them with friends and family.

  11. Ollie said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 4:15 am

    Best way I’ve found:
    Plug in USB.
    Open Image Capture.
    Choose folder.
    Click import.

    Pretty simple when you find the image capture application!

  12. zu said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 4:18 am

    welcome to android

  13. Simon Hibbs said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 4:23 am

    I’ll file this under “This is easy for me to imagine, so it must be easy to implement.”

    Also individual disks may be fairly cheap, but whole data centres of them somehow still add up to many billions of dollars.

    Sure stuff like this is definitely coming, but the “come on guys, wave your magic wand already” tone detracts from the piece. I assure you, they’re waving it as hard as they can.

  14. Allaun said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 5:12 am

    http://acrosync.com/ 2 second search for rsync. ^.^

  15. Emmanuel said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 5:26 am

    Use Dropbox and then Picasa/G+/YouTube.
    That’s simple.

  16. pfig said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 6:04 am

    Oh, it’s simple, just buy iPhoto for iOS :>

  17. Robin said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 6:16 am

    Firstly, when you connect the iPhone to USB you can access it via the Image Capture application just as if it was a digital camera – just get all your images and video out of it in a snap, and then do what you want with them. Secondly… I hear ya. I’d like something similar without having to connect the phone to USB (which fires up the battery charging, which I dislike doing intermittently as “ping-pong charging” the battery will kill it ahead of its time), but, there are better applications around than the ones you have listed. Have you checked out any of the many apps that use imgur.com to share pictures?

  18. jm said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 6:51 am

    You should try iphoto on ios

  19. Matt Radford said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 7:28 am

    Check out EveryMe – I’ve just started using it and, although it’s not integrated into iOS as you suggest, it makes sharing with family members very simple. No signup is required for people to join your private social network, and they can interact via email. One of the devs told me video sharing is on the way. I also like that I can get my data exported easily. I’m not affiliated with them, just a happy user :)

  20. Sammy said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    Just use instagram

  21. JK said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 8:07 am


    I agree with you and with the move to the iCloud solution I was hoping that the album or photo sharing would be improved with Gallery being updated, but it is being killed. Not sure how the iCloud solution is supposed to address that. I do not like PhotoStream, as it is not truly keeping all your files. Apple needs to still have something like Gallery, just improved.

    Now, I use Flickr as a my photo/video backup solution, and found that Box.net and PogoPlug are very very easy to share files.

  22. Roman Gonzalez said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    The best experience I’ve found so far that has what your looking for is the galaxy nexus photo sync with google plus, you take pics, automagically appear on the photo section of your google+ waiting to get shared, as many photos to as many people as you can, of course, you may do that only through the browser, but at least it works well.

  23. Adrian Murray said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    Have you tried using iPhoto’s icloud sharing abilities? It can do everything you’re complaining about. Minus the video. It’s elegant and viewable from a browser. All you have to do is make a Journal and then share it to iCloud. You can get a (oddly long) URL to email/text to someone and then you’re done. You can also have a collection of shared journals in your cloud. Video does need some work, but I think Journals in iPhoto are exactly what you’re looking for.

  24. Dwight Silverman said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    Best way for handling photos/videos from iPhone while connected to a Mac: Image Capture, a small utility that comes with OS X. It’s the same one you use for scanning on a Mac. Located in the Applications folder.

  25. Junaid Ahmed said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    Great post and excellent points! I totally understand your frustration about sharing photos and videos with family that is not connected to all the social networks but you still want to share the memories with them.

    If you remember the new iPad launch apple had introduced an awesome new app for its iOS devices namely matching the one on the desktop “iPhoto” I’ve used it on both iPad and iPhone and it is a great improvement over the defaultt photos app and does a lot more than just edit and crop photos. Apple added an amazing feature to the app ‘Journals’ and it enhances your ability to share photos videos and other trivial/custom information about the event you’re creating the journal for. It uses the iCloud space that you have and it create a web link to share with your family on the go. Plus you have the ability to add captions, videos and update photos on the fly without having to change the link.

    I hope that this app is everything that you’re looking for :-) thanks for sharing your wishes, they’ve just been granted ;-)

  26. TC said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 9:50 am

    Google+ meets these needs for me and does it elegantly and extremely easily.
    Here is the process, turn on auto upload for photos/videos (choose wifi only, or over wifi/mobile network)
    take pictures and videos
    choose family circle, click share… done

  27. Cameron said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    Or, go into Photos, tap the arrow in top right corner, tap the photos you wish to share, tap ‘Share’, send email to those people.

    Sure, Apple hasn’t built a stand-alone web page to display your photos, but this built-in functionality does everything else you’ve asked. If you really need a website, some of the image hosting sites provide an email upload functionality which means you could just email the photos/videos there instead. Or blog them if you want, most blog platforms provide email posting functionality too.

  28. Phil Freo said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    Cameron, the point isn’t that it can’t be done right now (though the Share button won’t work for photos and videos together which was my use case). There’s a million options. The point is that for the average person it’s just not as simple as it can and should be. Not something you can explain in 30 seconds to a non technical person (and that can be done in only a few taps).

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