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A couple of months ago, Dropbox was probably at the top of the “most anticipated iPhone apps” list. Already widely popular because of its file synchronization features on the desktop, iPhone users wondered what the native mobile version would be like. To be honest, Dropbox is so far ahead of its competitors in terms of ease of use that I would expect nothing less from the iPhone app.

Dropbox for iPhone was finally released at the end of September 2009. How does it fair? Is it as powerful as its desktop sibling?

I installed it on my iPhone and took it on a test drive. Truthfully, I’m a little disappointed. Here’s why.

No Edit Function

Dropbox for the iPhone is nothing more than a glorified file browser. It will only allow you to view the files stored in your Dropbox account. There is no edit function. Sure, the app will allow you to retrieve your documents from wherever you are as long there is an internet connection but then again, isn’t that also possible with Safari?

Without the ability to edit documents, Dropbox for the iPhone is no longer a file synchronization app. It is merely a viewer.


“Previous Versions” Unavailable

One of the many great things I admire about the desktop version of Dropbox is the ability to view previous versions of a file. Dropbox saves past renditions of your documents by recording changes and edits hence, providing you with the chance to retrieve previous versions of the same document. Sadly, that is also not available in the iPhone app.

No Upload Function

Yup, you read correctly. You can’t upload anything besides the odd photo or video from your camera roll. This completely cripples the application because so much potential has just gone to waste. I can easily think of a hundred things that I can do if I’m able to sync files from my iPhone to my MacBook back home.

In all fairness, I have a suspicion that Apple is preventing the developers of Dropbox from implementing this feature. Nevertheless, as the end-user, I’m allowed to have expectations and I want to be able to upload files!

iPhone-Formatted Videos Only

The iPhone can only play h.264 video. Now, here’s a question: if the only accepted media is h.264, wouldn’t it be better to just sync the video over using iTunes? Think about it, in order to have the file appear in Dropbox, I must first have access to my desktop. I may as well have transferred the video file over, rather than to share it online just so that I can retrieve it on my iPhone.

Here’s a tip to the Dropbox developers: why don’t you guys add the ability to automatically convert any video files in a certain folder into h.264? Say, if I were to drop a video encoded in AVI into a dedicated folder in my Dropbox, it would automatically be converted into an iPhone-friendly format. I’m sure many users will enjoy that.

Alright, it seems as though I’m painting a terribly bleak picture here. But like I said earlier, I’m a little disappointed because the wait does not justify the miserable handful of features that Dropbox for iPhone provides. I expected the whole shebang.

If I push the curtain of dissatisfaction aside for a minute, it’s actually a wonderful beginning. Dropbox is still in its very first version and already providing its users with a chance to retrieve their files quickly and easily, not to mention saving them for offline viewing and sharing with friends.

I’d love to see where they’re heading next. I vote for editing functions! What about you? What are your expectations for the next version of Dropbox?

Dropbox runs only on iPhone OS 3.1. As a prerequisite, you must have the desktop version installed. Click here to download it.

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