iPhone and iPad

Dropbox – One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone

Mark O'Neill 27-09-2012

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropbox logoEver since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me – Dropbox.  In fact, I would go as far to say that if Apple dropped the Dropbox app from its iOS system, then I would be so angry that I would seriously consider going back to Android phones (which I swore I would never do).  That’s how much I like Dropbox’s iPhone app.


Why do I like it so much?  Let me show you the love </Barry White voice>.

The Settings

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropboxsettings1

There’s really only two settings you need to customize to your needs. Camera Upload and Passcode Lock.  Let’s take a look at each one in turn.

Camera Upload

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropboxsettings2

First, you need to decide if you are going to turn Camera Upload on. I strongly recommend that you do (I will go into this feature shortly). A new folder will be created in your Dropbox folder called “Camera Uploads” and this is where all of your newly taken photos with your iPhone camera will be sent to. But as I said, I’ll get into that feature shortly.


If you do decide to turn on Camera Upload, then you also need to decide whether or not to let it run on cellular data, if you lose your wifi connection.  This is entirely your decision, as I obviously have no idea what kind of data plan you have.  Mine is sufficient enough to switch this option on.  But as it says in the screenshot, videos will not be uploaded with your data plan.  They will wait until you get a wifi signal back.

Passcode Lock

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropbox passcode

For those of you who are security / privacy conscious (a.k.a. paranoid), then Dropbox offers you the chance to lock down the app with a passcode, to prevent casual snoopers and phone thieves from viewing your Dropbox data.  This is especially useful if you use Dropbox for storing work files which are slightly sensitive.  I had this switched on for a while, but I eventually turned it off because I also have a PIN code on my actual phone, so I figured also having a Dropbox passcode was a bit of overkill.  If a thief / snooper would be locked out by my phone PIN code, then that kind of makes the Dropbox passcode a bit pointless. But the feature is there if you want it.

As you can see, there is also the option to erase all data from the iPhone after 10 failed passcode attempts.  Frankly, this option extremely unnerves me so I have always kept it switched off.


OK, once you have figured out what you want to do with those options, it’s time to check out the rest of the app.  Are you keeping up?  Good.

File List

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropbox folderlist

Your standard Dropbox list of folders, along with a search function. It will automatically synchronize and update as soon as you tap on the Dropbox button. Then you can access your folders and files the same way you would on the website. Pretty straightforward.  Nothing much more to say about that one.


Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropbox favourites


This is something I don’t really take much advantage of, as I know where my “favorite” files are, without having to pin them. But nevertheless, this button allows you to pin your favorite files to save on clicking and searching. Again, pretty straightforward.

Camera Uploads

THIS is by far Dropbox’s killer feature and the one which makes Dropbox totally invaluable to me.  When I take photos, I want them to be instantly transferred to my PC for both backup purposes and for printing out as proper photos (if necessary).  Instead of messing about with a USB cable, Dropbox instantly (when you open the Dropbox app and tap on Uploads) sends all of the new photos in your iPhone photo gallery to your online Dropbox account.

If your PC is also connected to your Dropbox account (and it should) then that means your photos will instantly show up in your Dropbox folder in Windows Explorer, in a new folder called “Camera Uploads“. Fast, smooth and hassle-free. Plus, if you are on a wifi signal (as I am) and the signal is lost, Dropbox will continue uploading the new photos, providing you have a mobile data plan (and you’ve enabled this option in the settings).

Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone dropbox cameraupload


Think That’s It?

It gets better. Dropbox wants you to use its site – and only its site – for uploading your photos, so when you are uploading your photos, and you reach 100% of your allocated space, you will immediately get another 500MB of space free.  This is how I have gone from 3GB of initial space to 6GB currently.  I don’t know what the maximum amount of space is that Dropbox will give out in the end, or whether it’s open-ended (if you know, please let me know in the comments).  But at the moment, I am uploading every single photo I take and I am only at 45% of my 6GB.


So to summarize, if you have an iPhone, you HAVE to get the Dropbox app.  It is absolutely essential.  A well designed, sleek piece of software that purrs like a cat.  I have never had any problems with it.

Let us know in the comments what you think of the app.  What do you think Dropbox could add to make this app even better?  Or maybe you hate the Dropbox iPhone app?  If so, tell me why in the comments and I’ll see if I can convince you otherwise.

Related topics: Cloud Storage, Dropbox.

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  1. Bernice
    April 25, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Want to know if just uploading my pictures from my phone gallery to Dropbox means every one ( and all my phone contacts will see my private pictures?)

    Pls help , not a very good I.T. Person :)

    • Anonymous
      May 10, 2016 at 11:41 am

      No, they will only go to your own private Dropbox. You can choose to share them from there, of course, if you wanted to.

  2. Claire
    April 10, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I agree with the iphone vs android comment. I feel I have gone back in time using an iphone as my old android phone would just link any photos taken straight to my computer without having to open the app. The fact I have to open the app to sync then wait for it to link to my computer is so basic it's yet another thing to put me off the iphone.

    I'm an android user at heart and will go back to them as soon as I can.

    Not convinced that the functionality of DB on iOS is as good.

  3. Zet
    February 17, 2013 at 5:33 am

    How do I search my dropbox folders and files within iphone ???
    Androids have a search function
    can you do this with IOS ?
    Thanks, Zet

  4. KJ
    September 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Google i has Instant photo uploads from your phone. Just use your Google space which is super cheap compared to Dropbox.

  5. Midrik
    September 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Having experienced the Dropbox app both on my iphone and my Android, I must say it sucks on iOS.

    On the Android my photos automatically go to my Dropbox as soon as I take them, but on the iphone I need to tap the upload button... and thats not even enough because after a few seconds the screen turns off and it stops uploading.

    Never a problem on the Android, it just happens.

    • Daniel
      September 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      While I love iOS and greatly prefer the overall UI and user experience to Android, I definitely have to agree with you on this. Apple locks down the OS and won't let 3rd party apps have true background functionality and situations like this are a prime example as to why that's not a good thing. If it worked like on Android, I would potentially use Dropbox for uploading camera photos because it offers more flexibility after the fact. Think- take a photo that's automatically uploaded to Dropbox. My computer that's always on can then be set to watch the camera uploads folder and when it sees a new file, copy that to a backup location and I instantly have 3 copies... phone, Dropbox, personal backup. Might be overkill for cell phone pics, but you can see how it changes things since it doesn't all happen automatically in the background.

      • Midrik
        September 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm

        So true

  6. Jake Jarmel
    September 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    How is this really that different from just using icloud and photostream which is already installed and works great?

  7. D. K.
    September 28, 2012 at 12:19 am

    As far as I know the limit for free users is at 16 GB of space. I think this is enough for a free user. I didn't get fulfilled my 4 GB space :)

  8. macwitty
    September 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

    They will give you up to 3 GB extra space on an account for uploading photos. You can do it either on the phone or by connect a phone/camera/card reader to your computer and use Automatic upload. You'll keep the space even if you delete the photos

  9. Daniel
    September 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

    I get the impression that the Dropbox app must be new to you, as you seem to be missing a couple of points about it.

    1- The favorites section is NOT just to pin your favorite or most-used files for quick access. When you mark a file as a favorite, it actually downloads the file to the phone so that it's accessible without a data connection. This is an incredibly important differentiation and it has been really useful for me, as it prevents the need to stream MP3s over the air and potentially have buffer issues (plus the constant use of data).

    2- This is what the erase feature is for- if there's too many failed attempts, it deletes the data that you've cached on the device, nothing gets deleted from Dropbox itself.

    I also want to note that anyone that uses a Mac (I'm not sure how is for PC users) would be much better served to not bother with Dropbox uploads from the camera roll and to instead just use the built-in iCloud functionality. In order to upload from Dropbox, the app has to be actively running (as far as I know). With iCloud, your photos automatically upload in the background without the need to run an app. When I get home, I open up iPhoto and all my recent photos are waiting for me in my photostream. From there, I just drag and drop them to a local folder and they're saved on my computer. No need to sit around waiting with the Dropbox app open on the phone for the photos to upload.

    • Mark O'Neill
      September 28, 2012 at 6:24 am

      Thank you for clearing up those couple of points. I have been using the app for quite a while, but as I said, I don't really use the favorites feature all that often. So I was mistaken for what it's used for. Thank you for clarifying it.

      With the erase feature, are you sure nothing gets deleted from Dropbox itself?

      • Daniel
        September 28, 2012 at 4:30 pm

        I can't say with 100% certainty that nothing is deleted from Dropbox itself as I've personally never used the passcode lock (and thus the lockout erase feature), but a few things make me think it's ok.
        The description says "from this device", which to me reads that it deletes your information just from that device. Maybe it means the cached favorites, maybe it means your Dropbox login credentials, I'm not sure. If it did erase everything in your Dropbox account, this could be a huge problem for users with people "pranking" them or being malicious by causing the data to be deleted on purpose, and I'd hope Dropbox has the forethought to not allow that.

        And even if it does, remember that Dropbox has the option to let you restore deleted files from their website. A quick search to see if anyone has tested this feature might be able to put this all to rest, or heck... someone should volunteer to make a test account and try it out to see exactly what it does since Dropbox's documentation is pretty vague.

    • Jake Jarmel
      September 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Agreed. I use icloud and photostream and have been pleased with the functionality.

      • Mark O'Neill
        September 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        I suppose at the end of the day, there is no real difference. It just all comes down to personal preference. If you are already a big Dropbox user, having the ability to download your photos directly into your Dropbox account is a rather handy function to have.

        But if Photostream is your thing, then that's great. I've just never been able to get comfy with Photostream.

        • Jake Jarmel
          September 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm

          I can see that DB totally beats icloud in storage space. I want to pay Apple for more space in my cloud as much as I need a swift kick in the shins.

        • Austin Halsell
          September 28, 2012 at 7:18 pm

          Yeah, I prefer Dropbox as well. I've been trying to get into the whole iCloud deal, but they are really set on making it difficult to share an iTunes/iCloud account. I do want use photostream, but I don't need to see my fiancee's students on Halloween even if their costumes are totally awesome, you know what I mean? But I guess that would be a problem with Dropbox if she used my account too? All in all, I find DB a lot easier to set up and definitely easier to customize IMO.

  10. IamAshMcLean
    September 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    The most thing I personally hate, is when you must turn on the Location Services in order to upload the photos. Why this is required? :(

    • Mark O'Neill
      September 28, 2012 at 6:20 am

      I said no to this option and photo uploading is fine. It asks to do this because (I think) to tag the photo metadata with the location the photos were taken. But for me, this is not necessary, and is slighly invasive.

      But it's a feature you can easily say no to, and the app will still work.