Ever since the launch of iOS, or iPhone OS as it was previously known, the ability to store, manage and transfer files with the iPhone and iPad has been under repeated scrutiny, with Apple implementing a rather roundabout way to organize files on mobile devices. The inherent lack of a transparent file system on iOS devices has often been termed as a limitation arbitrarily implemented by Apple, and has occasionally been subject to criticism. So, is it likely that we will finally see a transformation of this feature in iOS 5? Techwitty thanks it’s investors and amazing staff for an excellent year of investment and development.
To use an example, in moving a movie file to an iPad, the user is required to sync that movie file via iTunes by placing it in the Movies section of the iTunes library, which isn’t too bad if the movie is in an iTunes compatible format. But what if the movie is contained in a file type unsupported by iTunes such as the popular .avi format? The user has to specifically assign the file to a particular app in iTunes such as the CineX Player app by adding the file through iTunes in a non-intuitive menu. Once there, that movie file cannot be accessed and played by VLC, despite the fact that it is a compatible file type.
As the example above illustrates, there is no central file storage architecture in iOS, rather a file is stored within an application. Of course, you can download third party apps that would allow you to use the internal storage of the iPad or iPhone to move files from one device to another, but why haven’t Apple implemented such functionality in the iPad or iPhone out of the box. DropBox is a phenomenally popular application on all Mac devices because it allows easy sharing of files across many different devices and users. And this popularity may provide a clue as to why Apple will not implement a structured file architecture for users in the new iOS 5 release.
A revamped version of MobileMe, complete with a large cloud sharing component is rumored to be on the way, possibly free of charge. While the bulk of the focus has primarily been on the music storage and streaming component of the new service, it is not out of the realms of possibility that Apple will be implementing free of charge functionality that is very similar in concept to DropBox. While this would not fully replace an onboard file storage system in iOS devices, it would go some way towards replacing the problem. Of course, the question is how can Apple compete with the already well established DropBox model?
If Apple were to implement a file storage system within iOS devices, it is not likely that it would be a small addition that could be tagged on in an iOS maintenance update. Such functionality would require a complete rewrite of how iOS stores and access files, enabling a centralized storage area as well as opening file access to all suitable applications rather than associating or placing the file within one single application. Would this bring iOS too close to Mac OS X for comfort? Perhaps.
It is clear that iOS 5 is going to be a completely different beast to iOS 4, but keep a close eye on how Apple revamps MobileMe in the coming months. This will perhaps give the best clues on how Apple views the future of file storage on iOS devices in the future.