Dropbox for Android Gets Automatic Photo, Video Upload

Dropbox turns on automatic photo and video upload for Android smartphones and tablets, and digital cameras. The move comes as pundits debate the degree of such syncing in the cloud.

Dropbox€”not to be outdone by splashy news from its rival Box around Android platform support€”Feb. 24 enabled automatic uploading of photos and videos over Android devices.

Dropbox is a provider of cloud-storage services for consumers and businesses. The service has more than 45 million users, competing with the likes of Box and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which offers storage by way of its Google Apps cloud collaboration applications.

The refreshed Dropbox for Android mobile application will instantly upload the photo and video content to Dropbox over WiFi or mobile broadband data plans.

The service, which recalls the instant upload feature for the Google+ Android and iOS mobile apps, will upload content at original size and quality, saving them to a private camera uploads folder in Dropbox. Dropbox said it will also make the feature available for iOS devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, in the near future.

The idea is that if users lose their smartphones, digital cameras or tablet computers, photos and videos created with those devices can be saved by Dropbox's cloud-storage service. The auto-upload feature isn't limited to mobile either.

Dropbox said the new version of its Windows and Mac desktop apps can automatically upload from just about any camera, smartphone, tablet or Secure Digital (SD) card users might connect to their computer.

To draw users to the new feature, Dropbox is offering 500MB of free Dropbox space for users' first automatic upload. "As you take more photos and videos, you can use this feature to automatically upload up to a total of 3GB extra for free," Jeff Bartelma, director of products at Dropbox, wrote in a corporate blog post.

Dropbox' auto-upload feature came one day after rival Box, which focuses more on enterprise users, upgraded its Android app with collaboration features and support for the Spanish, German, French and Italian languages.

Dropbox' new software also prompted Benchmark Capital venture capitalist Bill Gurley to write on his blog that such features commoditize devices and their OS.

"Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company," Gurley wrote. "And the further they take it, the less dependent any user becomes of the physical machine (HW and SW) that is accessing that data (and state). You can lose your desktop computer, you can lose your smartphone. It doesn€™t matter, because all you really care about is in the Dropbox cloud."

What Gurley is talking about is another validation of the cloud-computing model. Yet not everyone worships at the altar of Dropbox.

Slate columnist Farhad Manjoo countered Gurley's supposition in Pando Daily. Manjoo lamented the lack of perfect syncing in Dropbox and for any so-called cloud service, for that matter.

"The trouble is, it will be difficult to make a perfect gadget-syncing service that is also a great standalone business," Manjoo wrote. "There are two reasons for this. First, the perfect syncing service needs to do more than simply store files. Second, the perfect syncing service should be unlimited and free, or as close to it as possible. Dropbox will have a hard time doing the first of these for technical reasons, and if it does the second, it won€™t be a very good business."

Manjoo's position is that such state syncing would come under the aegis of Google, Apple, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) or any of the other OS platform purveyors. The suggestion is that Dropbox will have to sell out to one of those rivals to subsist.