BB10’s File Management Superiority

Apple's walled garden makes it very difficult to get photos onto an iDevice.
Apple’s walled garden makes it very difficult to get photos onto an iDevice.

Yesterday I had the misfortune of having the task of loading my mother’s photos, videos and music on to her iPad. The photos were taken with a digital camera about 10 years ago, and were stored on her old computer. In September, she replaced her computer with an iPad, and has since wanted to load her old photos onto her iPad. She’s in her 70s, and knows nothing about technology. The rest of my family knows little about tech too. Since I’m a programmer with a computer science degree, it was a no-brainer that I would have to take on the challenge.

Like everybody who has used an iPad, I was well aware that this would be difficult because of all the restrictions that Apple has built in to iOS and every iDevice. But despite that I had no idea it was going to be as difficult as it turned out to be. Calling it a challenge is a huge understatement.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to attach the external drive to the iPad and use a file manager to copy the files. But, Apple and their fans have been raving about how easy and convenient iCloud is to use, so I figured that would be the way to go. I figured I would connect the external drive to my laptop and upload it to iCloud. So I set everything up and logged into my parents’ iCloud account only to discover that I couldn’t upload any file I wanted to, like I could other cloud storage services. After doing some reading, I find out that I need to convert their iCloud account to an iCloud Drive account. So I did that and tested it by uploading several files — to my surprise, iCloud Drive actually allows you to create folders ! Great ! Now I just have to download those photos onto my mom’s iPad. Easy, right ? WRONG !

Apple created iCloud Drive, but no iCloud Drive app for users

Can't download files from iCloud
Apple doesn’t have an app to download files from iCloud.

to download stuff from their iCloud Drive to their iDevices. After much swearing, I headed to Apple’s famed App Store, which iFans keep reminding everyone has more apps than the app stores of other platforms. I figured I would surely find a bunch of apps that would be more than capable at doing the job. I didn’t. I found one that allowed you to browse and preview files on iCloud Drive, but it didn’t allow me to download the files on to the iPad. I kept searching, but found nothing that could do all I needed to do, not that I need it to do much other than copy photos, videos and some music from a cloud to the device. After I while, I gave up on iCloud.

After coming to grips with the fact that a company with $155B in the bank can’t create a useful cloud storage service, I decided to use Mega. The files uploaded quickly, but I couldn’t download the photos onto the iPad. I had to use the Photo Sync, but that would upload photos that are currently on their iPad, which we didn’t want to do. And Mega’s website didn’t function at all on the iPad.

So I tried Box. I use Box for my BB10 phones and it works great. Again, uploading went well, but this time I was able to download the photos to the iPad and add them to the photo library too ! Woo Hoo ! Victory, right ?! Well, sort of. Sure I was able to download them to the iPad and add them to the photo library, but I had to do that one photo at a time: view the photo in the Box app, tap Save To Library, view the next photo, tap Save To Library….etc. And we had a few hundred photos to put on to the iPad.

The entire torture session took more than half a day. Getting the photos on to an iPhone would have been no different.

Now compare that to what it would take to get those photos on a BB10 device. Unlike Apple, BlackBerry wants you to do more with your devices than simply buy content from them. As such, BlackBerry10 gives me lots of options for loading those photos onto a BB10 device:

  1. Connect the external drive to the device using a USB on-the-go (OTG) cable

  2. Put the device in Mass Storage Mode, connect it to my laptop and use it like a flash drive

  3. Use BlackBerry Link to allow my BB10 device to access the files on my laptop over the network

  4. Use my BB10 device’s remote file access capabilities to allow my laptop to access the storage on my phone over the network

  5. Use BlackBerry Blend to transfer files between the laptop and the BB10 device

  6. Use a popular cloud storage service like Box

BlackBerry Link's Remote File Access
BlackBerry Link’s Remote File Access allows your BB10 device to access files on your computer via the network.
BlackBerry Blend
BlackBerry Blend allows your computer to access files on your BB10 device and transfer files between your computer and your device.
BB10's Remote File Access
BB10 allows your computer to access your device’s storage over the network.

In most cases, I just have to use BB10’s built-in file manager to copy the photos from the external drive, laptop or cloud, to the device’s photos folder where the photo apps will automatically find them. When using Blend, I just have to select File Manager and drag-and-drop the photos to the desired folder on the device. As for the cloud services, Box, Dropbox and Mega have BB10 apps available. And yes, Box’s app on BB10 allows you to download multiple files at a time. In fact, my Box account shows up in the BB10 File Manager as a drive, and I can view/copy/move/delete files on it as though they were stored locally. All I have to do is tap Select Items, select all the photos I want to download, tap Copy in the right-side menu, select the local folder I want to copy the files to, and tap the Copy button. That’s it. Simple, easy, powerful and extremely useful. And yet, it’s not available on iOS.

It’s just another example of how BB10 and BB10 phones are far more powerful than iOS and iDevices. Now if only BlackBerry made a tablet.


I'm programmer with 13 years experience, and a former electronics technician. My first BlackBerry was a Z10, and I'm now rocking a Passport.