iPhone WiFi sync needed, and oh the possibilities!

I’m growing a gripe about the iPhone’s lack of ability to sync wirelessly. This could be a stellar feature if done right – much better than USB syncing.

First, a note about my setup. My main Mac is a MacBook Pro. It lives everywhere – office, family room, kitchen, hammock…usually wherever I am when at home. I’m not a big cell phone (voice) user, so it isn’t strapped to my belt while at home. I don’t give the number out often, and my voicemail says firmly “I do not check the messages on this cell phone.” Yes, I’m wasting the excellent Visual Voicemail feature. Shoot me. When I’m at home, my cell phone (now iPhone) has always lived on the kitchen counter. That’s where the charger is. So a unique task is required to get my iPhone, USB cable, and MBP in the same place to sync. Bottom line, I don’t sync as often as I should because it’s inconvenient.

My recently-retired Treo 650 sync’d with Bluetooth, courtesy of the excellent Missing Sync software. That let me skip the USB cable. I’d use USB now and then to get a full backup, but Bluetooth was great for syncing contacts and calendar info. I’d usually bring the phone to my laptop when it was in the family room (adjacent to the kitchen), sit them together and sync while making dinner.

I was a bit upset when I learned the iPhone wouldn’t sync via Bluetooth. I suspect Apple’s thinking is that the iPhone syncs lots of sizable stuff – music and videos – that would take forever and a day over Bluetooth. So I don’t see Apple offering sync over Bluetooth.

Then it struck me – WiFi sync makes much more sense. It’s many times faster, and operates at significantly greater distance than Bluetooth. Rendezvous self-discovery would make setup a breeze. Long videos might take a while but otherwise this would be perfect. Sync could be started at either the iPhone or the Mac. Setup could be done anytime the iPhone was on the same subnet as the host Mac.

Then something else struck me – Automatic WiFi syncing. Why have to even start a sync manually? When there’s data to be synced, just do it. Perhaps poll periodically in the background, just a quick ping to check for new data before doing any real syncing. Or when joining a pre-determined home network. Or just when charging. Or maybe just small items (contact/calendar) when running on battery, then music/video/photos when charging. Imagine the convenience.

And there’s no reason iTunes needs to be open (a general annoyance already, plus we should be able to choose movies/podcasts to sync without the iPhone connected, but that’s another rant). Think of it like .Mac syncing, but locally and with fewer bugs…

Other nice things could happen too. Pretend for a minute there was a real RSS reader on the iPhone – I’m sure there will be someday. Viewed articles could be marked as such on both readers. This would be nice between Macs too.

Or how about syncing across multiple Macs? I don’t store my music/video/photos on my MBP. They’re on my Mac Mini, dedicated as a media server with gobs of storage. Adding this stuff to my iPhone now is a real chore. Why not sync my calendar/contact info with my MBP, and my music/video/photos with my Mini?

So think happy thoughts about WiFi syncing, and maybe it’ll happen!

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2 thoughts on “iPhone WiFi sync needed, and oh the possibilities!

  1. iPhone automatic wifi syncing via a third party developer would be impossible currently (manual as well) because there is no iPhone SDK/API.

    Wifi syncing between Macs has probably been done. If not, it’s non-trival, but not super hard.

  2. All of the above is in hoping Apple will add WiFi syncing. I think it’ll be a long, long while before Apple provides an iPhone SDK deep enough to allow a third-party to write their own sync apps like I describe.