The questionable pairing of iPhoto and iPhone

So here’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest. Why on Earth do I have to load iPhoto to import pictures from my iPhone?

Bear with me a minute. To sync my iPhone, I need to launch a large application, iTunes. There’s no need for that. In my Palm days (which are happily behind me) syncing was a near-background activity. Missing Sync launched quickly, did its thing, and went away. That’s how it should be. iTunes does a lot more than syncing – one shouldn’t need to launch a media manager to sync a phone. It doesn’t make sense.

But I’ll accept that as what it is, and move on.

iTunes happily syncs everything from my phone – contacts (iTunes isn’t a contact manager), calendar (iTunes isn’t a calendar app), etc. It will sync out photos. But it won’t copy them from the iPhone. Why the heck not? I have to launch another app, iPhoto, to do that. My iPhoto is loaded with photos, so it’s anything but fast to launch when all I want to do is import a few low-res images. Too many clicks, too much time, and thus too high a risk of losing photos because I don’t bother with the process as often as I should.

Iphoto-Autoimport-1Now a few years back I was troubleshooting iPhoto, and figured out how it handled importing. I’ve long forgotten the details, but it copied everything first to a temporary folder within the iPhoto Library folder. Then it moved everything around. I learned this because something got stuck in that temporary folder, and iPhoto wouldn’t launch until I cleared it out. Probably a corrupted jpeg that wouldn’t import.

Since my first iPhone sync I’ve wondered why iTunes couldn’t just copy photos to some magical auto-import folder within the iPhoto library. Then, at iPhoto’s next launch, the photos would magically appear – even if the iPhone in question was long disconnected. iTunes could easily track which photos have previously been copied to prevent large-scale re-imports.

I thought about this today after scanning old photos for my wife. She wanted them in iPhoto on her Mac. I thought “Gee, wouldn’t it be swell if I just dropped them into some magical folder on her Mac, over the network, and they’d appear in her iPhoto at next launch.” So I took a peek at iPhoto ’08′s library structure. It’s now a package (overall a good move I think). Sure enough, there’s an “Auto Import” folder! There it is! There it is!

I even gave it a try. On my Mac, I copied a few jpeg’s into Auto Import. I launched iPhoto, and quite predictably the photos imported. Zowie!

So, I ask you dear reader, why can’t iTunes do this for me, with my iPhone? Apple, are you listening?

Oh, and a sad end to my tale… Alysa has an older version of iPhoto on her Mac, which lacks the “Auto Import” folder. I didn’t remember the name of the temp folder to create, so I couldn’t use this trick today.

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One thought on “The questionable pairing of iPhoto and iPhone

  1. Dude, I couldn’t agree more! Let’s see, last time I checked, sync was short for synchronize! Why does it treat photos any different from songs? If you’re gonna sync content, SYNC IT!

    Of course, the reality is the iPhone is a hip TOY. A supposed smartphone with no filesystem access? Please.

    I use a mac so I went for the iPhone. It’s no smartphone that’s for sure…