Get Android photos into iCloud Photostream via Dropbox

If like me you have an Android phone but also have an iPad, then you might find that getting photos you take on the phone onto the iPad a chore. Having photos on the iPad means you can take advantage of the beautiful screen and powerful software like iPhoto for which there simply is no alternative for on Android.

Yes you can use the built in Dropbox app, but it’s very clunky and doesn’t let you sort by date. With this solution, photos you take on your Android phone will appear in your iCloud photo stream, which is a far more elegant solution.

What we will do here is essentially make your Dropbox Camera Uploads folder the same folder as your iCloud PhotoStream uploads folder.

Note: I got this working by using my Windows 8 PC with Dropbox installed – it should work fine for Windows 7, and instructions will be different for Mac OS X but it should still be possible. Follow this guide at your own risk!

Step 1: Install Dropbox on your phone

If you haven’t done so already, install Dropbox on your Android device and make sure automatic camera uploads is switched on. This will create a new folder in your Dropbox called ‘Camera Uploads’

2012-11-05 21.38.20

Step 2: Install iCloud Control panel on your PC

I already had iTunes installed, so this was a case of running Apple software update and selecting ‘iCloud Control Panel’

Step 3: Remove the iCloud Uploads folder

Open the iCloud control panel and find the location of your photo stream on disk:


Kill the any iCloud.exe and ApplePhotoStream.exe processes from the task manager, and then browse to your photostream folder and delete the ‘Uploads’ folder.

Step 4: Recreate uploads folder

Now the magic happens, open an administrative command prompt and create a junction that will recreate the Uploads folder, only showing the contents of your Dropbox’s ‘Camera Uploads’ folder.


mklink /J “C:UsersMarcDesktopPhotoStreamUploads”  “C:UsersMarcDropboxCamera Uploads”

The first path is where I want the uploads folder to go, and second is where my camera uploads folder in Drobox is. Remember: you haven’t made to copies, if you delete from one, it gets deleted from the other.

Step 5: That’s it…!

Now any photo you take will be uploaded to your PC, from your PC it will be sent to iCloud. and from iCloud it will find its way onto your iOS devices.

Why we still need Dropbox

Last week both Google and Microsoft launched cloud file synchronisation services. Together with Apple, three of the biggest players in tech are now competing with the likes of Dropbox and

Google’s service, named “Google Drive” (a name I was hoping they would reserve for their exciting autonomous car project) offers tight integration with Google Docs and other Google products such as Picasa (and no doubt their Chrome OS and Android operating systems at some point in the near future). One of the key selling points of Google Drive is it’s search facility – they even use OCR to let you search images. You get 5GB free, and can get up to 1TB of space if you’re prepared to pay for it. Crucially Drive supports sharing files with others, making collaboration on documents much easier. There is support for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS (no Windows Phone).

Microsoft’s SkyDrive has actually been around for a few years, but has always been a web only interface and so despite their initial offering of 25GB free, it was difficult to see how anyone would ever use that if they had to upload files one by one in a web browser (I think they they knew that too, since now it’s more usable it only offers 7GB for free). SkyDrive too has tight integration with Microsoft’s ecosystem – the upcoming Windows 8 will use it to synchronise the data within Apps, and also to keep your settings in the cloud. Office documents can be opened using Office Web Apps and there’s support for sharing files too. There is support for Windows, Mac, Windows Phone and iOS (no Android).

Apple’s iCloud is a rather different affair. There’s no way to arbitrarily use the storage like a folder, as is the case with the other services mentioned here. Instead developers use the APIs to build iCloud into their apps. For many people this is just fine, after all most normal users just want their documents and photos to be safe, and don’t care so much about the file system underneath. For many (including me) this is a major limitation. It’s great if you own multiple iOS devices (say an iPhone and an iPad) because your bookmarks, notes and documents will stay in sync. It’s not so great if you want to share a document. There is no way for example, for two iPad users to work on a spreadsheet using Apple’s ‘Numbers’ app. It just can’t be done. Of course Apple haven’t added support for cloud rival Dropbox to their apps, so it left me continually emailing a spreadsheet back and forth like it was 1998. Welcome to the future. The biggest downer on iCloud is the lack of Windows support. Not that I would be able to open my Pages documents on Windows anyway. However if you have a Mac and live wholly using Apple’s products, it’s not bad.

So who needs Dropbox?

So with all these major players getting involved, I’ve read a lot of blogs and comments to the effect of “Dropbox is doomed” or that there’s no point in it any more. How wrong could they be.

The purpose of these three services is to keep you within an ecosystem. Each has it’s own small limitations that might seem like a minor inconvenience now, but remember this is your data – and one day you might decide you no longer want to be part of a particular ecosystem, how easy will it be to move all those gigabytes of data? Dropbox (and other pure cloud providers, I just happen to use Dropbox) is not out to try and get me to use their phone operating system, or to to make it difficult for me to share with a rival. They are just offering cloud synchronisation, without the platform politics.

When you buy software, how long should it reasonably continue to work for?

Electronic Arts have decided to discontinue some of their earlier Xbox 360 games, meaning players will no longer be able to play online. With the 360 still selling exceptionally well, the fact that games publishers are deprecating some of its older games must be worrying news for console owners. To think I can still play Team Fortress Classic, purchased in March 2000 to this day on my Windows 7 laptop –  this amazing feat however is  because the servers are not run by one company. Lesson learnt?