iOS 5 wants:

iPhone iPad files app

While I'm sitting here still waiting for iOS 4.2 to be released, I'm continuing to think about iOS 5 and how I'd like and iPhone and iPad Files app, similar to the existing Photos app but serving as a repository for documents and other non-image files. It's something I asked for back before iOS 4 was released and is something I want even more now. I don't need or particularly want full access to the iOS file system (and there's a Jailbreak for that if I do) but Iwould like an official and officially supported place where my files are surfaced and a common way to get to them from within any app.

For example, If I get an email with a document attached I should be able to tap and hold, get a popup, and Save to Files the same way I can save pictures to Photos today. Everything from Apple's iWork suite to Documents to Go or QuickOffice, to GoodReader or Readdle Docs and all the others should be able to bring up a file picker as easily as they bring up an image picker today, and I should be able to open and save back as easily as I do photos in any of the numerous image editors today.

Apple already provides something vaguely similar to this... for iDisk files. They released it back in July, 2009. Now the cloud is nice, the cloud is fine, and the cloud may well be the future of file storage, but until that future arrives there needs to be good local access as well. And there needs to be a seamless way to round-trip the files between apps. (Which certainly isn't the case even with iDisk and especially not with Apple's own iWork suite.)

(The ability to move Files -- and Photos -- into and between folders would great as well).

With Retina Display it's easier than ever to work on iPhone and iPod touch documents, and with the advent of iPad and its big screen, it's realistic to do far more file work on the go.

A useable would make that a reality.

UPDATE: To expand a little based on the comments below, being able to access what's stored in (and for that matter not just via any app but via Safari as well would be huge. It would eliminate one of the reasons it's so inconvenient not having a Facebook for iPad app by way of just one example.

A cloud connection to both and is also the way to go, so it's easier to move and sync (i.e. backup) files and photos outside just the local device. That's why iDisk (and apps like and DropBox) only solve half the problem, and MobileMe only syncs part of the data I want synced.

Keep the ideas coming!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 42 comments. Add yours.

andy says:

There are some apps that will let you do this on 4.0 already, but you have to jailbreak your device.

duh says:

he said that and also said official and officially supported

Nelson says:

I'd like a re-imagining of how push notifications are handled beyond 'intrusive dark blue box.' it was already dated in 2007, it's time to get with the times when 2011 rolls around.
Widgets are related.

Adam says:

Having the ability to upload pictures through safari by hitting the "browse" button in my site cms would be a godsend and would truly allow me to use the iPhone and my iPad as a tool for my business. Until that happens, I still have to come home and log onto my desktop/ laptop to update news on my sites. Which sucks. Windows phone 7 does this. Although I bought a hd7 and returned it in 2 days as it was crap. Got an iPhone 4 now. Really would love to "browse".

Wesley says:

Yeah, seems logical. But I don't see this reality on a sandboxed world, how would them make safe so one app does not delete all your files by accident? Perhaps they'll have global read-only ability, and write only on their own files? We'll see.

jordandev says:

Documents To Go let's you transfer files to and from in iTunes and you can open files from email in it and etc. Not bad but a more global file manager would be better yes.

ren says:

Had iProducts since before iPhone. Have had last 3 iPhones. But I want an FM radio so I don't have to carry a seperate device.

Kevin says:

Yes, I think the would be a great thing. It would just essentially be an interface into a "Documents" folder. Simple, but powerful.
I also agree with Nelson on push notifications - they should be customizable like "Growl" is on the Mac. I should be able to control how they are shown (or announced, if you want to use speech).

Sterbuck says:

I would like to create separate photo albums and revamp the photo app. I really like the way the G2 does it.

Jaime says:

This will change everything....again.....magical!!!

Piper says:

This was one of my main reasons to jailbreak my iPhone. I really appreciate this feature, f.e. being able to save anything to iFile form Safari with SafariDownloadManager. But as said, this would really be a useful app when officially released by Apple. Could also be a good idea for being more productive on the iPhone, f.e. using DocsToGo and implementing quickly a picture in your document.

Webvex says:

I don't see this coming soon, due to the sandbox issues. It really isn't the best solution anyway because there's still the problem of files being isolated on the device. We just need cloud storage to mature and get sorted out. The place for shared files is in the cloud, not on separate devices. That solves not only the app to app sharing, but device to device sharing as well. Of course, that puts the responsibility on developers and other companies to standardize. I'd rather see every app being capable of sending and receiving with any cloud service.

squirrelking says:

I needed the same feature and have been using's iphone /ipad app.. it works great and you can "download" files to your iOS device from the cloud, so you access the file at anytime..

Webvex says:

iTunes needs to go too. Loading, syncing, and backing up files through a personal computer (with a cable! connection) is a huge problem. iOS needs to become a first-class cloud citizen.

d2globalinc says:

So like my eve 4g? And also comes with faster net connection, etc.

Brian Tufo says:

I'd like a built in FM Transmitter so play my music in my car without cables!!

Andrea.Richardson says:

Along a similar vein, I would like to see the ability to move pictures into folders/albums ON THE IPHONE added. For example, using my iphone, I'd like to be able to create a new folder/album and move pictures into that folder/album. Right now, you can create a new album using your computer, but that I would like to see something that doesn't involve using my computer. In fact, I'd love it if Apple could get away from having to hard sync your iphone to a computer all together. I would like to be able to receive software updates OTA as well!

Rob says:

To the guy who said widgets...... Eff widgets. All they do is drain the battery. I would like to see live tiles like in windows phone 7. I would be nice to see the temp outside without having to open the app and wait for it to update.

Webvex says:

Local file sharing is the wrong direction. I understand people's impatience, but it would be harder to change direction down the road. Actually, services like Dropbox and Google Docs are moving along pretty well now and are already fairly workable solutions for a lot of needs.

Webvex says:

Re: the post update, I consider Safari an app as well. Safari should be able to connect to a cloud service to upload and download files. Think of a new type of file browser, instead of the old local filesystem dialogs.

dloveprod says: is a good idea

OneOfDaKine says:

Why are we talking about iOS 5 we should be talking about iOS 4.2. Take one iOS at a time...

JNGold says:

There is no difference between widgets and Live Tiles, except for presentation. Both need information from external sources (usually) or from the app they are associated with to display information.
Did anyone take a look at that iFilesapp posted above? That seems about 85-90 percent there in terms of functionality. I might have to check that app out.

Dryland says:

Cloud based syncing is a necessity. I shouldn't have to put plug my phone up to my computer to add new music... bring on cloud based iTunes. As a MobileMe subscriber, it would make it complete... well except that dropbox actually syncs better than iDisk. :/

spanishcop says:

I agree on this article to some extent. First of all I personally don't think I will use the cloud for storage files. The building at my department is sooo thick and lack of windows that I get zero to 1 bar if I'm lucky. There for if I needed files, I would want them in 2 ways. Give me a storage are for my files as mentioned OR.... Give me some type of a SD Card capability so I can put all my files in one place and have access to everything from photos to work files etc.

Steve says:

This is exactly what the Ipad, Ipod and Iphone are all missing. Not only that but to be able to map a network drive and access it from any app would also be nice. Imagine being able to map a drive to your home network drive and then be able to play music or execute a file staight from there the same way you can on a PC!!!

OrionAntares#CB says:

Yep, iOS needs an Internalz app. Also a micro-SD slot on future iDevices would be great.

Zach Hudson says:

iOS need a Automator type app that allows you to have certain functions occur when you are docked or at certain times, days, etc....

Concealdcarrier says:

Just to expand. I would like to start an email in the native email app. And have a way to attach files to it. It seems like to send a file, I have to go to that file, then send it that way. I also agree that working with photos is tough, and iTunes is really slow. My real only gripes.

scott says:

@ Andrea....I'm lost. You can't do those things on your phone?? I could do that 2 years ago, no JB needed. Oh wait. That was on my 3 YEAR OLD BB BOLD!! Got a doc you need to save?? Open EXCEL / WORD, type the doc, make a folder, name it, then save it. ALL ON THE PHONE!! Take a pic, name it, make a folder, save the folder, move the pic to the folder, ALL ON THE PHONE. I guess you have to use the term "magic" to describe this product, since OUTDATED would be a hard sell. With iOS, you should be able to hold a finger on a BLANK part of the screen and have a "folder" pop up. name it, save it, then be able to transfer items in it. The idea that a cell phone is a MOBILE device seemd to be lost on Apple, since they insist on forcing you to have a lap top / deck top computer to make it work. iPhone4 - nice? Yes. Fast?? Yes. Easy?? Yes. Stand alone device?? NO WAY.

gquaglia says:

Steve doesn't agree, so no file storage for you! Also on Steve's "you don't need it list"
-custom notifications for email and other events, the duck quack is all anyone needs.
-event notifications, sorry, not needed either
-Widgets, nonsense
-More then 1 new model per year, also not needed. We need a year to build up hype for our next product that does basically what the old one did.
No, you will not get this, Lord Steve has spoken.

OmariJames says:

I've been mentioning this for a while, before 4.0 released. I always wanted a finder.

Quick5pnt0 says:

Id like the apps to have the ability to add things to the lock screen. For example there could be an option in accuweather that allows it to display the current temp on the lock screen. Or maybe IM+ can list which aim buddies are currently online.

amipro says:

I want the basic Phone features which other (nokia) phones have been doing since ages:
1) Ability to send and receive Business Cards via SMS.
2) Add multiple receipent in email, SMS by checking names in a list.
3) Messages App rewamp
4) Bluetooth data transfer

Dennis says:

What I would like in ios 5:
Support for live themes instead of simple backgrounds, ability to download more from store
Support for live widgets, ability to purchase more from store
Ability to delete songs right on the device.
Ability to rename songs, videos, and apps.
Ability to hide apple icons from our springboards.
Ability to place a contact, song, photo, or video right onto the springboard.
A unified store for users to purchase Music, Videos, Apps, Widgets, and themes.
Unlimited folder capacity.

stephen says:

mixing a web browser and file manager is /NEVER/ a good idea /EVER/ it is always ridiculously slow.
just compare finder with explorer.exe and then tell me it's a good idea

Igrar Aliyev says:

Totally agree .....especially when you want to reply to an email message with a file attached. It is available in Blackberry OS, WebOS, Android OS and Windows Mobile 6.5 but neither in iOS or WP7 which have ambitions to become business phones.