Folder sharing brings iCloud Drive closer to Dropbox, but there’s work left to do

Last year, Dropbox revised its terms so that free accounts, like mine, could only sync data with up to three devices. As someone who owns an iPhone, iPad, iMac, and MacBook Air, I was a bit put out by this change: I kept all my important files in Dropbox and relied on its syncing magic to have access to that data no matter which device I was using.

This wasn’t my first frustration with Dropbox, which has started focusing more on enterprise software rather than its core functionality of document sync. So I decided to bite the bullet and make the switch, moving to iCloud Drive for all my cloud storage needs.

Overall, the transition has been largely smooth, but it has put into relief a few places where iCloud Drive currently just can’t match Dropbox. One of those features, the ability to share folders, looks to finally be arriving in iOS 13.4, the beta of which was released this week. But before I’m finally able to kick Dropbox to the curb, there are a few more tweaks that iCloud Drive needs.

File under “request”

One feature that Dropbox has had for some time is the ability to create a file request. This allows users to turn a folder into someplace where anybody with a given URL can upload a file via a web interface.

dropbox create request IDG

iCloud Drive could use a feature like Dropbox’s file request.

In my line of work, I use this feature regularly in order to requisition files from guests on my podcast. It’s far simpler than setting up a shared folder for all of these uses, which involves doing the dance of making sure the participant has a Dropbox account, sending them an invitation, making sure they accept it, and then hoping they remember to drop their file in the correct place. Plus, using a file request link means I don’t have to worry about managing a potentially large number of users with read and write access to a folder.

This feature doesn’t even seem to be on Apple’s radar, and that’s not a surprise: I imagine this isn’t even a hugely popular capability for Dropbox. Apple has also never been the most web-savvy of companies, so a web-based upload tool probably isn’t high on the company’s list—especially when it’s still struggling to implement shared folders.

But there would be benefits in Apple implementing such a feature, not least of all because it would help make iCloud more platform agnostic, allowing users on Windows, Android, or even Chromebook devices to easily upload files to iCloud. And given that Apple just this week deployed a mobile-optimized iCloud.com that made the service more accessible on both iOS and Android devices, it seems like platform interoperability is at least of some interest to the company.

Old reliable

My experience using iCloud Drive has been pretty solid so far: on the Mac, I’ve run into very few problems accessing my files or moving things into and copying them out of iCloud Drive.