SkyDrive: Version 3.0 Finds Its Way to the App Store

Apple’s death-grip like control of the App Store has became quite legendary since it was launched in 2008. Some of you may remember in 2009 when Apple rejected the official Google Voice app, which was eventually admitted, but not without a probe first being launched by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Or perhaps you remember in 2010, when Apple took its sweet time (25 days) to finally approve the Opera Mini browser app, which, at the time, seemed as if it would never happen.

Well, 25 days is nothing in comparison to what SkyDrive — Microsoft’s cloud based storage service — users have had to endure. Having not received an update since June 1st last year, version 3.0 of SkyDrive for iOS was finally given the okay from Apple on April 3rd (the delay was caused by a disagreement regarding the 30 percent cut from revenue Apple would receive from in-app purchases). Now that the bickering has stopped, it’s time to take a look at what the newest version of SkyDrive has to offer.

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The Basics

Since SkyDrive has never been reviewed here on AppStorm, let’s start things out with a basic outline of the app. Much like apps for other cloud storage services (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive and Box), SkyDrive allows you to access, manage and upload files to/download files from your SkyDrive account. The bottom navigation bar provides access to three areas within the app — one for file management, a second for viewing recent files, and a third for accessing shared files.

In order to get version 3.0 approved, Microsoft had to remove the ability to buy additional storage space from within the app — meaning you’ll need to visit the SkyDrive website if the free 7GB you receive initially doesn’t suit your needs.

Not So Modern UI

Microsoft’s Modern UI (formally Metro) can be found across several Microsoft products, such as Windows 8, Windows Phone, and the Xbox 360 Dashboard. Even the SkyDrive website is packed full of minimal, flat-design goodness (or badness depending on your stance of flat design), so it seems odd that the team developing SkyDrive decided not to go full tilt with the app’s redesign.

The loading screen is one of the few Mondern UI elements.

The loading screen is one of the few Mondern UI elements.

The cheesy folder icons have been removed in favor of tiles with preview images, which is a great deal more pleasant to look at and is useful for identifying files associated with the folder. However, the header bar and navigation bar remain unchanged from the previous version — both sporting gradients, of all things. If Microsoft is serious about making Modern UI their standard, then all of their products should incorporate the design.

Unlike the SkyDrive website, the tiles are not live.

Unlike the SkyDrive website, the tiles are not live.

Now Accepting Full Resolution Photos

While the wait for version 3.0 took quite some time, not many new features found their way into the update. With that being said, the biggest update is sure to please photo enthusiasts as you can now download and upload full resolution photos. I know some may scoff at the notion of using an iPad to capture photos, which would then be uploaded to SkyDrive. But, if Pope Francis’ inauguration has taught us anything, it’s that people love to use their iPad for photography.

You now have the option to upload/download photos at full resolution.

You now have the option to upload/download photos at full resolution.

With this new feature, SkyDrive can actually be a serious tool to manage photos. Before, photos were downsized from print resolution files (i.e. ability to be printed without the photo looking blurry) to screen resolution. If you’re storage space conscious and don’t care about print quality images, you can turn on a Resized option for uploading and/or downloading photos, and the photos still look great on my iPad mini (this might not be the same story on a Retina iPad).

Can you tell the different between these photos?

Can you tell the different between these photos?

Where to Go From Here

As an admitted Dropbox fanboy, taking SkyDrive out for a test drive left me wanting. It’s obvious that the service has improved a great deal since I first tried it out in 2007, but SkyDrive for iOS is lacking a great deal of features compared to the competition. For starters, the app is missing the ability to make files available offline (a.k.a. favorites), and there’s no option to protect the app with a passcode (pretty important depending on the type of files you’re storing).

It’s great that full resolution photos can be uploaded and downloaded, but that’s an old hat for apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. For SkyDrive to become a go-to app for photo storage and management, it needs features like auto-uploads. And, seeing as Microsoft owns and operates Office, it would be great if SkyDrive would allow users to edit documents — much like how Google Docs files can be edited in Google Drive. But seeing as Office for iOS has a rumored release date of autumn 2014, there’s probably very little chance of Microsoft giving away their most prized service for free.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a fan of Microsoft’s SkyDrive service, you’ll certainly find SkyDrive to be of use to you. Uploading and download files is easy peasy, and interacting with image, audio and video files is a truly familiar iOS experience. There’s definitely a great deal of room for improvement, and I hope Microsoft takes Google’s cue on developing more high-quality apps for iOS.

It might go without saying, but I haven’t been swayed to leave Dropbox in favor of SkyDrive for my cloud storage needs. However, I’m always open to new services and app, and would gladly embrace a transition if SkyDrive — both the service and app — eventually becomes everything I’m looking for in cloud storage.

If you’re a member of the SkyDrive faithful, let us know what you think of version 3.0 of SkyDrive after waiting 10+ months for an update.


Summary

Access, manage and upload files to/download files from your SkyDrive account.

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