Long time iPhone users would already know that although it’s not impossible, it is much easier to download photos and videos from the smartphone than to upload to it.

There are actually a couple of techniques that you can use to upload your pictures to your iPhone. They range from a very simple method to one that requires you to install additional software.

One important thing to remember is that, unfortunately you cannot just plug your iPhone in and start copying images to it.  This ‘limitation’ often takes new iPhone users by surprise as they expect the iPhone works like a USB drive (or just about every other mobile phone on that matter).
Sadly that is not the case. If you are wondering why, well it’s probably just enough to know that it has something to do with Copyright Protection.

You can get photos out from the iPhone easily though, just not the other way around.

So here we are, in a typical Apple’s way, being forced to find alternatives to do a simple thing (I can almost hear the triumphant whup from the Android users now).

1. Email

One of my favourite method of transferring photos from my Mac or PC; really from just about any Internet device that capables of doing email; is by emailing the photo to myself as an attachment.

This method is in my opinion the simplest and probably the quickest way of doing it. As a bonus, you can also use this method to transfer photos between devices.

Sending Photo To Myself via Gmail

Sending photo attachment via Gmail

The only thing to consider is that it only works well if you want to just send a small number of photos. This is due to a limitation that email providers (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) have imposed on the size of an attachment that can sent in one email. Although there is no one stopping you to send more than one email, each with a couple of photos. It’s not the end of the world, just a bit tedious.

2. Online Cloud Storage

I’ve touched on the subject of Online Cloud Storage before, though probably more as a method to backup your photos instead of transferring them.

But since the Cloud Storage is accessible anywhere where you can use Internet connection, it could also be used as a transfer medium.

Cloud Apps

Cloud Apps

Just upload the photos you want to transfer from your Mac or PC to one of the cloud services, for example Dropbox, OneDrive or Copy.com (my favourite), via the web browser or the desktop app.

Dropbox Upload via Web Interface

Dropbox Upload via Web Interface

Dropbox upload photos via Desktop app

Dropbox upload photos via Desktop app

And then when the photo is finished being uploaded to the cloud you can then use the cloud mobile app to download them back to your smartphone.

Dropbox Mobile App - Browse Folder

Dropbox Mobile App – Browse Folder


Dropbox Mobile App - Download to Camera Roll

Dropbox Mobile App – Download to Camera Roll


3. iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is the new cloud storage service by Apple that replaced the old iCloud when iOS 8 was release.  To use this service you need to turn-on iCloud Drive on your iCloud Preferences window (you need to download the software to your Mac or PC).  If you use a Mac, you need to upgrade your OS to the latest OS X Yosemite.  And then your mobile devices, where you want the photos transferred to need to have iOS 8.

iCloud Preferences

iCloud Preferences

To upload photos to iCloud Drive just open Finder in Mac or Explorer in PC, and open the iCloud Drive folder.  You can then just copy the photos directly on this folder, or if you prefer create a new folder and copy the photos there instead.

Now on the iOS device side, you need to have an app that can access this iCloud Drive.  Interestingly Apple doesn’t have an official app for this, so you have to rely on third-party apps to download your photos.

My go to app for this is Documents 5.  The reason I’m using this app is because it’s free and it works! Using Documents 5 you can access your iCloud Drive and download your photos to the Camera Roll from there.

For more info on iCloud Drive check out this FAQ by Apple.

4. Mobile Wireless Storage

I’ve also reviewed some Self-Powered Wi-Fi enabled mobile storage devices before in this blog. Basically, they are standard external hard drives but they carry rechargeable battery with them and most importantly they can create an ad-hoc shared Wi-Fi network.

Seagate Wireless Plus

Seagate Wireless Plus

They work just like an ordinary cloud storage, except that you bring this one where ever you go and you don’t need an external Internet connection.  Most of the big storage manufactures have their own version of this cool device, including Seagate, LaCie and Kingston.  The storage capacity ranges from 500 Mb up to a whopping 2 Terabytes!  You can connect to them as a standard external hard-disk, via USB cable, or an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection created by the device.

LaCie Fuel

LaCie Fuel

To transfer photos just upload them to the device and then download them back to your smartphone using their mobile app.

Seagate Media App

Seagate Media App


 5. Direct Wi-Fi Transfer – Mobile App

So far we are talking about how to transfer photos indirectly, i.e. we need to use a ‘temporary‘ medium to transport our photos. Now let’s talk about how we can transfer them directly.

The first direct method is by utilising the local Wi-Fi network and with the help of third-party apps.

First you need to install the app. There are a few apps in the App Store that can do this, you can use any of them. I myself is using one called Simple Transfer.

The idea is the app will use the local Wi-Fi network to make a connection between your mobile device and your Mac or PC. The caveat is that your Mac or PC needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your mobile device.

When you run the app in the mobile device it will act as a ‘server’ and will publish an IP Address. You can then use this IP Address to connect your Mac or PC to the device.

Simple Transfer - Open Server

Simple Transfer – Open Server

Just type in the IP Address in any Internet browser and you are connected.

Simple Transfer - Web Browser

Simple Transfer – Web Browser

From then on you can browse your local folder, pick the photos and upload them to the device.

Simple Transfer - Ready To Upload

Simple Transfer – Ready To Upload

The photos will be transferred directly to your device and be stored in the Camera Roll.

6. AirDrop (Mac Only)

One of the new features coming out from Cupertino was what is called the AirDrop.  AirDrop reminds me of the old days when sharing files between two mobile devices was as easy as turning on the Bluetooth connection between the two.  The earlier iPhone didn’t have this, but since the release of AirDrop, not only that you can transfer files between mobile devices but also between a Mac to iOS Devices or other Mac.

There are obviously particular system requirements which you need to know to find out whether your devices support AirDrop.  These requirements are:

  • your iOS device needs to include a lightning connector
  • your iOS device needs iOS 7 or later installed
  • your Mac needs to be a 2012 or later model with OS X Yosemite installed
  • Your Mac and iOS device both need bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on. You do not have to be connected to a specific Wi-Fi network.

If your devices fulfil the above requirements then you can start transferring your files.

First you need to turn on AirDrop on your iOS Device.

Then in your Mac, check if you can ‘see’ your device, ready for AirDrop.

AirDrop Connected

AirDrop Connected

The browse to the folder where you want to upload the photos.  Select the photos and click on the Sharing menu.  Select AirDrop to start the upload process.

AirDrop Ready to Send

AirDrop Ready to Send

As soon as you click on the AirDrop recipient, the photos will be sent immediately. When it’s finished uploading you can see your photos at the destination in Camera Roll.

AirDrop receiving

AirDrop receiving

I think AirDrop is really cool, and as I mentioned before, it not only works between Mac and iOS Devices but also between iOS Devices.  You don’t even need a connection to the Internet.

Unfortunately it only works for a Mac.  I haven’t heard any news from Apple if they are going to extend this capability to PC.

7. iTunes Photo Sync

Another way of transferring photos directly is via the iTunes Photo Sync. Many of you might’ve never open let alone used iTunes before, so this is probably a good excuse to do it.

Download and install iTunes if you haven’t and open it. Then connect your iPhone to your desktop Mac or PC via the USB cable.

If everything goes ok, the iPhone icon at the top bar will be activated.  Click on this icon and you will see some more menu on the left side-bar.  Select the Photos menu item to open the Sync Photos screen.

iTunes Photo Sync

iTunes Photo Sync

Tick on the Sync Photos from checkbox to allow iTunes to sync photos from your desktop.  Then from the drop-down next to the checkbox you can select which folder you want to sync from.  In my case I pick my ‘iTunes Sync’ folder (which I created myself).

iTunes Photo Sync Menu

iTunes Photo Sync Menu

You can then choose whether you want to sync the whole folder, along with its subfolders, or select individual folders.  And you can choose whether videos would need to be synced as well.

iTunes Photo Sync - Selection

iTunes Photo Sync – Selection

You can also, instead of choosing a local folder, select to sync from the iPhoto.  Here you can then further pick which Albums of Events to be included if you wish not to sync the whole content of your iPhoto.

iTunes Photo Sync from iPhoto

iTunes Photo Sync from iPhoto

When you finish your selection click on the Apply button and iTunes will start syncing your photos to your iDevice.

This method of using iTunes to transfer photos/videos are very suitable when you want to transfer a big number of photos and videos.  And since it’s not using either the Internet or wireless connection, the transfer rate would be pretty fast and reliable and free.

Bonus: Third-Party Apps

If you, like so many others, never use or hate using the notorious Apple iTunes, there is another way and that is to use third-party apps.

Many software makers had recognised that iTunes was just too hard to use and rose to the challenge to develop an alternative app to iTunes and create a better experience to the uses.

Here are some third-party apps that you might want to have a look and try:

Wondershare TunesGo Retro

Wondershare is a Chinese software company that has about 50 odds apps actively developed and sold.  One of these software is called TunesGo Retro.

TunesGo allows you to access your iPhone data without using the notoriously bloated iTunes.  These include your Songs, Photos and Videos, Contacts and SMS.

For photos, not only that you can download them from the iPhone to your PC or Mac, but it also works vice-versa!

You can add photos directly to your iOS Device!

I’ve tried this myself, and it does genuinely work.


By the way, as you can see in the following screenshot, downloading photos is not the only thing that TunesGo is good at.

TunesGo Retro is Free to try.  There is a version for PC and for Mac.  If you decided to keep it, the license costs $19.95 per year, or $39.95 for a lifetime (for 1 user).


Final Thoughts

People say “Many roads lead to Rome” – this is indeed what we have learnt today.  Some road take a direct route, others went around the mountain first before reaching the final destination.

Which ever road you choose would depend in the situation you have at that moment.  But what ever situation that is, I hope I have given you enough ‘directions’ to choose which ‘route’ to take.

If you you think there are more method to transfer photos from desktop to iDevices that hasn’t been covered here, please let me know in the comment, I will definitely put it up and give you attribution.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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