USB Feature Returns to FileApp

My previous article looked into Apple’s decision to force DigiDNA to remove a feature from their FileAid app, a feature that allowed FileAid to view files transferred via USB from DiskAid. The last few days have brought some good news. After further discussions between Apple and DigiDNA, Apple has (partially) reversed its decision. 

FileApp 1.6 (not yet available in the App Store as I write this) restores the removed USB feature! However, there’s a catch. It only restores the option for people who owned and used FileAid (the older version of the app that includes the USB support). If you never had FileAid on your iPhone, the new FileApp 1.6 will not add back the USB option.

How will FileApp 1.6 know if you previously used FileAid? According to DigiDNA, it determines this by checking a support file on the iPhone, created by FileAid/FileApp, that retains a record of whether or not you ever used the older version.

I suspect this checking method may fail if you’ve deleted all versions of FileAid and FileApp from your iPhone, as this should remove the support file as well. However, DigiDNA claims it should work even in this case — if you download the current FileApp 1.5 version (while it is still available in the App Store) and launch it before updating to 1.6. We’ll see.

On a related note, the first time you launch FileApp 1.5 after upgrading from FileAid, a message appears describing a one-time-only option to preserve any files you had previously transferred to your iPhone via USB — by moving them to the folder accessible to view Wi-Fi transfers. If you miss the message or unwisely ignore it, you are out-of-luck — your USB-transferred files are no longer viewable from your iPhone (although, as now confirmed by DigiDNA, the documents remain on the iPhone and will be viewable again after updating to 1.6).

While these compromises are better than nothing, they still strike me as awkward kludge solutions to problems that ideally should never have happened in the first place. They are a consequence of Apple needlessly forcing the removal of a feature only after the app had been available for months. And there’s still no word from Apple as to why FileApp has been singled out for this “special treatment,” while other apps with similar USB features have been left alone.

Two other follow-up notes:

• In the course of working on this article, I tripped over one way that files transferred to the iPhone via DiskAid can cause some confusion. This is entirely separate from the FileApp business.

I transferred a .jpg graphic to the DiskAid folder on my iPhone. After doing so, the name of the graphic erroneously showed up in the listing of my iPhone’s Camera Roll contents — when I connected the iPhone to either iPhoto or Image Capture on my Mac. The image itself did not appear, just the name of the file. The first time I attempted to export the jpg file to my Mac, via Image Capture, I got an error message. On the next occasion, the picture did import (and was deleted from the DiskAid folder, as I had selected “Delete after import”).

The likely source of this mix-up? The DiskAid folder resides in the same DCIM folder on an iPhone that contains the folder for Camera Roll photos.

• USB issues aside, these types of confusion and hassle in any app could be avoided going forward if Apple would implement a standard API for third-party apps to use when syncing/transferring files. As of now, as pointed out in a comment to my prior article by “Daddy Warpig,” each app has to re-invent the wheel, coming up with its own way of dealing with these transfers. With any luck, this is something Apple will address in iPhone OS 4.0.