Last May, Bump — the iOS and Android app that lets you share photos and contacts with a quick bump of two phones — introduced a feature which let you transfer pictures from a phone to a Windows PC or Mac by going to the company’s website and tapping the phone on the computer’s spacebar. It felt like a magic trick, but there was a technological symphony going on in the background, including multiple geolocation methods, analysis of data from the phone’s sensors and more.
Today, the company is upgrading the feature with a new version. It now allows for two-way transfers between a Mac or PC and the iOS and Android apps, not just one-way exhanges from phone to computer. And it’s no longer just for photos: You can use a phone to send videos, contacts or any file stored on Dropbox to a computer, and can send any file on the computer to the phone. It’s nearly as simple as the previous photo-centric version, but a whole lot more versatile.
As before, once you tap the spacebar, your phone asks for permission to do the transfer. Then boom! — the files show up in your computer’s browser. (Usually, that is — if you run into trouble, it might be because you didn’t whack the spacebar forcefully enough, or don’t have the browser’s location services turned on.) Once stuff has been transferred into the browser, you can then download it to the computer’s hard drive, or just leave it stored on Bump’s servers, where you can share it with other folks via a short URL or Facebook.
There are already a multitude of ways to move files between devices, and the whole point of Dropbox is to allow for seamless synchronization between gadgets of all sorts. So why would you want Bump? Bump CEO Dave Lieb told me that the company’s whole mission is to “lower the cognitive hurdle” for the tasks its apps tackle, and that even the simplest of other data-exchange services aren’t simple enough. The new features, he says, are meant to turn a phone into a “universal, unlimited USB drive.” And indeed, I can’t think of anything I’ve seen that’s more straightforward, especially since Bump requires no setup or futzing with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
I do have one minor quibble: When I opened my Mac’s browser to bu.mp, the site talked about selecting items on the phone and tapping the spacebar to transfer them to the computer, but it wasn’t immediately obvious how to send a file from computer to phone. It turned out that when I tapped without selecting anything, the browser then let me choose files on the computer and zap them to my iPhone.
Still, the USB-drive comparison is apt, and it gives me flashbacks to even earlier eras of data transfer. It’s a sophisticated, Internet-enabled file transfer tool masquerading as sneakernet, the physical file exchange technique that’s as old as the floppy disk.
Bump’s new features are available now; the company is releasing new versions of its apps, but they aren’t required.