Box is one of the more established file-syncing service providers in a somewhat crowded market. History counts for something, though. Box integrates with dozens of other apps and services, and because of its prestige, users will feel safe knowing this isn’t some fly-by-night company holding their data. When it comes to access all your data from a mobile device, however, Box is due for a little makeover.
The Box mobile app is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 8, and Windows Phone. This review focuses on the iPhone app with a Personal Box account. Box for iPhone has a straightforward interface that looks a little dated. It could stand some sharpening up. The app is missing one major feature as well: an instant upload option for photos and videos. Box for iPhone is a great app, and if you’re a Box user, you definitely want to install this free app. But if you’re in the market for a new file-syncing service, there could be a few other considerations that keep you from choosing Box.
You can use the Box iPhone app to access your files, photos, videos, and music. The main screen has five icons running along the bottom. The first lets you see updates, or changes that have happened to data in your account. This page looks the most outdated to my eye. It’s cramped and busy with too many font colors. The second menu button shows all files, or more likely, the folder structure you have in your Box account. Next is a star icon for your favorites, which can be saved offline if you turn on an option in the settings. After that (the fourth menu item) is for uploading new files. And last is a cog for settings
As with pretty much all file-syncing apps, you can optionally add a four-digit passcode to better protect your account.
One great feature that I adore in the Box iPhone app is the ability to add comments to any file at any time. You can’t edit documents directly in the Box app, but then again you can’t edit documents in the iPhone app for any file-syncing service that I know of. To edit files, you have to open them in another app. Being able to add comments and read comments from your collaborators is the next best thing.
I’m waiting for both Box—and Google Drive for iPad, for that matter—to offer in-app editing, as both support it in the Web versions of their services.
Another wonderful aspect of Box is that Personal users with free accounts get 10GB of storage to start. That’s as much as Bitcasa, and hardly anyone else. Free account holders are limited to uploading files with a maximum size of 250MB, but at least the iPhone app tells you that upfront in the settings under your account information.
For style points, I think SugarSync’s iPhone app and Bitcasa’s iPhone app look the most impressive and offer the best navigation.Dropbox’s iPhone app also seems to be ready for a little design polish. Although it’s similar to Box, Dropbox’s strengths go far deeper than the surface. These two contenders have been running their businesses for years, and are widely supported by other apps, tools, and services. If you need a file-syncing app that works well in a specific eco-system of other apps, chances are Box and Dropbox will be your best options. .
Music and Media
Pretty much all the file-syncing apps on the market today let you get at your music, photos, and videos. Most (except Dropbox) include music players so that you can even stream songs directly, rather than transfer them to your device. Box supports music just fine, as does the IDrive iPhone app, SugarSync, and Bitcasa—although Bitcasa has a nice little music note icon that hangs around the upper right corner of the screen while audios files play, and tapping the icon brings you back to the player quickly for pausing, skipping ahead, and so forth. It’s a nice touch if you listen to a lot of music through your file-syncing service.
One feature missing from Box is an instant upload option for photos and videos. Most of the other apps include this function, and I think it’s an important one to have, because a lot of people use it to create a backup of their mobile photos. If you’re still interested in Box despite the lack of this feature, I would recommend you turn on Apple’s Photo Stream option so you can at least take advantage of that backup option.
Box Best Online
Box has long been a fantastic service, supporting integration with dozens of apps and services, reliable file-syncing, and a generous 10GB free space for new Personal users who pick up a free account. The iPhone app, however, could stand some sprucing up. A design refresh is overdue, and I’d like to see an instant upload feature rolled into the settings.
For iPhone app versions of file-syncing services, our Editors’ Choices are Dropbox, SugarSync, and IDrive. Box is still a superb service all around, but the iPhone app could use some improvements in light of the competition.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc