So Apple's filed a patent for a new way to synch files across devices. This is exactly the sort of "method" patent that makes my skin crawl -- it's not so much "here's how to do something original" as "wouldn't it be cool if something did this," which has always struck me as something that shouldn't be patentable -- but I welcome the filing because it at least indicates that Apple is working on this problem. And make no mistake: despite the much-touted ease of use that supposedly locks users into the iPhone-iPod-iTunes ecosystem, syncing is in fact a problem on these platforms.
My wife and I both have 8 GB iPhones, and substantially more media on my Mac than can fit in that small space. She has the additional complicating factor of syncing her phone with two computers -- videos and music with my Mac, calendar and contacts with her Windows work computer. And each and every one of those syncs are more of a pain than they should be. Sometimes syncs are relatively quick; other times they'll last fifteen or twenty minutes for no discernible reason. Now, I know that some of this is because the phone is backed up locally during the process, something for which we have reason to be grateful; my wife's phone once crashed pretty spectacularly in mid-sync, and every bit of data had been backed up and was restored. But is this whole rigamarole necessary every time you plug your iPhone's USB cable into your computer?
The scenario that's most galling is when you just want to move a single file onto the iPhone. My wife likes listening to NPR podcasts when doing the dishes, and there's generally several in the queue in iTunes for her on the laptop. But I can't just drag and drop them onto the phone; instead, I need to sync the entire library, or at minimum make a tweak to the audio files to sync and apply that change, which can take just as long.
There ought to be a more efficient way to move a small set of files from the computer to the iPhone. If Apple's patent is to be believed, and if I'm interpreting it right, there might be in the future. But patents are often years ahead of actual hardware, and I fear that I'm going to be tearing my hair out over the current syncing setup for some time to come.