Bump’s New App Makes Photo Sharing Between Phones And PCs A Simple, Physical Gesture

All you have to do is hit your space bar using your phone. Abracadabra! Your photos are transported.

It’s easy to share photos with anyone anywhere in the world, but when it comes to sharing with the one person closest by–ourselves–the task is as complicated as it is annoying. “We take all our photos with our phones nowadays, but getting them where we want them on other devices is hard,” says David Lieb. “Syncing with my computer is a pain in the pass; I can never find my cable; and I end up emailing myself the photos, which is just cumbersome.”


It’s a pain point most have suffered in one form or another–if not for photos, then for sharing documents, videos, or music–but Lieb thinks he’s finally found the solution. His app Bump, which boasts 75 million downloads, enables users to “bump” files to one another simply by tapping smartphones together. Today, he’s bringing that same technology to sharing between mobile devices and PCs, creating a physical connection between gadgets that Lieb feels is far more intuitive than any wireless alternative.

To use the service, simply head to Bump’s website, open the Bump app on your iPhone, and tap your mobile device onto your computer’s spacebar. “Instantly, the phone connects to your computer and moves all the photos over,” Lieb says. “You don’t have to do any setup.” The photos will pop up in your browser, where they can be downloaded to the desktop with one click, or shared via Facebook.

The photos are transferred wirelessly but it’s physical act of bumping that sets apart Lieb’s solution–an idea similar to ones we’ve seen before. Earlier this month, we highlighted interaction designer Ishac Bertran’s brilliant concept for dragging files between two devices by pressing them together to create a visual and physical bond of both hardware and software. One of the cleverest features of the short-lived HP TouchPad was the ability to tap your smartphone against your tablet to share a website or map. And even Microsoft’s expensive Surface table is takings its cues from physical sharing–just plop your smartphone onto the display, and drag any files directly to and from the device itself.

The trend here points to the need to recapture the feel of physical sharing that has been lost in the digital world. Certainly, cloud services have made syncing files across devices an automated task done in the background–some might argue this is more convenient. But like Bertran, Lieb feels there’s something lost in that interaction. “There’s a trade off with things being automated: You’re not really understanding what services like Dropbox or iCloud are doing [in the background],” he says. “Instead, we think it’s better to make it a bit more intentional, so you actually do a little more work, but in exchange, you get this very cognitively simple thing–you know how it works, and you feel in control.”

And despite how streamlined the set up might be to plug your iPhone into your computer to sync with iTunes, or to set up a Dropbox account to share files, there’s something so self-explanatory and obvious about tapping your devices together to share photos. “We’ve realized that users don’t actually set things up the way you might want,” Lieb says. “You have to build technology so the hurdle to use these things is so low that someone who doesn’t want to go through all the setup can still use it.”

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.