Apple spent a good chunk of its 2012 developers conference keynote staking out its independence from Google. Google, on the other hand, revealed a whole bunch of new tools for Apple devices at its recent developers gathering, including Chrome on iOS and Drive for iOS. Chrome is a clever, synchronous browser alternative for your iPhone or iPad, but Drive is a whole 5 GB of space to get stuff done. But Drive doesn't really compare to Apple’s own iWork apps for those needing to actually write and edit things on their crisp little screens.
Drive on the iPhone and iPad is just a viewing tool. A clever, handy, remarkably cloud-connected viewing tool, There’s no easy way to edit documents in Drive. You can open your Docs/Drive-formatted documents in Safari and edit them there, but it’s far from convenient, especially if you wander away from a web connection.
So why would you even bother installing Drive on your phone and tablet? Why would you pick Drive over, say, Dropbox? Here's why:
You use Windows instead of a Mac: iWork can work with Microsoft Word or other files you create on a Windows machine, but the workflow involves saving, uploading (either through self-email or something like Dropbox), and opening on the iPad. With Drive installed on your system as a kind of magic folder, everything you want to keep handy on your iOS device takes just one drag-and-drop.
Scanning through PDF text: PDFs that you upload to Google Drive are automatically run through an Optical Character Recognition process, so you can search them like you would any computer-created document. Open a PDF, or save it from a Gmail attachment, and let Google figure out where the actual price is listed in that contract.
Really quick screenshot saving: From the Chrome browser on any desktop or laptop system, you can hit Ctrl+Shift+P to bring Google’s "Cloud Print" menu. From there, you can save anything you’re looking at on the web to Google Drive, and then have it available to you in your Drive app. It’s much easier than uploading.
Google-style search of your stuff: Drive’s true killer feature, like so many Google products, is deep, responsive search. Look for documents created after a certain date, but modified before another date. Filter your results to exclude documents with certain words in them. Get really data-geek on your files, so when somebody asks you about who’s assigned to that one thing while you only have your phone, you still have the answer.
For the iPad owners that carry around keyboards (or cases with built-in keys), Drive is not a go-to editing app. On the iPhone’s screen, it is similarly not a text tool of choice. And for those that work primarily on a Mac, iWork’s instantaneous background syncing is likely preferable. But don’t count Drive out as a place to search, sort, and view nearly anything you want to check out later.
[Image: Flickr user Alex E. Proimos]