The free version of Dropbox for iPhone, an app that allows users to store and transfer files across computers and mobile devices, won high marks from a group of real estate professionals for its simplicity and functionality.
The iPhone app, which syncs all types of files across Windows, Mac and Linux computers, provides up to 2 gigabytes of online storage at no charge, and paid versions can expand this storage to 100 gigabytes. In addition to its iPhone app, Dropbox apps are available for iPad, BlackBerry and Android devices.
The iPhone app taps into the power of cloud computing, storing documents for online access so that users can access them anywhere. According to an online description at Dropbox.com, the iPhone app allows users to:
- View files from within the application.
- Download files for offline viewing.
- Take photos and videos and sync them to Dropbox.
- Share links to files in Dropbox.
- Export files to other applications.
- Sync downloaded files so they’re up-to-date.
A group of volunteer real estate professionals reviewed and rated the free version of the Dropbox iPhone app for Inman News and submitted their findings from Oct. 6-15, 2010.
According to Apple.com, the Dropbox for iPhone app has received an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 maximum, based on 19,379 total ratings, and the latest version of Dropbox, which was updated Sept. 22, 2010, has received an average rating of 4 stars out of 5, based on 675 ratings for this latest version, as of Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010.
And TopAppCharts.com, a site that tracks popularity of iPhone and iPad apps, listed Dropbox as the No. 7 iPhone app in the "Productivity" category and the No. 1 iPad app in the "Productivity" category as of Oct. 20, 2010.
The 17 volunteer reviewers were tasked to evaluate whether the product is useful to real estate professionals, and they evaluated the app based on three criteria and also considered the overall strengths and weaknesses of the app. The three criteria:
- Ease: How easy is it to use?
- Usefulness: Is this something real estate professionals would use regularly as a business tool?
- Originality: How unique is this product and its features?
Reviewers, who completed an online form, could award 0 (worst) to 10 (best) points per category. Individual point totals among the 17 reviewers ranged from 16 to 30 out of a maximum 30 points possible per reviewer.
Ratings from one reviewer awarding the highest total points and one reviewer awarding the lowest total points were discarded, and the average ratings are based on the 15 remaining sets of ratings.
The Dropbox for iPhone app scored an average 9 points out of 10 possible for "ease," an average 9 out of 10 for "usefulness," and an average 8 out of 10 for "originality," collecting a total 389 points out of a possible 450 points among the 15 sets of ratings considered, and earned an overall letter grade of A (86.4 percent, for 389 of 450 total points).
Additionally, reviewers were asked to comment on the "major strength/asset" and the "major weakness/flaw" of the app, and to suggest which audience would benefit the most from using the app (consumers or real estate agents or real estate brokers/managers, for example).
Debra Trappen, a reviewer who is director of career development for Coldwell Banker Bain | Seal, which operates in Oregon and Washington, said she uses Dropbox to "store training materials for easy access while traveling, as well as (using it as) a location to share planning docs for a committee" that she serves on.
Alan Harris, a broker in California, said he uses Dropbox to share docs across his iPhone, iPad and Mac computer. He said the app’s strengths are "the ability to access documents anywhere and the ability to easily create a shared folder so large documents can be uploaded."
Also, he noted that the tool could be used by an assistant to share the latest versions of documents while you are working in the field.
Several reviewers commented on the simple setup process to use the app. It’s "idiot proof," said Will Kelly, an agent for RE/MAX Realty Group in Harleysville, Pa.
Kelly also said the product "works seamlessly." "This app is plug and play. (I) currently use it on two computers, iPad and iPhone."
And reviewer Mark S. Bergman, broker-owner for Bergman Real Estate in North Creek, N.Y., said, "Using Dropbox is as simple as saving a file to a local drive. This is so simple that the average non-techie Realtor should be able to use it with no challenge.
"Reliability has been excellent as I’ve used the app on both the iPhone and iPad and desktop. Dropbox is integrated into my daily business process," he commented.
Eleven of the reviewers said that real estate agents/sales associates "would benefit most from this product," while three respondents said real estate clients/customers/consumers would benefit most. Several more said the product would appeal to a broad set of users. One commenter said it could be useful to "anyone who needs to work productively while away from their main business location."
While the online description of Dropbox notes that the company "takes the security and privacy of your files very seriously," "all transmission of file data and metadata occurs over an encrypted channel," and "all files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted and are inaccessible without your account password," one reviewer questioned whether the security used is adequate.
"While the transport/transfer of your files is relatively safe using industry-standard encryption, the files are stored on multiple servers in a cloud, there is (basically) a shared and private folder within your account which is only protected by a username and password," commented Brian Bell, chief technology officer for the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors in North Carolina.
He added, "Dropbox would create too much of a liability for me to use it as a ‘sync’ tool."
Another reviewer, Eric Sasaki, a Realtor for Haines & Haines Realtors in Pennsylvania, commented that he experienced some trouble viewing certain types of files using Dropbox, though "there are other applications that Dropbox will you to open the file in and view (them) correctly."
And Realtor Roland Estrada, a Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Laguna Nigel, Calif., said he would like to be able to edit documents using Dropbox, and he would prefer the ability to import Dropbox files to be e-signed using Docusign tools.
While there are some other apps that perform similar tasks, reviewer Thomas Reid, a salesperson for Exit Realty Homeward Bound in Ithaca, N.Y., commented that Dropbox is "one of the best apps I have downloaded."
Nine of the 17 reviewers awarded Dropbox for iPhone a perfect rating of 10 for "ease" and eight awarded a perfect 10 for "usefulness," while three awarded a rating of 10 for "originality."
Methodology: Seventeen Inman News readers responded to our call to review the Dropbox for iPhone app. All participants stated in an online form that they do not have any conflict of interest, financial or otherwise, for participating in this review process. The pool of reviewers shared comments and rated the app in three categories on a scale of zero (worst) to 10 (best).
In total, each reviewer could award a minimum score of zero (worst) to 30 (best). The ratings from the reviewer who offered the highest ratings across the three categories, and from the reviewer who offered the lowest ratings across the three categories, were discarded — leaving 15 sets of ratings. Based on these ratings, an average rating was calculated for each category, rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.
A letter grade ("Overall" rating) is assigned based on the cumulative total points awarded by reviewers, divided by the maximum number of points possible. Inman News offered a $100 gift card to one participating reviewer, selected at random for completing the review process. No other reviewer received payment for participating in the process.
Letter grades are awarded as follows: A+ for 90-100 percent; A for 85-89 percent; A- for 80-84 percent; B+ for 77-79 percent; B for 73-76 percent; B- for 70-72 percent; C+ for 67-69 percent; C for 63-66 percent; C- for 60-62 percent; D+ for 57-59 percent; D for 53-56 percent; D- for 50-52 percent; F for 0-49 percent.
Inman News encourages you to share your own comments about the Dropbox app in the comments section.
If you would like to participate in a review process, please fill out this online form (if you have already filled out this form there is no need to fill it out again):