File sync on mobile devices: an overview

Unlike the Dropbox desktop app, which constantly checks your files for changes, the mobile app usually syncs on demand only. This prevents Dropbox from consuming all of your bandwidth and space.

Downloading files to your phone or tablet

The mobile app shows you a list of files in your Dropbox, but it only downloads them as needed. For instance, when you tap on a file to view it. In most cases, this means that you need a Wi-Fi or data connection to view your files. To ensure that a file is always on your device, make it available for offline access.

You can also export files to another location on your device. This makes a copy of the file outside of your Dropbox folder.

Uploading files from your phone or tablet

The mobile app can upload photos and videos from your device automatically with Camera Upload. You can also manually upload photos, videos, and other types of files.

  • Note: Automatic video upload is not currently supported for Windows Phone or tablet.

Syncing over Wi-Fi and cellular networks

The mobile app tries to be smart about how much syncing it does based on the type of network your device is connected to.

On a Wi-Fi network, the mobile app will:

  • Automatically download updates when you first launch the app, whenever you open a file, and every time you navigate to the Offline files tab.
  • Camera Upload will start or resume whenever you launch the app.

On a cellular network, the mobile app will:

  • Only download updates on demand.
  • On Android devices, offline files may display an alert icon if they've been modified while you were offline. Tap Update all at the bottom of the Offline files tab, or open an offline file, to download the latest version.
  • The Camera Upload feature will not automatically start or resume unless you've turned on the Use Cellular Data option.

Want to learn more about how sync works and what it can mean for your workflow? Check out this blog post.

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