I tend to complain about any application that strips EXIF data from a photo. iPhone apps always seemed to be a major culprit of this. Take a photo with the phone, modify it with an on-phone app, sync to iPhoto and suddenly that modified version of the photo no longer has “iPhone” associated with it. This is particularly frustrating to me with regards to Flickr uploads. Flickr is a great resource for researching cameras and seeing real examples of their photos and usage. This post was initially going to be a somewhat positive reflection on how the Flickr app uploads photos and tries to help with data. Unfortunately after playing with it some more I’m likely to avoid uploading photos with it at all.

My typical photo-to-Flickr process

  1. Take photo (real camera or phone camera)
  2. Import to iPhoto
  3. Try to make it look nicer
  4. Upload to Flickr using the web interface
  5. Wait for tons of views and comments

Four iPhone examples

Why all iPhone examples? Because often I use other apps on the phone in place of step 3 above.

  1. EXIF-stripping App + Flickr App upload
  2. EXIF-stripping App + iPhoto + web upload
  3. No phone post-process + Flickr App upload
  4. No phone post-process + iPhoto + web upload


Ideally, every one of those pages would list all the information shown on number 4. But apps strip EXIF data because they hate the internet – see number 2 and its complete lack of any camera information. So we are left with the next best thing. For number 1, the Flickr App makes the assumption this photo was taken with an iPhone and adds that one piece of camera data. But notice the name difference? It just says Apple iPhone where number 4 says Apple iPhone 3GS. Had this been uploaded from the web the camera would be empty as in number 3.

Why care? The data integrity for Flickr’s camera usage (click the camera name to get there). iPhone 3G is ranked number one for Apple cameras and more than doubles the in yesterday’s usage from 3x the users (well, today anyway). How realistic is that if every iPhone 3GS (and presumably original iPhone if this app runs on it) that uploads a photo with the Flickr App gets tagged as an iPhone 3G instead? It’d be interesting to poll the API for the number of photos with “Flickr for iPhone” in the software data to get a better idea of how often it is used. Given the explosion of iPhone sales this year it seems the 3GS might have higher usage. Or maybe everyone is buying the cheapest iPhone.

Either way, photos are getting tagged poorly. If someone sends me a photo via MMS and I upload it with the Flickr app, it claims the photo was taken with an Apple iPhone (again, generic 3G) even though I know quiet well it was taken with, say, an old Samsung. Same goes for screen captures.

At first I thought it was nice that Flickr was trying to make assumptions about the phone. But I thought it was only doing it when real data was missing. I was wrong. Maybe there is something about how an iPhone works or is restricted that makes seeing the data and maintaining it impossible. That’s really unfortunate and would top my iPhone feature requests. In some ways it’s nice to at least get the device association in the data rather than merely tagging it as such. At the same time it’s not entirely useful given it doesn’t contain the real model name and results in photos not necessarily captured with an iPhone lens being lumped into the iPhone camera statistics. And the removal of all the additional data makes me want to scream.


  1. matches 20100405

    For comparison’s sake, here’s my EXIF from a typical iPhone shot. Usually I will just use the email-to-upload function so the photo never leaves the phone. Sometimes I will filter it through CameraBag first, and then email-to-upload. I pretty much never touch it on my computer, though, since my goal with phone photos is to get them up in something resembling realtime.

  2. waytoocrowded 20100405

    I forgot about an email-to-upload function example. Pre-Flickr app I did that as well for quickness and will probably return to it now.

    And based on your EXIF I wonder if Flickr app uploads actually get counted as a 3G iPhone or if they get counted as a generic iPhone which doesn’t actually have a camera page so it points to the 3G page instead.

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