The iOS Problem

I’ve been following the reports out of Germany for awhile now that one Nikon user—Andreas Vesper—is challenging Nikon’s claims about “integrated Wi-Fi.” This apparently has now turned into an official suit against Nikon Germany. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing some sleuthing as to why the iOS side of things seems to not have arrived.

Simple answer: Nikon may have made a design mistake. Built-in Wi-Fi in the D500 is only accessible and activated by the Bluetooth channel in the current SnapBridge definition. Connect camera and mobile device via Bluetooth, then Bluetooth manages the heavy lifting of figuring out when to connect the Wi-Fi and how. 

Only one problem with that in the iOS world: as far as I can tell, Apple does not allow one communications channels to control one another like that, and for security reasons. That last clause means it’s unlikely that Apple would grant an exception or change its mind on this.

Which leaves us in an a problematic position with the D500 and iOS. There’s no way to get to the Wi-Fi capabilities directly, so we can’t use the traditional WMU type communications for moving data from camera to mobile device. And because we don’t have a SnapBridge iOS app yet, we can’t connect via Bluetooth, either. (There’s a sub-issue here in that Nikon is using Download at the iOS App Store logos prematurely and probably in violation of Apple’s terms and conditions on using those logos.)

All folk not using the Android SnapBridge app should just shut the wireless communications down on the D500 by turning on Airplane Mode. Until such time as Nikon provides some iOS app that can talk to the D500, there’s no use leaving the wireless system potentially active in any way.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Nikon clearly jumped the gun on SnapBridge, and it’s unclear yet whether it will truly deliver anything beyond what WMU did. And WMU itself was pretty simple and crippled. It seems clear to me that Nikon is struggling just with the engineering side of wireless communications for some reason, but the bigger issue here is that wireless communications aren’t particularly useful if they don’t serve a strong user need. 

Six years ago I told a group of Nikon managers and engineers what was really needed in wireless communication and why. To date, that hasn’t been delivered (the WT-5/6/7 come closest, but it’s a manual user setup and workflow all the way). But, giving Nikon partial credit, great wireless communications hasn’t been delivered by anyone in the camera business yet. At least Nikon’s trying.  

Still, it’s difficult to see where this ends up. Nikon’s made things more difficult so far than less difficult. I would have settled for the D7200-style Wi-Fi connection, as simple as that is over what we’ve got today with the D500. 

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