Hints that Apple may be expanding its efforts in the social networking arena are found deeply embedded within iOS 4.3 beta. A new “Media Stream” folder was discovered in the new iOS 4.3 file system with information about “Photo Streaming.” Based on the information, 9to5 Mac is reporting that Apple will allow iPhone users to establish photo streams and set up privacy preferences allowing friends to subscribe to your photos. Users would get pinged or notified when new photos get uploaded from friends that they have subscribed to.
The service may be associated with MobileMe and may be a free component of the paid subscription service that will allow users to view subscribed photo streams on a map. 9to5 Mac is reporting that Apple already has a patent on iGroups, and this could be an extension of that.
Media Stream could be extended beyond photos in the future, to include such things as videos and music.
Apple had already toyed with social networking features in the past. At this last Fall’s Music Event, Apple had unveiled Ping as a social networking feature surrounding music and sharing your favorite tunes, downloads, and purchases on iTunes. A photo-casting feature wouldn’t be new and would position Apple as a competitor into an arena where Facebook and Flickr are dominant.
With camera-enabled smartphones like the iPhone, users essentially have smart cameras allowing them the ability to upload captured images right away whenever there is a data connection. With the smart camera capability, the iPhone’s tie-in with Photo Stream and Media Stream would be a likely and plausible application, but with all that sharing AT&T’s capped 2 GB data plan makes it even more difficult to realize the potential of the iPhone.
Because the files related to Photo Stream and Media Stream are well hidden in iOS 4.3, 9to5 Mac is speculating that those functionality may not hit until iOS 5 or even iPhone 5.