What Does "Sync Photos" Mean?

by Andrew Aarons

The plethora of mobile gadgets floating around in pockets and purses bring with them a plethora of technical jargon that didn’t exist in the last century, such as "sync." Short for “synchronization,” sync has become synonymous with “load” or “copy.” When you sync photos to a device -- your smartphone or tablet, for example -- you are copying photos to your device.

Why Sync?

Specifically, to "sync" means to mirror the files on your computer with the files on your device. When the iPod debuted in 2001, Apple’s iTunes software introduced the term “sync” to the world. You used iTunes to manage a media library and then, once you’d connected your iPod to your computer, could sync the files to your iPod, creating an identical library on the device. This made managing the contents simple and straightforward: what you saw in iTunes you saw on your iPod.

Sync Evolves

As MP3 players became music-players-plus-a-million-other-things-in-one, sync took on new meaning. Once iPods could play videos and display photos, iTunes had to sync those media types as well. Then came the iPhone and its competitors, smartphones from every mobile company, all with their own software for loading the devices. Then came tablets, again with distinct software for loading photos and media. In many cases, the term “sync” stuck; loading photos became known as “syncing photos.”


Regardless of the device -- a smartphone from Samsung or a tablet by Acer -- you need to use a specific program to load photos onto the device. Samsung uses a program called Kies, for example, whereas the iPad still uses iTunes. The exact steps for syncing photos to your device are different depending on its manufacturer, but in most cases you must sync a library from your computer onto your phone, tablet or MP3 player.

Wireless Sync

Some devices even let you sync photos from your computer over a wireless network. Again, this varies from device to device and from manufacturer to manufacturer, more proof that there’s more than one way to sync a device. Wireless syncing can be convenient because it means you don’t have to have your phone plugged into your computer and can still use it while transferring photos, but keep in mind that large files may take a lot longer to load wirelessly than they would over a wired connection.

About the Author

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

More Articles

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images