Microsoft is releasing a significant update to its SkyDrive iOS app today. iPhone users will now be able to automatically upload camera photos straight to Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage. The same functionality had previously been reserved for users of Windows Phone, but Microsoft is expanding its the feature to rival platforms. The company is "looking at" an identical implementation for Android, but right now it’s just Windows Phone and iOS.

It works largely as you’d expect, backing photos up in the background to the cloud once they’re taken using the iPhone’s default camera app. The feature isn’t turned on by default, instead users will be prompted to enable it after the app update is installed. If you choose to turn it on then only photos will be uploaded by default, but there’s an option to switch on video backup too. Full versions of photos can be uploaded, but once the feature is enabled it will take every picture stored on an iPhone’s camera roll and upload it automatically. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent that if you’re enabling the feature for the first time.


iPhone users get a neat trick with Windows 8.1

Photos will be backed up automatically over Wi-Fi, with an option to enable backup over mobile networks. If you’re concerned about SkyDrive storage space running out, then there’s also an option to let the app automatically resize photos instead of uploading originals. While the backup feature is a welcomed improvement for iOS users, it also enables an additional feature for those using Windows 8.1 and an iPhone. SkyDrive automatically pulls out any text captured in a photo using OCR, and the built-in Smart Search in Windows 8.1 will surface that text in search results. Effectively, you could take a photo of an image with "bananas" written in it using an iPhone, and seconds later you could search for "bananas" and the image will be displayed in search results.

Microsoft has also updated the app to be more iOS 7 friendly. The interface is a little more flattened with larger thumbnails, but the logo remains the same. If you’re an Office user then there’s also some improvements for opening up documents from SkyDrive on iOS. You can now select a document and open it directly in Office Mobile or OneNote, instead of loading a viewer inside the app. Two-factor Microsoft Account users will also be pleased to learn that the app finally supports the new sign-in interface that Microsoft is using broadly, meaning security codes are now accepted. All the updates are available immediately with the latest SkyDrive app for iPhone in Apple’s App Store.