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Need that iPhone or Android photo fast? Import quickly to Mac with built-in Preview

You don't have to load iPhoto to get pictures off your smartphone and onto your Mac. The Preview app is a quick and easy alternative.

Are you a Mac user who wants to pull a photo off your iPhone, iPad, or Android device quickly, without having to go through iPhoto? There's an easy way to do that, built into your Mac: the Preview app.

For ages, I was frustrated that the Mac wouldn't let me browse my iPhone or Android phone to drag-and-drop pictures I wanted, in the way that I could when plugging them into my Windows PC.

If only I could browse like on the PC

On the PC, my phones appear like a drive within Windows Explorer, which is wonderful:

iPhone as seen by Windows

You can see your photos listed, and if you want to grab one or several, it's a simple drag-and-drop procedure.

On my Mac, it wanted me to use iPhoto to import my pictures. But loading iPhoto, importing into it and then exporting out to get a picture I wanted was a pain.

Preview to the rescue

The answer for me has been to use Preview, something I stumbled upon last year, noticing it when I had my phone plugged in while using Preview for something else.

First, connect your phone to your Mac using a USB cable. Next, launch Preview. After you've done this, go to "File" in the menu options, then look for the "Import from" listing for your phone, which should appear.

Here's how it looks for my iPhone:

Selecting to import via Preview

After you do that, the Preview window will display all the media on your phone. Select what you want, drag it to your Mac where you want:

Drag-and-drop importing from Preview

Voila -- you're done. Fast and easy import.

It's not just for the iPhone, either. If you have an Android phone, you can do the same thing. Just make sure your phone is set in the USB settings to connect as a camera rather than a media device:

Setting Android for camera USB connect

Then you should see it listed in Preview as an option, similar to how the iPhone appeared above.

Of course, you could use Android File Transfer to browse the device directly (Windows users don't need this). But if you're without the software for some reason, Preview gives you an option.

Image Capture: another alternative
Another choice is to use the Image Capture program, which is also native to the Mac. This was suggested to me by a reader comment after I griped last year about having to use iPhoto as an import tool.

After you load Image Capture, if your device is plugged in (this works also for Android), you'll see it listed under "Devices." Select it, and you can browse your media and import as you like. Image Capture also makes it easy to set your preference for it or Preview or other programs to open automatically, when the device is plugged-in:

Image Capture for importing

By the way, I did try both Preview and Image Capture as an alternative to the Windows Phone app for Mac, for pulling files off my Windows Phone. My phone was recognized by both, but no pictures were displayed.

Of course, there are programs you can get that let you fully navigate the files on your phones, something that the Mac should just let you do natively. But if you're just after photos, both Preview and Image Capture are free, ready-to-go options you might try.