Capturing and Uploading Photos on iOS with PhoneGap (Cordova)

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work with PhoneGap, now known as Cordova. PhoneGap lets you write “native” iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc… applications using standard web technologies, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They also give you a JavaScript API to access parts of the device, such as the camera, the accelerometer, the compass, etc…

In this article I would like to take a quick look at how to take a new picture, or use an existing library photo, and how to upload it to a webserver somewhere. This is one of the most common things to do in a mobile application, and as you’re about to see, PhoneGap makes this, commonly painful task, pretty simple.

The Code:

// use an existing photo from the library:
useExistingPhoto: function(e) {

// take a new photo:
takePhoto: function(e) {

// capture either new or existing photo:
capture: function(sourceType) {, this.onCaptureFail, {
    destinationType: Camera.DestinationType.FILE_URI,
    sourceType: sourceType,
    correctOrientation: true

// if photo is captured successfully, then upload to server:
onCaptureSuccess: function(imageURI) {
  var fail, ft, options, params, win;
  // callback for when the photo has been successfully uploaded:
  success: function(response) {
    alert("Your photo has been uploaded!");
  // callback if the photo fails to upload successfully.
  fail: function(error) {
    alert("An error has occurred: Code = " + error.code);
  options = new FileUploadOptions();
  // parameter name of file:
  options.fileKey = "my_image";
  // name of the file:
  options.fileName = imageURI.substr(imageURI.lastIndexOf('/') + 1);
  // mime type:
  options.mimeType = "text/plain";
  params = {
    val1: "some value",
    val2: "some other value"
  options.params = params;
  ft = new FileTransfer();
  ft.upload(imageURI, '', success, fail, options);

// there was an error capturing the photo:
onCaptureFail: function(message) {
  alert("Failed because: " + message);

On the whole it’s not all that difficult a task to accomplish. The two functions that deserve a bit of attention are capture and onCaptureSuccess. Those two functions are where the real heavy lifting is happening.


Let’s look at the capture function first. The function that is provided by PhoneGap takes three arguments. The first argument is a success callback, the second argument is a failure callback, and the third argument is an object containing options. The documentation spells out most of the options you can pass in here, but since the docs don’t cover all of the options, specifically the correctOrientation option, let’s quickly look at what each one does.

  • destinationType: It is incredibly important that you set this options to Camera.DestinationType.FILE_URI. This will make sure the onCaptureSuccess gets a path to the image file, and not the image file itself. This is important because as cameras get more powerful on phones, the more memory these images will take up. If you don’t set this option correctly your application will quickly throw a out of memory exception and that’s it, game over.

  • sourceType: This option defines where the photo will be coming from. Set to Camera.PictureSourceType.SAVEDPHOTOALBUM for an existing photo or Camera.PictureSourceType.CAMERA to take a new picture.

  • correctOrientation: This last option is undocumented, but also incredibly important! By default correctOrientation is set to false, because of this the photo that is uploaded won’t necessarily have the orientation that the user who took the photo intended. This is because the meta data for such things as orientation is store on the device, and not in the phone. By setting this to true, the photo will be adjusted to the correct orientation when it is passed into the onCaptureSuccess function.

So those are the most important options that need to be set when calling


When a photo is successfully captured, via the capture function, the onCaptureSuccess function will be called. This function will be passed a path, imageURI to the photo on disk.

PhoneGap has an object that is specifically designed for transfers files from the phone to a web service somewhere. This object is called, FileTransfer. This object exposes a function called, upload, that will send an HTTP POST to the web service and properly encode the photo (we can send file we want, for this example it’s a photo) for transport.

The upload function takes five arguments. We can see this in action near the bottom of the onCaptureSuccess function.

  • The first argument is the path to the file on disk, the imageURI argument that the onCaptureSuccess function received.

  • The second argument is the URL of the web service you wish to post the file to.

  • The third argument is a callback that will be executed when the file has been successfully uploaded to the server. This is the success function we defined inside of onCaptureSuccess.

  • The fourth argument is a callback that will be executed should the file fail to upload successfully to the server. This is the fail function we defined inside of onCaptureSuccess.

  • The fifth argument is an object containing any extra parameters you want to send to the server. Let’s talk about that a bit more.


PhoneGap provides a FileUploadOptions object that convienently sets a few helpful defaults for uploading files to a server, include the mime-type, data chunking, etc… There are three of these parameters that are important to set your own values for.

  • fileKey: This will be the name of the request parameter that is sent to the server. The default value is file.

  • fileName: This is the name you want the file to be called when the server recieves it. The default is image.jpg.

  • params: This an object containing any additional parameters you want sent to the server. Pretty simple.

The End

And with all of that you have successfully uploaded a photo from and iOS device using PhoneGap. It might seem a little daunting, but actually it pretty and straightforward. Honestly, it is a lot simplier than doing it in Objective-C.