Picked up a 16GB iPhone or iPad and realised you can't store much on it? Time to pick up one of the best after-market storage gadgets we've seen in recent memory: the Sandisk iXpand Drive for iPhone and iPad.
- Capacities: 32GB, 64GB
- Warranty: 2-Years
- Form Factor: USB 2.0, Lightning connector
It's a flash drive for your iPhone or iPad. It's really as simple as that.
It comes in two storage flavours: 32GB and 64GB, and costs between $129 up to $179 for the big version.
The iXpand has two connectors: a Lightning connector for talking to your iDevice and a USB 2.0 connector for talking to your PC. A battery keeps the whole thing charged so it doesn't drain your iOS device, and it has its own software for syncing, video playback and file list browsing.
First of all, this is a great idea. Whether it's good or bad (spoiler: it's good), it's about time we had more decent expandable storage products for iOS devices. The last great one was the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, and that didn't connect directly to your device like the new Sandisk gadget does. So props for that right off the bat.
Second of all, it actually works which shocked me. When it comes to backup storage, iOS is hard. Quite often a device comes in with great intentions but ends up being unusable rubbish based on how the storage talks to the device, or how the software falls apart.
We had none of these problems with the Sandisk iXpand. As soon as you plug it in, it takes you to the App Store's listing for the companion app you need and boots straight into the drive once you open it. No logging in, no fuss, no hassle. Just storage. There's a little guide you can step through if you're a first-timer, but it's easy to skip if you know what you're doing.
The iXpand works in two ways: it syncs photos and videos from your iOS device so you don't have to waste storage on your device. Alternatively, you can use the built-in USB 2.0 connector to transfer files onto your computer, or onto the drive itself for consumption on your iDevice of choice.
Miraculusly, it's great at doing both: it transfers all your photos and videos with no fuss (albeit slowly), and plays all your video file formats without a problem. Media formats compatible with the app include .avi, .mp4 and .mkv for those of you who walk on the wild side when it comes to acquiring content.
There's even a security option so you can lock down the files on your drive via the iXpand software.
It runs on its own battery so it doesn't drain yours, and charges via the USB 2.0 port to make life easy. No additional microUSB cables to lose is always a plus.
The device itself is tiny. It's slightly larger than a 50-cent piece (and more square, obviously), and weighs practically nothing. It's so easy to fit in the coin pocket of your jeans or into the front pouch of a bag or backpack.
The design is good, but the one thing I can't get by is how it physically connects to your iDevice. The Lightning connector sits atop the device, attached by a slightly flexible bit of rubber which is almost surely going to break one day. Also, it attaches to your device in a really strange way as a result of its stubby little design.
It just sort of sits there, jammed up against your iPad or iPhone making it super-awkward to hold and watch at the same time. Unless you have a case with a stand or a Smart Cover for your iPhone or iPad, you're going to get really uncomfortable holding your device while you use the iXpand.
Should You Buy It?
If you bought a 16GB iPhone or iPad and realised you're not going to be able to store much on it, the Sandisk iXpand is absolutely for you. I'm the owner of a 16GB iPad Air and I'll definitely be keeping this thing around to store my content in future.
It's best two features are playback of video content from your laptop without having to deal with iTunes, and automatic backup of your precious photos and videos. As long as you keep it charged and keep it with you, the iXpand is the perfect little accessory, despite slightly slower transfer speeds than we would have liked.
It's a little pricey for what is essentially a fancy flash drive, but them's the breaks in the fancy world of iPad and iPhone accessories. If you can justify the cost, you'll love it.