It’s really unfortunate that Apple still sells iPhones and iPads starting at just 16GB. It’s a device that can shoot 4K video, but will literally run out of space in minutes if you try! Obviously, it’s best to get a unit with a larger capacity, but some people just don’t want to spend an extra $100 or $200 for the extra space, and I can understand why.
Since there’s no real way to physically add memory to an iPhone or iPad, you’ll have to rely on all kinds of hacks. There are two main reasons I could think of to add more memory to a device: to free up space on your device so you can install more apps etc. or to download loads of music, movies and documents that you can access quickly no internet connection required.
In this article, I will discuss the various solutions currently available for this truly unnecessary problem caused by Apple. Unfortunately, none of the solutions are perfect and you have to be very careful when choosing a product.
If you thought limited space was the only knock on Apple’s part, they’ve also screwed you if you buy movies on iTunes. If you try to play a movie you purchased from iTunes from an external drive, you’ll see an error due to DRM protection. So all iTunes movies and TV shows must be stored locally on your iPhone or iPad to play or stream using the Videos app. If you read this article in the hope that iTunes content can be unloaded, then there is nothing here to help you.
However, if you have a lot of music (even from iTunes) or your own downloaded/copied movies and TV shows, the devices below will do the trick. Note that you may need to convert the video to iPhone or iPad format first. Also, if you’re an avid photographer and want quick access to your DSLR photos for viewing on your iPhone or iPad without taking up space on your device, these products are for you.
I also don’t mention cloud services because I think most people already know about it, but maybe don’t want to pay the monthly storage fee. If you’re interested in cloud storage, check out my article comparing different cloud storage providers and how you can use the cloud to share data between different devices.
Wireless hard drives
A wireless hard drive is basically a portable hard drive with a built-in wireless card and battery. They all have their own Wi-Fi networks and you can connect almost any device you want to them. Once connected, you can transfer data in both directions and transfer content from your hard drive to your Apple device.
Some of the wireless hard drives have SD card slots, so you can just plug in the card from your DLSR camera and it will copy all the data to the drive. You can then easily view this content on your smartphone, tablet, computer or TV over the network.
When buying a wireless hard drive, you just have to be careful to buy one that allows you to access the Internet while connected to the drive. Disconnecting from the wireless network, connecting to the drive and not having access to the Internet in the meantime is a real trouble. Make sure the device has end-to-end Wi-Fi. I note this in my recommendations below.
Seagate Wireless Plus and Wireless Mobile
These devices should last between 4 and 6 hours and support pass-through Wi-Fi, although people have complained that the connection is slower than a direct Wi-Fi connection. Prices range from $79 to $149, depending on the model and the amount of storage you want.
Overall, they seem to be very good at delivering content to your devices. These drives don’t have an SD card slot, so if you want to transfer images from your DSLR, you’ll have to download all the images to your computer first, then connect the drive to your computer via USB.
RAVPower File Hub Plus
For only $40, you get a ton of features in this little device. The reason it is so cheap is because it has no internal memory. It has an SD card slot (SD, SDHC, SDXC) and a USB 3.0 port. You can connect drives up to 4 TB or use an SD card up to 256 GB.
In addition, up to 5 devices can be connected simultaneously, and you can transfer data between connected devices. Alternatively, you can connect it to a wired network and turn it into a WiFi hotspot, or connect it to a wireless network and turn it into a wireless extender. The RAVPower File Hub is a very good choice if you have your own SD card or USB hard drives.
There are other big players that have wireless hard drives, but I won’t go into detail. You can check them out below.
WD My Passport Wireless – includes an SD card slot
LaCie Fuel wireless drive
SanDisk Connect Wireless Drive
Flash drives with a Lightning connector
If you’re not comfortable with the fact that you need a battery-powered hard drive to expand your storage, then you might want to consider a Lightning flash drive. You’ll lose a lot of the streaming, media hub, router/extender features you get with wireless hard drives, but it’s much smaller and easier to carry around.
Unfortunately, there are no perfect products in this category yet. Some are cheaper, but require recharging. Some work great but have weird designs that make the phone difficult to use. Other downsides include only having USB 2.0 ports, not 3.0, and not being able to charge your iPhone or iPad while the drive is connected. Some devices also tend to drain the battery much faster. We hope to have more options in the future, but for now, here are the best products.
Leaf iBridge Mobile Memory
Depending on the size you buy, the Leef iBridge can cost anywhere from $59 to $399! Overall, though, this is the best Lightning flash drive on the market right now. You can store all your music, movies and files on the device and use the companion app to access everything. You can also transfer photos and videos from your camera roll to your device. The device also consumes electricity only when in use. Overall, it got pretty good reviews on Amazon.
The SanDisk iXpand is another decent device, but it needs to be charged to use. Since it has its own battery, it does not draw power from the iPhone or iPad.
It also fits the iPhone/iPad a little weirdly, which is a little annoying. The app is also not as good as the Leef app, but hopefully it will improve over time. Otherwise, it functions as intended. This is the best choice if you want to password protect your data with SanDisk SecureAccess.
The last option is the Hyper iStick, but it’s more expensive and doesn’t perform as well as the SanDisk or Leef iBridge, so I don’t recommend it.
As you can see, there are several ways to practically increase the memory for your iPhone or iPad, but they all have different caveats. The main one is that you can’t save any content purchased through iTunes to discs and play them from there.
Also, in terms of transferring content from an iPhone or iPad, you can only really access the Camera Roll. This has to do with how Apple restricts access to the file system, and it’s no one else’s fault. Hopefully, this article will give you a clear understanding of the dos and don’ts to increase your device memory. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Enjoy!