iOS 13 brought a long list of welcome changes to Apple’s mobile operating system, not least the split between the different types of devices. While the iPhone retains the iOS name, we now also have tvOS and iPadOS to contend with. Of course, they’re all the same basic system, and one big news across the board is support for external storage.
Unfortunately, at least on the iPhone, you have to be quite picky about the choice of the drive if you want to be sure that your iPhone’s external storage is working. So we have selected some of the best iPhone flash drives that should be plugged in and played right away.
The most important things to know about iPhone external storage
Unlike iPad Pro devices (and like standard iPads), iPhones don’t have a USB-C port. There’s definitely a USB-C iPhone in Apple’s future, but for now, the Lightning port is your only gateway to external storage.
This means you need to get a flash drive with a Lightning connector or you need to buy the Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter. Don’t let the name fool you, this adapter will allow you to connect any USB device to your phone. As long as it has enough power and is supported by iOS.
Some devices, such as external mechanical drives or SSDs, only work if you first connect them to a powered hub or if you connect the Lightning charger to the camera adapter.
While it makes sense that large external drives need more power than an iPhone can collect, you will be surprised to learn that many regular flash drives are also too power hungry for an iPhone. So if you’re planning to buy a non-Lightning flash drive and just use it with the camera adapter, confirm via Google that it will work without external power, or make sure you have your Lightning charger handy to use with the adapter. for camera.
The drives described below are all native Lightning USB drives. So they are guaranteed to work as an external storage for iPhone. However, in general, these drives are not designed to function as standard mass storage devices via the lightning connector. Instead, they need an intermediate application. Depending on the app, you may be able to move any file you like or just certain categories of files, such as photos or videos.
However, if you use the camera adapter and connect the USB-A end of the unit to your phone, you should be able to use them as normal mass storage devices. That means quick automatic backups via Lightning and fully open file access via USB-A.
With this warning out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best flash drives on the market that natively support the Lightning connector.
The main reason this SanDisk drive is on this list is, to be fair, the price. At just $ 23 it’s a great companion for the iPhone SE or iPod Touch, which typically have smaller capacities. Of course, if you want, they offer incremental upgrades of up to 256GB in size.
The iXpand unit uses a loop-style design. You have a standard USB-A connector on one end so you can connect it to a device like a desktop computer. At the other end is a short cable with a Lightning connector on the end. This means you don’t have to take off the case to insert the Lightning end into the phone.
These drives predate the introduction of native external storage support in iOS. So it’s designed to work with an app, which also automatically transfers files like photos to the drive as soon as you plug it in.
According to SanDisk, you can still use the iXpand drive with the Files app, but you need to install the iXpand app as well.
As with the SanDisk loop-style drive we just looked at, the Go must be used with the SanDisk app. However, it uses a different physical design and may not work with some phone cases. Although the connector is tight enough not to be a problem for most people.
This specific model comes bundled with a USB A to C adapter, which means you can use the drive with your MacBook. And, when Apple eventually adopts USB-C in their phones, you won’t have to buy a new flash drive to enjoy iPhone external storage!
RAVPower USB stick for iPhone 128GB MFi USB 3.0 certified [no longer available]
This is another unit that requires an app to work and we can’t find any indication that you can directly access it using the files app in any way. However, the iPlugMate app supports a decent variety of content types.
The RAVPower unit has a lot to offer. Its price for 128GB of storage is fantastic. Although, as with any cheap flash memory, you should be realistic about long-term reliability.
The other killer feature here is pass-through charging. That’s right, you can charge your phone with the unit connected. This covers large, time-consuming file transfers and use cases where you’re watching content from the drive, draining your battery.
The two cable heads also clip together, so you don’t have a long, awkward cable moving around when you’re not using both ends at the same time.
HooToo USB stick for iPhone 256GB [no longer available]
We had never heard of the “HooToo” brand until now, but this drive keeps surfacing in user recommendations, so they have to do something right. At 256GB it represents phenomenal value, while HooToo has also chosen to use the iPlugMate applications, instead of their proprietary solution.
Design is probably the main reason it’s so popular. With a solid metal frame and a sturdy cap to protect the Lightning connector, the Lightning end of the unit is far less likely to crack. With the hood, it looks just like any other flash drive.
Room to breathe
With no SD card expansion and affordable models with so little storage space, using a flash drive for iPhone external storage can seem like a lifesaver. It doesn’t need a cloud connection, it’s the fastest way to back up and archive files, and with the help of the appropriate app, you often just need to plug it in for it to do its job automatically.
While the Lightning connector may be on its way out, devices that use it will remain in service for many years to come. So, if you are the owner of such an Apple device, you will want one of these iPhone flash drives in your toolkit.