External Expandable Memory Storage (Flash Drive, Memory Stick) is an easy way to save all your photos, videos, music and other files on your iPhone, iPad and other iOS devices with Lightning Connectors. A Flash Drive Memory Stick with a Lightning connector on one end and a USB connector on the other lets you copy everything from you iPhone to the Memory Stick, and you can then transfer everything to a PC or Mac.
We review the best USB Flash Drives with Lightning connector for iPhone / iPad – SanDisk iXpand, Transcend JetDrive Go, and Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo.
Or use the memory stick to share files, photos, videos with any other devices without an internet connection. If it’s just a few files, and everyone has an iOS device, you could use airdrop .
If your device memory is already full, these Lightning Memory Sticks can be used as additional memory. You can take photos and videos directly to the device instead of using your iPhone or iPad storage. These Flash Sticks are fast enough to record video in 720p, 1080p, or even 4K. Excellent!
The other great feature is to use these Memory Sticks for an complete device back-up. This is useful if you aren’t paying for iCloud Storage . Each vendor has an app for their Memory Stick, and these include a one-touch back-up setting. These are also smart enough to know which files are new since the last back-up, so that automatic back-ups after the first full back-up are really quick.
We’ll start with the Memory Sticks, and then go into more details on the features, apps, usage, storage, etc.
SanDisk- Top Choice
The SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive for iPhone and iPad is our top choice for the ease of use, the well implemented app, the price and the memory range. The iXpand is the only major manufacturer to offer a Lightning Memory Stick with 256GB of storage. The rest currently top out at 128GB.
SanDisk has an easy to follow user-guide (get the .pdf here) to help with any setup questions or how to use all the features of the iXpand.
We like the overall speed of the iXpand devices – you can expect around 70MB/s to 100MB/s for Read, and about 45MB/s for Write.
The design is also good, with the flexible connector easily fitting through the iPhone case.
The free iXpand Drive app is well thought out and easy to use. You can transfer individually selected files, do an Automatic Back-up, Shoot direct (e.g., save photos and videos directly to iXpand) and more.
Here’s a short promo video from SanDisk
You can order on Amazon (prices below are for reference, and accurate at time of this publication):
32GB iXpand (about $25)
64GB iXpand (about $43)
128GB iXpand (about $53)
256GB iXpand (about $100)
Transcend – Fastest
The Transcend JetDrive Go 300 has the fastest read speeds of up to 100MB/s on the USB 3.1 (Gen 1) side, and around 25 MB/s on the Lightning port.
The JetDrive are a few dollars more than the SanDisk, but worth the price premium if you are moving a lot of files.
It’s also nice that the case is available in Rose and Silver, in addition to the standard Black finish that the other drives offer.
And that it has protective covers on both ports.
We like that the JetDrive Go App has gotten some recent update to include using the iPhone facial recognition feature to unlock the drive, and that the search function works much better than previously.
Here’s a short promo video for the JetDrive Go
Get this through Amazon (prices below are for reference, and accurate at time of this publication):
Kingston – Alternative
The Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo is a great alternative to either the SanDisk or the Transcend, especially when one of the retailers are running a special.
You get all of the same features as the other Memory Sticks, and the speed is nearly as good as the iXpand devices.
We thought the design was very minimalist, but also very functional. It’s the smallest of the Memory Sticks we reviewed. It comes with a key-ring cap, so it’s easy to carry one of these with you wherever you go.
Pick one up through Amazon (prices below are for reference, and accurate at time of this publication):
Let’s take a look at the features, benefits and uses for these Memory Sticks:
All of these devices have a feature in the app to enable password protection for your entire drive or specific files. This keeps you data safe in case you lose the drive or it gets stolen. However, if you forget the password you’ll need to reset the drive to use it again – and all the files on the drive will be erased.
Converter / Bridge
One thing we get asked about is using these Memory Sticks as a “bridge” or “converter” between iOS devices and other devices with a USB connection. Unfortunately, both connectors cannot be used at the same time. So you can’t plug one end into your iPhone, the other into your PC and just transfer files across in one step.
iTunes / DRM
One last item to keep in mind has to do with how Apple handles their Digital Rights Management (“DRM”). Apple doesn’t allow importing from, or directly playing DRM-protected media from external memory, including USB sticks.
However, we didn’t see a problem with playing downloads from Netflix and Amazon. Hmm…
This might not be a deal breaker unless you want to play your iTunes-purchased movies and TV shows directly from these drives.
To give you an idea of how much you can store on a Memory Stick, here are some general estimates. Note that these heavily depend on how large the initial files are, what type of image compression you are using, the video resolution, frame rates, etc.
- Photos (10 MP) Or Video (1080p HD)
- 32GB = 8,000 photos, OR about 2 hours (120 minutes) video
- 65GB = 16,000 photos, OR about 4 hours (240 minutes) video
- 128GB = 32,000 photos, OR about 8 hours (480 minutes) video
- 256GB = 64,000 photos, OR about 16 hours (960 minutes) video
Photos (10 MP) + Video (1080p HD)
- 32GB = 1,800 photos + about 80 minutes video
- 64GB = 3,600 photos + about 160 minutes
- 128GB = 7,200 photos + about 320 minutes
- 200GB = 11,250 photos + about 500 minutes
Music (MP3 songs) + Office Files
- 32GB = 2,000 songs + 8GB
- 64GB = 4,000 songs + 16GB
- 128GB = 8,000 songs + 32GB
- 200GB = 12,500 songs + 50GB
On the Apple Lightning port side, each of these are MFi certified (Made for iPod, Made for iPhone, and Made for iPad). For transfers from the iOS system, you can expect speeds of 10MB/s to 30MB/s for Reading and 7MB/s to 10MB/s for Writing. This will depend on which phone / hardware you have, file size, what other apps are running, your battery charge, etc.
The other side of the Flash Memory Stick has a USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 port. Depending on the Memory Stick, file size, etc. you can expect Read speeds of 70MB/s to 120MB/s, and Write Speeds of 18MB/s to 45MB/s.
As an example, a 2GB HD Movie file will take around 2 minutes to transfer (e.g., Write) from your iPhone to the Memory Stick, and less than 30 seconds to transfer (e.g., Read) from the Memory Stick to you computer.
As with standard Flash Memory sticks, these are powered by the devices they are connected to. Keep this in mind when doing a full back-up or restore with the iPhone or iPad, since you’ll use up about 10% to 20% of the battery charge.
For most transfers, you won’t see a huge drop in your remaining battery charge. But just to be safe, we recommend having at least 15% battery charge whenever doing transfers from you Apple devices.
To give a quick summary, and the links for ordering through Amazon along with some pricing information: