The 10 Best iPhone Flash Drives
This wiki has been updated 29 times since it was first published in December of 2016. It's not hard to run out of space on your iPhone, and the manufacturer makes it basically impossible to upgrade your device. Luckily, there are a host of portable solutions that can add storage and backup capabilities to Apple phones or tablets using their Lightning connector. Some come with their own proprietary apps to help with file management, while others recommend third-party software. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 11, 2020:
We've seen a fair amount of advancement in terms of flash drives for iPhones, so this list had to be updated accordingly. Beyond the typical technological advancements leading to larger storage capacities and lowering prices of high-performing options, many items have just had more time on the market to establish their dependability and earn enough confidence to make our list. It's also becoming increasingly common for these drives to be compatible with not only iPhones, but also Android devices and other tablets and computers, so you'll notice that there are fewer options in this mix that are iOS specific.
If you have a lot of large files and want to be able to store as much as possible on the same drive, the 512 GB Auamoz Mobile Memory is likely your best bet. Not only does it boast a very high storage capacity, it's also quite reasonably priced. The Lunani Photostick and iDiskk 4 in 1 each have 256 GB of storage, so they are also solid options for anyone who plans on saving a lot of large files.
In terms of apps, the SanDisk iXpand and SanDisk iXpand Go both utilize their company's iXpand software. This lets you do basic things like move files to and from your device, but also gives you the ability to play media directly from the thumb drive without saving it onto your phone first, and setting it up so your phone automatically backs up certain files whenever the flash drive is plugged in. The most commonly recommended app among the other thumb drives is Y-Disk, which lacks some of the more advanced features of iXpand, but does offer the basic file management needed to take advantage of the external hard drive. One thing to note is the SanDisk products have been noted to speed up battery consumption, so you may want to think about investing in a battery pack along with the thumb drive.
November 15, 2019:
In the search for a device to expand your iPhone's storage, it's important to stick with an Apple-certified model. Their Made For iPhone program allows manufacturers to have their products certified, which ensures they work properly and won't damage your phone's software or hardware. As such, all the devices on our list are MFi certified. The JSL JDTDC JD003, Transcend JetDrive Go 300, and YSeaWolf PhotoStick are all pretty straightforward, with USB and Lightning plugs. The Hootoo IM003 is every bit as simple, plus it has a strong metal case and in real-world testing lasts longer than almost any other. It's also notable for its slightly extended connector, which should work well with many larger cases.
If you're looking for something a little more versatile, check out the iDiskk 4 in 1, which offers up to the maximum of 256 gigabytes of storage and has all the connectors you could realistically need. And if you're willing to supply your own microSD card, the Johaku Card Reader is worth a look. In fact, it's even more useful than some because it lets you swap out different cards, increasing the amount of space you have without adding additional devices.
But two of the most interesting are the RavPower IM013 and SanDisk iXpand, which both allow live transfer between a computer and your iPhone. The RavPower is particularly useful because it can even charge your device, while the SanDisk clips neatly behind your phone, so it won't clutter your desk or flop around haphazardly.
One other thing to keep in mind is that most of these use different proprietary apps to transfer photos and videos, some of which are easier to use than others.
Lightning to USB 3 Adapter If you don't want to invest in specialized flash drives for your phone, this could be a reasonable alternative that will let you plug a normal USB-A or UCB-C drive into your device. Keep in mind, you will likely still need to download a file management app, and not all thumb drives will be compatible, since some require more than the 100 milliamps of power supplied by the iPhone in order to function. apple.com
Why You Need External Phone Storage
If you travel a lot, an external flash drive allows you to bring full-length movies along to keep you entertained while in transit.
In an ideal world, there would be no reason to carry around a flash drive for your phone. All of your files would fit on your device's internal hard drive, or they'd be automatically stored in the cloud and easy to access at any time. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Storage use differs widely depending on how you use your phone, as well as how often you back-up its contents and remove old files to make room for new ones.
In order to get a large hard drive in your phone, you usually have to pay a pretty penny for an upgrade at the time of purchase. Even the models with the most internal storage can't handle an excess of video files. Standard capacities of base models tend to constrict your music, photo, and app storage, as well. One of the only solutions to this problem is to expand your storage with an external device like a flash drive.
For those with an excess of media files like photos and videos, an external flash drive for your phone is a great way to carry your data with you while on-the-go. If you travel a lot, an external flash drive allows you to bring full-length movies along to keep you entertained while in transit. HD videos of that length can easily occupy several gigabytes of storage space each, so keeping them off of your phone's internal drive saves you plenty of room for taking photos, shooting videos, and downloading music.
Another benefit of flash drives is that you can safely erase files from your phone with the knowledge that, in order to access them, you can simply plug in the flash drive you've got in your pocket. Just offload your files onto the drive when you run out of room. It will store your information until you get to a computer to perform a proper backup.
While backing up your phone doesn't actually give you more space for new files, it does safeguard against data loss by creating copies of all the files on your phone. The same is true of your external drive. Only once you've backed up both devices to a computer, hard drive, or cloud storage service, it is safe to erase their existing files to make room for new new content.
Some Added Flash Drive Benefits
There is a variety of styles of flash drives designed for iPhones on the market. All of them connect to your device with a standard lightning connector and offer built-in storage for offloading and transporting extra files with you wherever you go. Most can also connect directly to your computer for easy file transfers, as well.
That way, your files won't get mixed up with one another, and you're less likely to be forced to delete your files to make room for new ones.
Some flash drives can be expanded with additional memory cards. This allows users to both add storage capacity to their drives and organize the data they carry with them by dividing it among multiple cards. You could, for example, use one memory card for storing movie files to watch on your phone, and another for backing up your photos. That way, your files won't get mixed up with one another, and you're less likely to be forced to delete your files to make room for new ones.
Choosing a drive with expandable storage also means you will virtually never run the risk of running out of storage space completely. Standard SD cards, along with their mini and micro cousins, are available all over the world. No matter where you find yourself, you will almost always be able to purchase additional cards. This is a great way to give yourself peace of mind while traveling. You can always shoot more videos and photos and download new apps if you have space to offload your existing media.
Drives with built-in USB connectivity are also highly useful. This allows you to connect the drive directly to a computer, so when the time comes to organize, back-up, or search through your files, the process is fast and easy. Many users may also find that transferring photos and videos to a computer from a flash drive is easier than doing so directly from your iPhone, as you can simply drag and drop selections into your desired destinations.
How Flash Memory Works
The storage on an external drive works much like that of the drive built into your phone. That is to say, they both use flash memory, a form of digital storage first developed by Toshiba in the early 1980s. The standards they developed then were brought to the market in 1984, and remain a foundation of digital storage today.
With each passing year, innovations in the technology lead to increasingly dense storage solutions, allowing for even larger capacities in the same amount of space.
Flash memory was innovative because it retained information even when disconnected from a power source. Unlike RAM, or random access memory — which computers still use today as their means of temporary data storage while in-use — flash drives are non-volatile. The data saved to them can be altered many times, but it will never be erased unintentionally unless the drive itself is compromised.
A standard flash drive contains many millions of memory cells. For the most part, each cell stores only one bit of information in the form of binary code. That means every cell has only two states, 0 or 1. Each bit is stored in either a default or activated position, depending on whether it represents a 1 or a 0, respectively. The position of each cell can be set by a targeted electrical current, but won't ever change unless you overwrite it.
It takes 8 bits of storage to represent a single letter of the alphabet, for example, because each one is identified with a standard eight-digit binary code. The King James Bible contains around 5 million letters, and would therefore occupy about 40 million cells of flash memory. While that might sound like a lot, a gigabyte of flash storage contains 8 billion bits, which means it could fit around 200 copies of the bible. Most contemporary flash drives offer significantly more storage than that, with some models packing up to 128 gigabytes onto a single chip. With each passing year, innovations in the technology lead to increasingly dense storage solutions, allowing for even larger capacities in the same amount of space.