Best external storage devices for iPhone & iPad

Your guide to external storage for iOS. Here are the best external Wi-Fi drives and Lightning-enabled flash storage devices for iPad & iPhone.

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  • Canvio AeroMobile
  • Leef iBridge
  • LaCie Fuel
  • Verbatim iStore 'n' Go
  • iPocket Drive
  • Leef iAccess
  • Buffalo MiniStation
  • MobileLite G3
  • Mophie Space Pack
  • Mophie Spacestation
  • WD My Cloud
  • WD My Passport
  • SanDisk Connect
  • SanDisk iXpand
  • Seagate Personal Cloud
  • Stor.E Wireless Adaptor
  • Time Capsule
  • Seagate Wireless Mobile
  • Cloud storage
  • More stories
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Toshiba Canvio AeroMobile Wireless SSD

  • RRP: £129.99

There are a number of wireless hard disks available that will work with your iOS devices, but Toshiba's Canvio AeroMobile was the first wireless solid-state storage device we've seen.

The AeroMobile includes 128GB of solid-state storage, and has a high-speed USB 3.0 port so that you can use it with your Mac or PC just like a conventional drive. It also has a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter so that you can stream music, photos or videos off the drive, or transfer files onto the drive to save space. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to eight hours and it has an SD card slot too, so that you can transfer files using a memory card as well.

Connectivity: USB 3.0, SD card slot, 802.11n wifi

Read next: 18 ways to make space on an iPhone

Additional reporting by Lewis Painter

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Toshiba Canvio AeroMobile Wireless SSD

  • RRP: £129.99

There are a number of wireless hard disks available that will work with your iOS devices, but Toshiba's Canvio AeroMobile was the first wireless solid-state storage device we've seen.

The AeroMobile includes 128GB of solid-state storage, and has a high-speed USB 3.0 port so that you can use it with your Mac or PC just like a conventional drive. It also has a built-in Wi-Fi transmitter so that you can stream music, photos or videos off the drive, or transfer files onto the drive to save space. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to eight hours and it has an SD card slot too, so that you can transfer files using a memory card as well.

Connectivity: USB 3.0, SD card slot, 802.11n wifi

Read next: 18 ways to make space on an iPhone

Additional reporting by Lewis Painter

 

Leef iBridge 3

  • RRP: From £44.99, From US$49.99

The original Leef iBridge was one of the first dual-interface devices that included both USB and Lightning interfaces so that you could easily transfer files between Macs, PCs and iOS devices. It's been updated since we last saw it, with the Leef iBridge 3 the latest addition to the family. It features USB 3.1 and Touch ID protection too, providing speedy, secure transfers. It also boasts a 256GB option - which is as much as many of the MacBook laptops these days, and more than most of its memory stick rivals.

Using the iBridge 3 app, you can access all your photos, movies and music (apart from DRM-protected files) without taking up any storage on your iOS device. With the iBridge Camera, a feature built into the iBridge app, you can take photos and directly save them to the storage device. If you want to clear space by transferring photos from your iOS device, that's also available via the app - you can then copy/move these by plugging the iBridge into your Mac or PC.

The iBridge 3 weighs just 12g, so it’s easy to carry around in your pocket, and the silicon and aluminium case can cope with being banged about in a backpack when you’re travelling. 

It’s compatible with the iPhone 5/5s/5c/6/6 Plus/SE/7/7 Plus, the iPod Touch (fifth generation), the iPad 3/4/Air/Air 2/Pro 12.9/Pro 9.7 and the iPad mini 2/3/4.

Connectivity: USB 3.1, Apple Lightning

 

LaCie Fuel 1TB Wireless

  • RRP: £154.95, US$149.95
  • Buy from Apple

The Fuel has a USB 3.0 port that allows it to be used as a conventional hard drive with a Mac or PC. However, it also has built-in wifi too, which will allow you to transfer files to or from an iPhone or iPad when you need to.

But the real stand-out feature of the Fuel is actually its rugged design, with a hard plastic shell and even a little hook for a belt-clip to keep it safe while you’re climbing the Himalayas. That makes it a really handy back-up device if you’re shooting a lot of photos or videos on a hiking holiday or outdoor photo-shoot.

Connectivity: 1x USB 3.0, 802.11n wifi

 

Verbatim iStore 'n' Go

  • RRP: £24 (16GB), £37 (32GB), £48 (64GB), US$34 (16GB), US$36 (32GB), US$49 (64GB)

In common with the other USB flash drive-type accessories in this round-up, the Verbatim Store 'n' Go is a flash memory stick with a full-size USB port at one end and a Lightning port at the other, but this is a fast USB 3.0 port that's backward-compatible with USB 2.0. This makes it easy to share, copy or move files between Macs, PCs, laptops and iDevices, or use the stick itself to back up content on your iDevice or play back media stored on the Verbatim on your iPhone or iPad. The Verbatim's connection is a fast USB 3.0 port, which is backward-compatible with USB 2.0.

We like the small, compact design of this USB/Lightning stick, but only one of the two clear plastic end caps are tethered so the other could easily become lost. A lanyard allows you to connect the Verbatim to a keychain.

You'll be prompted to download a free companion app from the App Store the first time you connect the Verbatim to your iPhone or iPad, and can then use this to play media stored on the stick, back up content or save camera photos directly to it.

The Verbatim Store 'n' Go is compatible with iPhones and iPads running iOS 7.0 or later, Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and Windows XP or later. It's available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities.

Connectivity: 1x USB 3.0, Lightning 

 

iPocket Drive

  • RRP: from $39.99
  • Buy from iPocket

Similarly to the Leef iBridge, the iPocket Drive utilises a physical Lightning connection as opposed to a wireless one. The 30.6x51.8x9.8mm iPocket Drive boasts a large collection of capacities from 8GB to 256GB and is compatible with both Mac and PC. When you plug the iPocket Drive into your device for the first time, you’ll be prompted to install the iPocket Drive app to browse your files.

Using the app, you can do more than browse your files - you can copy them, move them around and even rename them. Backing up your complete contact list (not just the name and number but the photo, email address, etc) is a simple process too, requiring only a single tap within the app. The iPocket Drive can also charge your iOS device when plugged into a USB outlet, negating the need to carry around a wire with you all day!

It's compatible with the iPhone 5/5s/5c/6/6 Plus, the iPod Touch (fifth generation), the iPad 3/4/Air/Air 2 and the iPad mini 2/3.

Connectivity: USB 2.0, Apple Lightning

 

Leef iAccess iOS Micro SD

  • RRP: £49.99

As well as the dual-interface iBridge, Leef offers another storage option for your iOS devices. The iAccess looks very similar to the iBridge, but instead of having its own built-in Flash memory it allows you to insert an SD memory card for storing your files.

It was primarily designed so that you could transfer photos and videos from an action-cam or drone on to your iPhone or iPad, but the transfer process works both ways so you can just as easily copy files from your iOS devices on to a memory card for safe-keeping. The other advantage of the iAccess is that you can just keep adding memory cards to give you all the extra storage you need.

Connectivity: 1x Lightning, 1x microSD card reader

 

Buffalo MiniStation Air 2

  • RRP: £132.21

The original MiniStation Air is still available, providing a 500GB wireless hard drive that will work with your iPhone or iPad for as little as £60.00. However, the new MiniStation Air 2 improves on its predecessor in a number of ways.

It's slimmer and lighter than the original model, and now offers up to 1TB of hard disk storage. The battery life on this model is a lot better too, lasting for 10-12 hours when using wifi, and it's even powerful enough to top up the battery on your iPhone as well. There's also a high-speed USB 3.0 port so that you can use it like an ordinary hard disk with your Mac or PC if you need to. It's a shame, though, that there's no SD card slot as well.

Connectivity: 1x USB 3.0, 802.11n wifi

 

Kingston MobileLite G3

  • RRP: £75, US$49.99

The MobileLite doesn't have any built-in storage of its own, but it acts as a versatile wireless adaptor that will allow you to connect other storage devices that you already own.

There are both USB and SD card slots so that you can quickly plug in a USB stick or memory card and then transfer photos and other files via the MobileLite’s built-in wifi. It even has an Ethernet port as well, which means that you can use it as a handy portable router for devices that don’t have their own wifi.

The rechargeable battery in the G3 will last for more than 10 hours, and can even be used to top up the battery of your iPhone or iPad as well.

Connectivity: 1x USB 2.0, 1x SD card slot, 1x Ethernet, 802.11n wifi

See also: How to download movies to your iPad without iTunes 

 

Mophie Space Pack for iPhone 5/5s/SE

  • RRP: From £129.99, From US$119.99

The Mophie Space Pack, designed for the iPhone 5, 5s and SE is a hybrid of storage device and portable battery charger. Mophie has designed a case that hides both a 1700mAh battery which the company claims adds around 8 hours talk time and either 16, 32 or 64GB of flash storage for all your photos, videos, music and documents.

The storage is managed by the Mophie Space app, which organises your files based on file type, making it easier to browse and search through your library of movies, photos, music and documents. Mophie claims that you're able to share files directly from the external storage via email, texts or social media using the app and use AirPlay on the music player to stream music from the space pack to a paired Bluetooth device.

You've also got a 'Wi-Fi Space Portal' feature where Mophie claims you can access, back up and transfer files with your Mac or PC wirelessly and control access. Don’t worry too much about security, as you can set up a 4 digit password before you’re able to access your files.

With regards to charging, there’s no need to remove the case to charge your iPhone. When you plug a Micro-USB cable into the Space Pack, it intelligently passes the charge through to your device until its fully charged and only then will the external battery start to charge.

It's also worth noting that the Space Pack is also available for the iPhone 6 and 6s, with up to 128GB of extra storage for your device. 

Connectivity: Apple Lightning inside case, Micro-USB outside case

 

Mophie Spacestation

  • RRP: £129.95

Mophie's Space Pack is a handy all-in-one device that provides a battery charger and flash storage all wrapped up in a sturdy protective case for your iPhone. But, of course, you can only use the Space Pack with just a single iPhone, so if you want a bit more flexibility then you could look at the Spacestation instead.

The Spacestation is first and foremost a charger, with a 6000mAh battery that is powerful enough to fully charge an iPhone 6/6s almost three times over. However, it also includes either 32GB or 64GB of storage so that you can back-up your files while you’re topping up your battery. It is a bit pricey, but might be worth it for the sheer convenience of having a single device that provides both storage and battery power when you’re travelling.

Connectivity: Lightning

 

WD My Cloud

  • RRP: From £119.99, From US$149.99

There are quite a few NAS drives - network attached storage - that provide iOS apps so that you can connect your mobile devices to the drive via your home network. However, we particularly like WD's apps for the Mac and iOS devices, which make it easy to use advanced features like remote access, and sharing files with friends and family.

Those apps will work with most of WD's NAS drives, but the new My Cloud EX2 Ultra is a good choice for both home and business use. There are models with up to 16TB of storage, and you can also buy the chassis empty (‘unpopulated’) and install your own drives for custom storage.

Connectivity: 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 3.0

 

WD My Passport Wireless

  • RRP: From £149.99, From US$179.99

The My Passport Wireless has been around for a while now, but the price has come down recently and it’s still one of the best wireless hard drives on the market.

Available with up to 2TB storage capacity, the Passport Wireless provides plenty of storage for backing up files from multiple devices. It’s got a USB 3.0 interface for connecting to a Mac or PC, and wifi for transferring files to or from your iOS devices, and there’s even a slot for memory cards so that you can quickly transfer files from a camera too. The rechargeable battery provides six hours of Wi-Fi connectivity, and you can also use the drive as a wifi hub to share your Internet connection with other devices.

Connectivity: 1x USB 3.0, 1x SD card slot; 802.11n Wi-Fi

See also: Best alternatives to iPhone headphones

 

SanDisk Connect Wireless USB 2.0 Flash Drive 32GB

SanDisk's Connect has had a bit of a facelift since we last saw it. The rather chunky design of the original has given way to a more pocket-friendly little memory stick that provides up to 200GB of storage. It uses Wi-Fi to connect to your iOS devices, and the SanDisk app has a handy back-up option that will automatically copy any new photos and videos from your Camera Roll straight onto the Connect.

You can also plug the Connect into a USB port on a Mac or PC too, although it's odd that SanDisk didn't upgrade to a USB 3.0 interface, as USB 2.0 is a bit slow for transferring large video files.

Connectivity: USB 2.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi

 

SanDisk iXpand

  • RRP: from £26.90

Along with the new version of the Connect, SanDisk also launched its new iXpand flash drive recently. The iXpand ditches the wifi of the Connect and opts for a Lightning connector for plugging straight into your iOS devices instead (but not, of course, older models with the original 30-pin connector).

The iXpand only goes up to 128GB of storage, but the Lightning connector provides faster transfer speeds than wifi for 4K videos and other large files. It’s also got a speedy USB 3.0 interface so that you can use it with a Mac or PC as well.

Connectivity: 1x USB 3.0, 1x Lightning

 

Seagate Personal Cloud

  • RRP: £144.99

Seagate's Personal Cloud is a good alternative to Apple's Time Capsule if you're looking for a NAS drive that you can use to back up files from multiple computers and mobile devices.

It's quite a bit cheaper than the Time Capsule too, currently costing just £120 for a model with 3TB storage, going up to £350 for a dual-bay model with 8TB, so there's plenty of room for several people to back-up their important files.

Seagate provides back-up apps for Macs, PCs and mobile devices, and the iOS app has an option to automatically back up new photos and videos from your camera roll. You'll need to be at home to back-up via your own wifi network, of course, but there's also an option to sync files to services such as Dropbox when you're using public wifi hotspots away from home.

Connectivity: Ethernet, wifi, USB

Read next: Best iPad buying guide | Best iPhone buying guide

 

Toshiba Stor.E Wireless Adapter

  • RRP: £24.95

As well as its AeroMobile drive, Toshiba also makes the Stor.E wireless adaptor, which has no internal storage of its own but which allows you to plug in an existing USB memory stick or hard drive so that you can connect them to your iOS devices via wifi.

It's a bit basic, with just a USB 2.0 interface and no SD slot for adding a memory card. It doesn't have an internal battery either, which means that you can only use it indoors when it's plugged into the mains. However, we've seen it for sale online for as little as £14, so it's a really affordable option if you've already got a USB hard drive that you'd like to use with your iPhone or iPad.

Connectivity: 1x USB 2.0, 802.11n wifi

 

Apple AirPort Time Capsule

  • RRP: 2TB - £299; 3TB - £399, 2TB - US$299; 3TB - US$399
  • Buy from Apple

Somewhat surprisingly, Apple's Time Capsule doesn't actually work very well with iOS devices. You can, of course, use the Time Capsule to set up a Wi-Fi network and then connect your iOS devices to that network for Internet access. However, the lack of a proper file-browser option in iOS - something comparable to the Mac's Finder - means you can't easily transfer files between your iOS devices and the Time Capsule's built-in hard drive.

But, if you already own a Time Capsule anyway, then you can use third-party apps, such as the popular FileBrowser - £4.49 from the App Store - that provide those missing file-management features. As well as transferring files you can stream music and video with FileBrowser too, and it works with other types of NAS drives from other manufacturers as well.

Connectivity: 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0, 802.11ac wifi

Read next: How to avoid running out of data on your iPhone

 

Seagate Wireless Mobile Storage

The Seagate Wireless Mobile focuses completely on mobile devices that can connect via Wi-Fi (it does have a slow USB 2.0 port, but that’s really just there for charging the internal battery, and isn’t ideal for transferring large files).

The Wireless Mobile is available in several different colours, but just one capacity with 500GB storage. The drive is a bit bulky, but is sturdy enough to be used in the great outdoors, so it's a good option if you tend to get a bit snap-happy when you’re on holiday.

Connectivity: 1x USB 2.0, 802.11n wifi

 

Cloud storage

There are plenty of options for uploading files from your iPhone or iPad to cloud-based online storage services, including Apple's own iCloud, of course, as well as rivals such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive. These all provide free options with varying amounts of online storage - iCloud gives you 5GB for free, while Google lets you have a full 15GB.

Just remember, though, that you'll mainly rely on Wi-Fi to upload files to these services, which will be pretty slow for videos and other large files. These services also tend to focus on file-synchronisation rather than backup - which means that if you delete a file from your iPhone then that file will also be deleted from your cloud storage too. So, for both speed and safety, it's well worth using one of the external storage devices reviewed here if you need extra storage or backup for your iPhone or iPad.

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