Review of Sandisk iXpand

IMG_1026.JPGAs I mentioned earlier when there was a discount available for the Sandisk iXpand, I did order one to solve a specific problem I have with my iPhone. It being an older 16GB model, it was constantly running out of space. Part of that was the growing size of apps, and part of that was my attempts to use it to grab photos/video wile on my many work travels. (I don’t even bother with keeping music on it!)

The Sandisk device does help me with that, which is nice. But it has some drawbacks as well.

First, let’s talk setup. After unpacking it, I used the lightning connector to connect it to my iPad and also on my iPhone, and was immediately greeted with an invitation to download the app from the App Store. Obviously, you need the app, so downloading I went.

Next, I needed to give the app permission to my camera roll, obviously, and decide how I wanted the sync to work. Since I got this with creating space on my iPhone in mind, I set it to automatically sync from the Camera Roll, and delete the images from the iPhone once they had been backed up to the device.

Easy enough, it did that, then confirmed that I wanted to delete the originals. It didn’t take more than a minute to grab a couple dozen photos and maybe 10 1-5 second videos.

Bingo, I recovered some of my iPhone space!

So in terms of meeting my expectations for creating space on my phone, it did exactly that.

That’s important to me. I had been trying to do something similar with Dropbox, automatically syncing with a folder and then removing everything from the phone, but there is one big downside to that. It requires bandwidth. Believe it or not, there are places, like the one in the video below, where there is no cell phone coverage. Add on overseas trips where I don’t pay for cell data, only voice for emergencies, and the need to think about how much cell data I use even in the US, and you can see where a cloud tool would leave me with limited options in certain situations. This does not. I can wander around, shot short videos for use in social media, and dump them onto my storage device as I go along. Fantastic! I can even use the USB connector to go ahead and take those images to my laptop at a later point if I want to put them on YouTube for later use in a post, like so::

However, there are some things to consider.

  1. Look at the photo of the device. Notice how the lightning connector is tightly held to the body? You pull it away to connect it to your device. I have a cover for my iPhone to protect it from drops, especially when hiking! You have to pull it pretty far to get the connector around the cover and into the phone’s port. So far, the hard rubber has not shown any signs of wear and tear, but I wonder.
  2. Because it uses the lightning port, you cannot dump your files down to the device and charge it at the same time. (A small quibble for me really, I don’t foresee needing to do both, but I mention it anyway.)
  3. The width of the entire iXpand also means that when you plug it into the PC, the USB port will need to have some space around it. For example, on my laptop right now, it is plugged into the USB port right by the power cord, which I had to unplug to fit the USB device.
  4. iOS apps may not integrate well. For example, if I want to use an image on Instagram that I previously downloaded to my device, I have to copy it back to the Camera Roll. Instagram only reads from that location, the same is true of the WordPress iOS app. Again, not a big deal, it’s easy enough to do, and also not the fault of Sandisk, this is on Apple and the app developers not opening up the ability to connect images from somewhere outside the camera roll.

Media Playback.

That fourth thing brings me to my next test. Could I use the iXtender to hold movies/music that I don’t have room for on my iPhone. Again, the answer here is yes, but it has to have one huge caveat when it comes to integrating it with any existing apps on the device. In short, that can’t happen.

Let’s look at an example. While I can absolutely copy MP3, or M4a or other music that I have in iTunes on my computer to my device I can only playback those songs in the Sandisk app itself. I can’t bring them into Apple’s Music app, or third party players, again because there’s no integration with those apps and the storage. The same is true of movies, but I feel like movies would work pretty OK. My short videos all worked, and played back nicely in the app.

The one thing that really bothered me about the playback was with the music. There are precious few controls. Basically, you can play a song, or you can play every song in a folder, in order. There’s no shuffle!

So in the end, it solved one problem, and gave me an option for playing music on my iPhone, but one that is somewhat limited compared to having the music on my phone. Of course, since the 16GB iPhone didn’t really give me much space to do that to start with, I guess some music playback is better than none?

Since Apple doesn’t appear to be getting rid of the 16GB iPhone anytime soon, and it is the less expensive option, this isn’t a bad accessory to have around. Even for folks with the larger capacity iPhone or iPad, a little extra storage isn’t a bad idea, is it?

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