Apple iPad, USB and SD Cards: Making the Most of a Connection Kit

by Reads (32,449)

I know I’m not the only person who wants to move pictures from a camera to his iPad. Apple even makes an accessory specifically for that purpose. This supports SD cards and USB connections, but there’s a way to use a Sony Memory Stick too, or just about any other memory card.

If you don’t already have Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, let me save you some money. Go to and get the 2 in 1 Card Reader for Apple iPad. This is $8.51, rather than the $30 Apple wants. I’ve been using one for months without a hitch.

The USB port on this accessory allows you to hook your camera up directly to your tablet. This is nice, but my Sony Cybershot requires a really big cable, more than I want to tote around with me just for this single job. 

So I asked myself, “What would happen if I hooked up a memory card reader instead?” I tried it and it worked perfectly. And the card reader I’m using lets me pull images off an XD and Compact Flash cards, as well as Memory Sticks.

I’ve tried this with a variety of memory card readers, and with some of them I get the message “The connected USB device requires too much power.” If this happens to you, the best advice I can give you is to try a cheaper one. These typically require less power.

What Can Be Transferred
The software on the iPad for transferring files off of memory cards is quite limited. It can transfer images into the Photos app, and that’s just about it. These images have to be stored directly in the DCIM folder of the card — no sub-folders are allowed.

For some reason, I was also able to transfer an MPEG movie, but there was no way to do anything with it once it was on my iPad. I couldn’t play it, or couldn’t send it to another app to play. It just sat there taking up storage space.

I’m not terribly disappointed — mostly what I wanted to do was transfer pictures into my tablet so I could send them as emails. Still, support for video would be nice too.

Just plugging the card reader into the iPad launches the Photos app, and it immediately begins showing you thumbnails of the images that are on the card.  You can select which of these you want to move. When the transfer process is done you’ll be asked if you want to delete the images that were just moved or if you’d prefer to keep them. 

You can also select images to be deleted without transferring them. This is an easy way to make some extra space on a card if it’s getting filled up.

All transferring is one way — you can’t move images from your iPad to the card. This would be nice, but it’s not what Apple wants you to do.

I frequently use my Android smartphone as my camera, and it can act as a Flash Drive when connected to my PC, so I tried connecting it to the USB port of the Connector Kit. I just got a warning note: “This USB device is not supported by iPad.” I tried it with a webOS phone and got the “too much power” message.

However, the iPad did begin charging these phones. So if your iPad  has plenty of juice and you want to give some of it to your phone, apparently all you need to do is hook them together with this connection kit.

I assumed that I could pull the microSD card out of my smartphone and move the images off with an SD card adapter. I assumed wrong. For some reason the Android OS stores pictures in a Camera sub-folder inside the DCIM folder, where the iPad transfer software can’t find them.

This is irritating but not tragic. I’m generally moving the images off my camera to the iPad so I can email them or post them to Facebook — I can do that directly  with the phone. Still, it would be cool to be able to show the pictures to people on the tablet’s relatively big screen.

USB Flash Drives
I have had limited success using the USB port with Flash Drives. I had no luck  with any of my favorites ones, like a 4GB SanDisk Cruzer. All I got was the message saying it required too much power.

I scratched my head, dug around in the bottom of a drawer and pulled out an old 512MB card from a few years ago. I hoped that this older card would require less power, and I was correct — the iPad was able to read it.

I’m not sure there’s a use for this, because of the strict limits on what files you can access. Maybe some of you can think of one.



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