The best accessories fix two limitations in the devices they are designed for. The i-FlashDrive II not only adds an SD/microSD memory card slot to an iPad, it also enables the tablet to be charged with a micro-USB cable.
Build & Design
The i-FlashDrive II is a small rectangle that, at 2.1 by 1.2 x 0.4 in., fits easily into an inner pocket of any gadget bag. It’s simple white plastic.
Despite its diminutive size, it’s well supplied with ports. On one side is a microSD memory card slot, and on opposite is one for full-size SD cards. On one end is a micro-USB port, and opposite it is a Lightning plug used to insert the accessory into an iPad or iPhone.
The i-FlashDrive II supports only the FAT32 format for memory cards, which is why its maker says it only works with 32 GB cards. However, free online tool fat32format from Ridgecraft Consulting can convert cards of almost any size to FAT32. In our tests, two 64 GB cards were successful converted from exFAT, and even worked with Android and Windows devices.
The micro-USB port is used, in conjunction with an included micro-USB cable, to enable this device to function as a card reader for laptops. This makes it easy to load up a memory card from a Windows computer then access the files from an iPad or iPhone.
This product seems fairly well built and able to stand up to day-to-day use, but it’s so lightweight it probably won’t take much abuse. Add to the fact that there is no cover for the lightning plug and it’s probably best to not carry it around without some kind of protection.
The primary function of the i-FlashDrive II is to be an external memory card reader for an iPad or iPhone, a job it does quite well. Apple hasn’t shown any interest in building microSD slots into its hardware, but this add-on comes close to adding this extremely useful feature.
To get started, insert either a microSD or an SD card into the reader, then insert the reader into the Lightning port in the tablet or phone. A pop-up window will ask if you want to open the PhotoFast i-FlashDrive app. If this the first time the accessory has ever been used, there’ll be a prompt to download the free software from the App Store.
The i-FlashDrive app handles all the interactions between the computer and the card reader, allowing the user to view not just lists of the files stored on memory cards, but also the contents in a wide variety of file types … without having to first transfer them to the iPad or iPhone. The user can, for example, keep a large collection of movies and/or music on tiny microSD cards and play them from there without them ever taking any room on the iDevice. And there are also viewers for images, PDFs, Office documents, and more.
But this accessory goes well being a just a file viewer or player. The i-FlashDrive app looks and acts like the file managers everyone is accustomed to, and can function just the same; folders can be created, files can be moved, and content can be deleted.
The software is not as convenient to work with as it could be, as there’s no drag-and-drop. Instead, files are selected and then buttons are pushed to specify what to do with those files. Still, it’s functional.
The i-FlashDrive app has its own file storage area on the iPad or iPhone, which is where files are moved to when they are transferred off a card. Again, this functions like any other file system, so there can be folders, files can be moved around, etc. It’s quite possible to use this as a general on-device file-storage area.
This software supports the iOS “Open in…” function, allowing files to be sent to other apps. A .DOC file can, for example, be transferred from an SD card to the iPad and then opened in Word. And files can be transferred to the i-FlashDrive app from other applications, as long as they also support “Open in…”.
The reader can handle either a microSD or an SD card, but not both at the same time, so files can’t be directly transferred between two cards. And if cards are inserted into the reader while it is plugged into a Lightning port then the i-FlashDrive software can’t read their contents.
Those who own an Android phone and an iPad might bemoan the necessity to carry around incompatible charging cables: one micro-USB and one lightning. The i-FlashDrive II can help alleviate this hassle, at least partially.
It acts as an adapter, allowing an iDevice to be charged with a micro-USB cable. Not a very quick charger though. When the cable is plugged in to the accessory, a “Not Charging” alert replaces the battery symbol on the iPad’s or iPhone’s screen, which actually means that it is charging, just not very quickly. That’s Apple’s way of indicating that some current is flowing, just not enough to meet Apple’s standard.
In our tests, there was enough power flowing to keep an iPad’s battery level from dropping at all when it’s being used in an office environment. With the tablet turned off, the accessory was able to give the tablet a partial recharge when plugged in overnight.
This isn’t its primary function, especially as Apple sells Lightning-to-USB adapter, but it’s a nice extra feature for occasional use.
The i-FlashDrive II is the accessory many people have been looking for: a simple way to add a microSD memory card reader to their iPad or iPhone.
And it goes beyond that, also acting a micro-USB power charger, albeit a limited one.
The i-FlashDrive II sells for a very reasonable $32, and it’s available exclusively from the online retailer Brando, which has been reliably selling accessories for mobile devices for many years.