USB flash drives are among the easiest ways to carry around a collection of files. And iPad users don’t have to feel left out, as the Leef iBridge is a flash drive that can be plugged into the Lightning port on an Apple device, as well as the USB port on a desktop or laptop.
It comes in 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB capacities, with prices ranging from $59.99 to $399.99.
Build and Design
The iBridge has an unusual design, as it has a C shape when viewed from the side. It looks as if someone took a USB drive and folded it over. As a result, both the full-size USB Type A plug and the Lightning plug are pointed in the same direction.
Leef includes a case that completes the oval, covering both plugs. The resulting combination is 2.75 x 0.75 x 0.75 and weighs less than an ounce, so it is easily pocketable. Or it could be clipped around a loop on a bag, though this raises a slight possibility that it might come open and be lost.
There’s a blue LED that lights up when the drive is being accessed. Never remove the iBridge from the tablet or PC when this light is on.
This item is available only in black. It looks generally professional and not like a fashion accessory.
When the Leef iBridge is plugged into the USB port on a Windows or Mac computer, it functions like any other flash drive, showing up as a removable drive in file managers. It uses the USB 2.0 standard, giving it a maximum transfer rate of 60 megabytes per second (MBps). In our tests, copying a 100 GB file off this drive took well under 10 seconds, while copying one to it took 20 sec.
Plugging the accessory into an iPad opens an application called iBridge, which was created by Leef to function as a file manager for it. The design of this app emphasizes simplicity, presenting the user with three broad categories: Transfer Files, Content Viewer, and iBridge Camera.
Tapping on the first one of these brings up the Transfer Files window with the option to move or copy images from the iPad’s camera roll to the flash drive or move or copy images off the drive on the tablet. This section also includes a file manager that looks and acts like the ones people are accustomed to from Windows- and Mac-based computers.
The second broad category in the iBridge app is controlled with the Content Viewer window, which is used to view the various types of files on the flash drive. These are broken into four groups: Photos, Movies, Music, and Documents. Tapping on any of these brings up a list of every file of that type on this accessory, not organized into folders. The only way to view files grouped by folder is to use the file manager in the Transfer Files area.
Tapping on any file displays the contents, whether it be a movie or a spreadsheet. The software can handle a wide variety of file types. Ones it can’t view can be transferred to another app via the iOS function “Open in…”. This is also how files stored on this drive can edited. For example, A .DOCX file can be transferred to Microsoft Word, modified, and then transferred back again using “Open in…” for both transfers.
The third main category in Leef’s software is iBridge Camera, which allows the user to take pictures with the iPad’s camera and save them directly to the iBridge flash drive. This saves the hassle of moving them from the Camera Roll, but the interface doesn’t have many detailed controls.
Speaking of saving on hassle, this app can be set to automatically backup all the iPad’s images onto the iBridge drive whenever it is inserted and the app launches. Users can also make a backup of their contacts list, and easily restore it later.
There was a time the iPad was criticized for its lack of a microSD slot or USB port, but with flash drives that connect to the Lightning port like the Leef iBridge this complaint really no longer applies.
This flash drive can be used to store large amounts of images, music, and video without filling up a Apple tablet’s internal capacity. Or uers can easily transfer files between a tablet and a PC.
There’s room for improvement. Leef should consider making the file manager a bit more prominent, and some way of securing files stored on the iBridge would be nice too.
Speaking of downsides, this accessory is a bit more expensive than some of its rivals.