- Add many gigabytes of storage to an iPad for relatively little money
- Users can share microSD cards between different types of devices
- Very portable
- App has too little support for Landscape Mode
- Can't rename files stored on external cards
Quick TakeThe Lexar microSD Reader is a relatively inexpensive way to add storage to an iPad or iPhone, as well as transfer files between iOS models and other devices.
The tiny microSD card is the most popular way to store files on a whole range of devices, from Android phones to drones, but Apple refuses to support them. Fortunately accessory makers are filling in with plug-in options like the Lexar microSD card reader, which can be used to securely switch files between various gadgets or to add capacity to an iPad or iPhone.
Build and Design
Lexar’s card reader is very portable: 1.25 x 0.7 x 0.3 inches and 0.2 ounces, even with a card inserted. It comes with a short lanyard to attach it to a keychain, and it’s the right size to make this practical. The brave could even leave a microSD card inserted when carrying this item around. However, there’s no way it would be safe to carry around a tablet or phone with this reader still inserted.
The casing is white plastic, with smooth edges. The body is relatively robust, not flexing when we put pressure on it.
On one end is the Lightning jack that’s inserted into an iPad or iPhone. Lexar doesn’t provide any kind of cover for this, so attaching the Reader to a keychain might not be the best idea; storing it in a backpack, purse, or bag is safer.
The slot for the microSD card is on the other end. Just push the card in. There’s no internal spring mechanism, so don’t try to remove a card by pushing it in and expecting it to pop out on its own. Instead, use a thumbnail to find the ridge at the end of the card and pull outward.
The first time the microSD Reader is inserted into a computer, the user is prompted to install the software from the App Store. Thereafter, whenever the accessory is inserted a pop-up will ask if this app should be opened. This greatly simplifies working with both hardware and software.
The homescreen for Mobile Manager has a large dial that shows how much storage is being used on the microSD card. Tapping on this opens a list of everything that’s on that card. This functions as a file manager, allowing files and folders to be opened, moved, and deleted. They can’t be renamed, however.
This software has built-in viewers for a wide range of file types, so movies can be played right off an external storage card. The same is true of music, and Mobile Manager supports shuffle and looping but not playlists. These are among the most useful features offered by the Lexar microSD Reader, as they allow the user to store large amounts of audio and video without taking up any of their internal storage capacity.
In addition, this application can show the contents of Microsoft Office files, PDFs, and many more business types. Or these files can be shared with other apps that can edit them. A DOC can be opened with Microsoft Word on an iPad, for example.
Mobile Manager’s homescreen has a second dial that indicates how much storage is left on the iOS device. This opens a second file manager for items that are stored on the iPad or iPhone. To be clear, this can’t show every files stored on the computer because iOS doesn’t allow that. Instead, this app provides a place to store any type of file on the tablet or phone.
Files can be transferred to a microSD card from any application that supports iOS’s Share/Open In function. This means that, for example, a Word document stored on OneDrive can be moved to a card.
Below these dials on the homescreen are buttons for some other very useful functions. This software can transfer copies of every picture and video in the iPad’s or iPhone’s Photos app to the card with the push or a button. Unfortunately, it can’t clear off space on the mobile device by automatically deleting all the images that have just been transferred–that has to be done manually. Mobile Manager can also easily make backups of all the Contacts and Calendar entries, and restore them just as easily.
Lexar’s application can be linked with DropBox, allowing files to be transferred between this cloud storage service and a microSD card. There’s also a voice recorder, but this saves its M4A files to internal storage, so they have to be manually moved to the external card.
The most significant flaw in Mobile Manager is that, for the most part, it only supports portrait mode. The homescreen, file manager, and many other screens can’t switch to landscape, which is very inconvenient when using an iPad with a clip-on keyboard. At least the file viewers do support landscape, so movies can be watched in full-screen mode.
There’s no iOS app that can directly benchmark the Lexar microSD Reader, but a stopwatch test with a Lexar card found that reading a 270 MB file took about 9 seconds (approx. 30 MBps) and writing the same file took about 11 sec (approx. 24.5 MBps). We judged this to be fairly quick, and significantly faster than the rival Leef iAccess iOS microSD Reader, which in our tests handled reading at approx. 6.7 MBps and writing at approx. 5 MBps.
We tested all the basic functions of this accessory with a 64GB cards from Lexar, SanDisk, and Kingston, as well as a 32GB card from SanDisk, and had no issues.
Lexar Mobile Manager doesn’t crash if the Reader is removed from the computer while the app is running. It will just jump back to the homescreen. That said, don’t pull out this accessory when information is being transferred; the file will certainly be corrupted, and the microSD card itself might be as well.
microSD cards are so widely used for additional storage and file transfers that Apple’s refusal to support them leaves a significant gap in the functionality of every iPad and iPhone. Thankfully, the Lexar microSD Reader and similar accessories are available to partially plug this hole. Lexar’s offering is well built, and it’s software is fairly decent, even if there’s room for improvement.
Lexar’s suggested price for this product is $41.99, but it’s available online for as little as $29.95. That’s considerably less than the rival Leef iAccess iOS microSD Reader, which sells for $49.99.
Those who are looking for some additional storage for their iPad and don’t care that microSD cards aren’t involved could also consider the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive, the PhotoFast MemoriesCable, or the Strontium iDrive USB 3.0.