Wi-Drive extends iPad, iPhone storage while on the go

With the new iPad’s Retina display, developers will be able to create apps that have more of a visual impact. However, apps that support higher-detailed graphics may end up occupying more storage space. If you bought a new 16GB iPad (like me), and are going to prep your iPad for a long trip, you may find yourself running short on storage.

iCloud is there to help and you can rely on other online storageservices, but perhaps you don’t want to have to depend on an Internetconnection. You could consider an external storage device for youriPad, such as Kingston’s Wi-Drive.

The Wi-Drive flash drive storagedevice for iPad is about the size of an iPhone 4.

The Wi-Drive is a small flash drive, available in 16GB($77)or 32GB ($139) capacities. Roughly the same size as an iPhone 4, theWi-Drive can be easily stashed in your pocket or bag. You’ll need tobring a USB cable (included) to connect it to a Mac and transfer filesfrom the computer, and to charge the Wi-Drive’s battery.

To load files on the Wi-Drive, you connect it to your Mac via USB. Whenyou connect the drive, two storage devices appear on your Mac’sdesktop: the drive, and, confusingly, what appears to be a CD-ROM. Thisis expected behavior, according to the printed user’s guide that isbundled with the Wi-Drive (the digitalmanual doesn’t cover the CD-ROM). Also, several files werealready on the Wi-Drive itself (including an autorun.inf file and aconfig folder) and were not mentioned by either the user’s guide or thedigital manual. These files are for Windows, and deleting these filesdidn’t affect how the Wi-Drive worked with my Mac or iPad. I alsoignored the files on the CD-ROM volume.

The drive itself is formatted using FAT32, so both Macs and Windows canread and write to it. If you reformat the drive, you must reformat itusing FAT32, or you won’t be able to see your files.

You can drag copy files over to the Wi-Drive; the digital manualsuggests sorting the files into folders, such as My Music or MyPictures. While the drive can store any file type, the Wi-Drive iOS app(which I’ll cover in a bit) supports AAC, MP3, and WAV audio files;M4V, MP4, and MOV video files; BMP, JPEG/JPG, and PNG image files; andPDF, Word (.doc and .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt and .pptx), Excel (.xlsand .xlsx), text, and rich text format documents.

When you’re done copying files to the Wi-Drive, you must disconnect itfrom your Mac before your iOS devices can access it. Youalso need toinstall the free Wi-Drive app on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

As its name implies, the Wi-Drive is equipped with 802.11g/n wirelesstechnology, which is used by your iOS device to connect to the drive.Kingston says the drive has a 30-foot range; I had no problemsconnecting and streaming videos from within 30feet. I also had noproblems from as far as 50 feet, as well as when the Wi-Drive and myiPad were in different rooms.

How to connect to Wi-Drive
To connect to the Wi-Drive, you go into your iOS device’s Wi-Fisettings and find the Wi-Drive as an available network. Bydefault,when you connect to the Wi-Drive, you won’t have Internet access.However, the Wi-Drive can be set up so that it essentially acts as aWi-Fi extender of your router–in the Wi-Drive iOS app settings, youset the Wi-Drive to connect to an available network. Once this is set,you can access the Internet as well as the drive. This worked without ahitch on the private networks I used with the Wi-Drive. This featuredidn’t work when I tried to connect to a public AT&T Wi-Finetwork at a couple of different Starbucks locations.

All file access is done through the Wi-Drive iOS app. The userinterface of the Wi-Drive app is not complicated at all. For example,tap on a movie, and it starts playing in the Wi-Drive app, and you canset the video to fill the screen. When you watch videos or listen toaudio, the media streams smoothly to your iOS device. Files loadedquickly so I was able to watch a video also immediately, and I neverexperienced any stuttering or lag.

If you have a set of photos on the drive, the Wi-Drive app displays aset of thumbnails, and you can tap each thumbnail to see a largerimage. The Wi-Drive app has a helpful slideshow feature with fivedifferent transitions you can use.

There’s one major limitation to the Wi-Drive: Files on the drive canonly be accessed through the Wi-Drive app. You can transfer files fromthe Wi-Drive so that the file resides on your iOS device, but there’sno way to, say, move a video from the Wi-Drive into Video in iOS so itcan be used in iMovie for iOS, or transfer aphoto from the Wi-Drive toPhotos in iOS so it can be edited in iPhoto or used in Keynote. (Youalso can’t move a file from your iOS device to the Wi-Drive.)

There is a workaround to this limitation. You can email files smallerthan 10MB from within the Wi-Drive app, so you can email a file toyourself, and when you check your mail, you can save the attachment inthe appropriate location on your iOS device. It’s not the optimal way,but it works in a pinch–for example, you’re on a business trip and animage you need for a Keynote presentation is on the Wi-Drive.

According to Kingston, the rechargeable battery should last about fourhours. After watching The Wrestler (109 minutes)and doing an additional 45 minutes’ worth of photo browsing, filetransfers, and poking around in the Wi-Drive app to get familiar withits settings and features, the Wi-Drive’s battery status light flashedorange, indicating that between 25 and 50 percent of battery life wasleft. The status light flashed red when less that 25 percent of batterylife remains, and green when the battery is over 51 percent.

Buying advice
Kingston’s Wi-Drive is a nice companion for your iOS device, especiallyif you are on a long trip and you’re unsure about Internet access whileon the road. The file transfer limitation may be frustrating for peoplewho are using the iPad for content creation, but it works well forcontent consumption.

Roman Loyola is a Macworld senior editor.

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