With iPads and iPhones now capable of accessing data on external devices, I reckoned it was time to try out that new feature, so I got myself a test unit of a SanDisk iXPand Flash Drive, a USB memory stick with a somewhat flexible Lightning connector at the opposite end.
The iXPand is designed so that the Lightning connector folds into a slot on the upper side of the USB 3.0 plug. It’s exactly flexible enough to pry the Lightning connector away from the slot and insert it into a Lightning port. The way I understood it would work was that Apple’s file management functionality on my iPad with iOS 13 would instantly recognise the drive as such, allowing me to read and write files without any further need for apps or drivers.
The way it actually worked was slightly less appealing, although it’s not clear whether that is due to SanDisk’s insistence on an app or iOS 13’s inability to recognise an external drive when it sees one. To cut a long story short, to use the iXPand you must first install a SanDisk app from the App Store.
After having done that, the iPad recognises the iXPand and lists it in the File Manager, but not as just any folder. Instead, it shows up as a special instance of the app with a pop-up menu containing sub-folders and a security option instead of content. You even need the app to save files to the drive via the iOS Share extension.
The good news is that SanDisk hasn’t done a bad job with their app. It allows you to instantly back up your photos and music by just connecting the iXPand and it even allows you to password-lock the stick so that, if you lose it, other people won’t be able to access the data on it. The 128-bit AES encryption is more than enough for hackers; it’s, of course, less secure if the NSA decides to have a go at it.
The app also shows you a graphical representation of the stick’s available storage and several big icons for backing up several file types and connecting to social media to backup images and all from the likes of Facebook e.a. I’m less thrilled about the ad for SanDisk’s own apps.
Finally, the iXPand stick contains a Mac (Windows as well) app that you can only install on the iXPand to let you access a secured Flash Drive. On the Mac, by the way, you can add folders and files and view and manage them as on any other USB drive.
Summing it all up, the iXPand is a nice experience but not exactly what I expected. I would have preferred the stick to be recognised by iOS 13 without the app, but, on the other hand, I am very pleased with its performance when it comes to moving files onto it, as well as with the ability to save files upon inserting the Flash Drive from apps such as Photos.
The iXPand Flash Drive available in sizes ranging from 32GB to 256GB.