Apple’s iOS devices are great for keeping a varied array of personal media at the ready. But a major drawback is relatively limited internal storage they provide -- 8 GB to 64 GB depending on which model of iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch you have. Moreover, it can’t be expanded, so it’s not uncommon to exhaust the available storage due to an excess of audio, photos, and video.
Upgrading to a higher-capacity model isn’t always practical or cost-effective, so what can you do when you need more storage than your iOS device provides?
External Wi-Fi-based storage devices can be a good solution. You load the device with your media (from a PC/Mac via USB), carry it with you when you travel, then connect to the device via Wi-Fi (and a special app) when you need to access its contents.
Here are five Wi-Fi hard drives that can put more capacity on tap when you need to supplement your iOS device’s native storage:
Seagate GoFlex Satellite - At $200, the Seagate GoFlex Satellite is a bit on the pricey side, but it’s got a couple of things going for it.First, unlike most of the devices listed here, it contains an actual hard drive rather than flash memory, so it can offers a pretty spacious 500 GB of capacity. It also sports a speedy USB 3.0 connector (USB 2.0 compatible) and the option to use FireWire 800 or eSATA interfaces via upgrade cables that are available separately for $15 and $25 respectively. (The flip side is that the device is somewhat bulky. It’s about 1.25 inches thick and weighs more than half a pound.) The non-replacable Lithium-ion battery is rated for up to five hours of use or 25 hours on standby.
G-Technology G-Connect - The $200 G-Connect from G-Technology (a unit of Hitachi) also provides 500 GB of storage via an internal hard drive. It can stream SD content to five simultaneous devices (or HD content to three) over 802.11 n/g, and it also has an Ethernet port which allows it to act as a Wi-Fi access point to share an Internet connection among up to five users. One catch is, unlike most devices listed here, the G-Connect can’t stray far from an electrical outlet, as it lacks an internal battery.
Kingston Wi-Drive - The flash memory-based Kingston Wi-Drive is quite small, roughly the same dimensions as an iPhone 4, and is available in with either 16GB and 32GB of internal storage for $120 and $150, respectively. It lets three simultaneous users connect over 802.11 n/g, and it’s rechargeable battery is rated for four hours of continuous use.
Wearable AirStash - The $100 AirStash is relatively inexpensive, as well as extremely light and petite at 1.5 oz, 3.6 x 1.9 x .5 inches. It has integrated USB 2.0 connector (no cable to lose) and a rechargeable (though not user -replaceable) lithium-polymer battery. What it doesn’t have is internal storage; only an SD card slot that supports up to 32 GB cards, and you have to provide your own SD card. On the plus side, this lets you expand storage beyond a fixed amount, even if you can’t access it all at once. The AirStash supports eight simultaneous users via 802.11 b/g, but at the moment it only supports weak and outdated WEP encryption but WPA/WPA2 is promised in a future firmware update.
PogoPlug Mobile - Like the G-Connect above, the $79 PogoPlug Mobile requires AC power, so it’s not the most mobile solution here (and yes, the name is arguably a bit misleading). It also doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability built-in. Rather, you connect it to Ethernet at your home or office, plug in a USB hard drive and/or SD card, and then access the contents via Wi-Fi (or 3G) over the Internet. So while it saves you from having to carry an extra piece of hardware around with you, it does leave you dependent on the availability (and speed) of an Internet link where you travel.
There are a few things worth keeping in mind when using wireless storage devices such as those listed above. First, wireless signal range can be limited (particularly for the battery-powered units) so make sure you keep storage devices as close as possible to whatever you’re streaming to (e.g., an adjacent room may be too far away). Also, depending on the product, you may not be able to access the storage device’s wireless network and a hotspot for Internet access at the same time.
It’s also worth mentioning that although the aforementioned products are primarily positioned as iOS-centric devices, most of them can also work with Android phones and tablets though, unlike iOS devices, most Android devices offer expandable storage, making the need for external wireless storage less acute.