How to add more storage to an iOS device

Can't fit all your music, movies, documents, and other stuff? Before you spend money on a higher-capacity iPhone, iPod, or iPad, read this.

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Apple's iDevices famously -- make that infamously -- rely on fixed storage. If you need more space, well, too bad.

Granted, you can try a utility like PhoneClean, which can reclaim some space , but that gets you only so far. For any kind of significant storage boost, you have little choice but to upgrade to a more capacious iPhone, iPod, or iPad.

Actually, you do have one other option. A growing number of devices give you extra space for music, movies, photos, documents, and other data, and some of them are surprisingly affordable.

I'm talking about wireless card readers (also known as media hubs), which connect via Wi-Fi to your iDevice. So instead of popping a microSD card inside your iPhone or iPad (which, alas, is impossible), you pop one into an external drive you can keep stowed in a bag, pocket, or wherever.

Suppose, for example, you're taking a long trip. You want to bring along your entire music library -- not just the handful of playlists that fit on your 16GB iPad Mini -- and enough movies to last you through two or more long flights.

With one of these readers, you can stock, say, a 32GB SD card with more than enough songs and videos, while still leaving space on your Mini for apps and other stuff. And several models support USB flash drives as well, so if you have a few of those lying around, fill 'em with stuff!

In broad strokes, most of these devices work like this:

Step 1: Connect the reader to your PC, then fill it with any and all media/data you want to bring along.

Step 2: Install the companion app that goes with the reader.

Step 3: Run the app, then connect to the reader. Now you can stream your media, view your photos, access your documents, transfer files, and so on.

Iogear's MediaShair Hub app for iOS.
Iogear's MediaShair Hub app for iOS. Iogear

One key feature to look for when shopping for a wireless reader is a pass-through option, which allows your device to stay connected to a Wi-Fi network while simultaneously connected to the reader. Otherwise it's a huge hassle to disconnect and reconnect all the time.

In recent weeks I've tested a handful of these wireless media hubs, and a couple stand out. First up: the Iogear MediaShair Hub, which lists for $99.99 but Amazon currently sells for $59.33. No larger than a deck of cards, it looks like a miniature router, and in fact it can actually double as a mobile access point.

The MediaShair accommodates both SD cards (or microSD with an adapter) and USB drives. It works quite well with iOS devices, even if its app is a little clunky to use and not great as a music player. You can even top off your iPhone's battery by plugging directly into the MediaShair's USB port.

Similarly versatile is the RAVPower FileHub 5-in-1, which sells for $44.99, and includes a larger battery than the MediaShair. It offers both Wi-Fi hot-spot and NAS features, and works with both SD or microSD cards, and USB drives.

By the way, if you need a lot of added space, a handful of companies offer wireless hard drives that work much the same way -- except now you're looking at 500GB, 750GB, or even a terabyte of mobile storage. However, these drives are much heavier and bulkier, and they cost quite a bit more. One solid pick: the Patriot Aero .

In an ideal world, iDevices would have expansion slots. In this one, you can expand by way of external storage. All you need is a $45-$60 card reader and some inexpensive memory cards/flash drives.

Have you tried any of these wireless hubs already? Tell us what's good, and what's not, in the comments.

 

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