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Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo review: Kingston's tiny Bolt Duo backs up your iPhone photos and videos

Want an easy way to pull images and videos off your iPhone or capture shots to an external drive? That's what the Bolt is designed to do.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

Most iPhone owners have a ton of photos and videos on their phones. They tend to take up a large portion of the iPhone's built-in memory and while you may have everything backed up to the cloud, it's always reassuring to have a local backup for peace of mind.


Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo

The Good

It does one basic thing -- photo backups from your iPhone -- but does it well. Auto-resumes long downloads when interrupted. Works with multiple devices. Allows photos to be written directly to it.

The Bad

Large backups are time-consuming, and you can't charge your phone while using the Bolt Duo. It's a bit pricey.

The Bottom Line

If you need a hardware alternative to iCloud for iPhone photo backup and sharing, look no further than the Kingston Bolt Duo.

That's where Kingston's DataTraveler Bolt Duo comes in. Available in 32GB ($60), 64GB ($90) and 128GB ($120) versions, it's essentially a Lightning-equipped thumbdrive that plugs into your iOS device and allows you to make a copy of your photos. There are other products like it -- the SanDisk iXpand flash drive, for instance, and several cheaper solutions from no-name brands -- but Kingston is touting the Bolt's sturdy, clean metal design and simple user interface.

Kingston DataTraveler Bolt

See all photos

It's easy to use. You download the Bolt app, plug it in, and you're ready to start copying photos from your Camera Roll to the Bolt.  You can choose to keep the photos on your phone as you copy them or delete them as they're copied. You can also opt to copy only photos and not videos or videos and not photos. And there's also an option to just copy photos you've designated as "favorites."

It's worth mentioning that you can backup up photos/videos from multiple iOS devices -- the Bolt creates separate folders for each device. 

Capture directly to the Bolt

Instead of backing up your photos, you can capture photos and videos directly to the Bolt -- as if you're shooting to an external drive. That comes in handy if you want to quickly transfer your images or footage to a laptop or desktop computer. After you're through shooting, you pull the Bolt out of your iPhone and plug the opposite end into a USB port on your computer (you'll need an adapter for new USB-C MacBooks), which sees the Bolt as a standard thumbdrive. You can then drag whatever files you want over files over to the computer's hard drive.

The Bolt is small, which means it's easy to lose. And because it costs a lot more than your typical thumbdrive, you'd be upset if you did lose it. To that end, Kingston includes a keyring rubber case for it, which is good. I ended up attaching the case to a loop inside my backpack so I knew where I could find it at all times, but you also just attach to your keychain.

Enlarge Image

The Bolt plugged in with the app open.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Everything worked pretty well for me as far as transferring and capture went. My only gripe is that the initial pass at copying photos is slower than I thought it would be. If you're dealing with thousands of photos to back up, you're looking at several hours to copy them over to the Bolt. The other problem is that Bolt draws power from your phone and the battery slowly drains away as photos are copied over to the drive. (Alas, there's no dongle-free way to charge your phone when the Bolt is plugged into your Lightning port.)

If you have a camera roll with a massive number of photos, you may have to copy them over in stages. The good news is that if your iPhone dies in the middle of a "transfer all" session, the Bolt remembers where you stopped copying and continues from where you left off once you start copying again.

As I said earlier, the Bolt Duo is fairly pricey -- at least compared to a standard Kingston DataTraveler thumbdrive (you can get 128GB version of one of those for around $40). But compared to what Apple charges per GB for its iPhone memory bumps, the price doesn't look so bad. If you shoot a lot of photos and videos with your iPhone, it's a nice accessory if you can afford it.

Enlarge Image

The included keychain holder for the Bolt.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Kingston DataTraveler Bolt Duo

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7