There's nothing worse than getting an "out of storage space" pop-up on your phone when trying to capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment. And once you're locked into a small-capacity iPhone (I'm looking at you, 16GB owners) there's no easy way to expand the storage space -- unlike with, say, an Android phone with an SD card slot. Sure, you can back up to iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but the cost can add up.
SandDisk's iXpand Memory Case, available only for the iPhone 6 and 6s, offers a novel cure for the storage space blues. It builds extra flash memory right into an iPhone case that connects via the lightning port on the phone. And it works very well, although it's much more expensive than an SD card and isn't as good as many cases I've used.
The iXpand comes in four colors (gray, blue, red and teal) three capacities: a 32GB model for $60 (roughly £45 or AU$80), a 64GB model for $100(£76, AU$133) and a 128GB version for $130 (£98, AU$174). I tested the largest size in teal. An optional 1,900mAH battery, which magnetically latches onto the back of the case, is also available for $40 (£30, AU$53).
You'll need to use SanDisk's well-designed companion app to transfer photos from the phone's internal memory to the case, but fortunately that's an easy process. After the transfer is finished, the app automatically offers the option of deleting images from the iPhone, thus freeing up space. The dashboard for the application organizes all the content stored on the drive and makes it easy to move files back and forth and find the ones you need.
Using it to backup photos is simple, but it takes some time depending on how large the library is. Mine contained over 30,000 photos and it took several hours to copy them over. Whenever the case is on, it will keep checking to see if new photos were taken and will automatically import them, allowing it to be completed in the background. The case also connects to a computer and allows for simple transfers of larger files, such as movies.
While the software works well, the physical case isn't as impressive. The design is generic and the plastic thin, and the top clip-on section feels downright flimsy. Once the iPhone is placed in the case, however, it feels sturdy enough and the protruding lip on the front protects the display. Since the headphone jack becomes recessed with the case on, you may need an extender (which is provided) to reach the audio port.
The back of the case is also left open on the top and bottom, which makes it feel exposed. The port placement is also awkward, as is the Micro-USB port on the right side. Traditionally you would plug the iPhone in at the bottom, so it takes time to get used to, and you may need to do some cable management. A superb case this is not.
The case becomes bulky when the optional battery pack is added, although the magnetic attachment is slick. The battery also provides extra protection for that exposed backside, in addition to around half a day of extra life for your phone.
The SanDisk iXpand Memory Case does a great job at expanding the storage of your iPhone, which is a major problem for many iPhone owners, but it falls short as an iPhone case. Hopefully, future versions will offer an improved case design to match the excellent software.