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 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.

Or maybe not. There are a few tricks you can try, starting with this weird one that seems to magically free up some otherwise unavailable space -- anywhere from a few hundred megabytes to a few gigabytes. And if you're a Facebook user, deleting the app in favor of your mobile browser can net you 500-600MB. (Doing so improves battery life, too.)

But if you're seeking a really significant storage boost, your only option is to upgrade, right? You'll need an iPhone or iPad with more space.

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Photo by Leef

Not necessarily! External storage devices can give you virtually unlimited extra space for music, movies, photos, documents and other data. And many of them are surprisingly affordable.

These devices fall into two main categories: plug-in storage (think: flash drive for your iPhone or iPad) and wireless media hubs.

Depending on the model, you get either a fixed amount of storage (same as with a flash drive or even a hard drive) or a card reader that holds SD or microSD media. These aren't usually connected full-time; you access them on an as-needed basis.

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 64GB SD card with oodles of songs, podcasts, videos and whatnot, while still leaving space on your iDevice for apps and other stuff. You can even offload the photos and videos you've captured, thereby actually freeing up space.

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.

If you're considering a wireless reader, make sure to choose one that includes 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.

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The RAVPower FileHub Plus is not just a wireless media hub, but also a travel router and mobile charger.

Photo by RAVPower

What should you expect to pay for such a device? Probably less than you might think. The RAVPower FileHub Plus, for example, is a wireless media hub that supports both SD and USB media, and can connect to a broad range of devices (not just Apple stuff). It currently sells for $40 on Amazon.

That's a pretty cheap option for making extra storage available to your iPhone or iPad, especially considering this: the FileHub Plus is also a travel router and mobile charger. Its 6,000mAh battery powers not only the hub itself, but also any USB device that needs extra juice.

By the way, if you need a lot of added space, a few companies offer wireless hard drives that work much the same way.

For example, the Western Digital MyPassport Wireless comes in 1TB and 2TB flavors. It can back up your iPhone photos and lets you access music, videos and other media. Just beware that prices start at around $150, AU$200 or £130, and it's a bit too bulky to carry in a pocket.

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 $40 accessory and some inexpensive memory cards/flash drives.

Have you tried a wireless hub already? Tell us what's good, and what's not, in the comments.