SanDisk iXpand: An External Drive for Your iPhone?

It’s so important to back up your iPhone, the most portable and breakable piece of technology we own. Anything can happen to it, like forgetting it on the bus or shattering the screen beyond repair. In an instant, all of your data can vanish. Those family photos and important text messages are all gone. Once again, this is why it’s so important to back up your data! On one hand, you can create a local backup using iTunes if you still have a computer. On the other, you can purchase iCloud storage at a monthly rate, which adds up quickly. So, there needs to be an alternative for making local iPhone and iPad backups. Could the SanDisk iXpand be the solution?

The simple solution to creating a local backup would be to plug a USB thumb drive into your iPhone. However, at the moment, Apple refuses to migrate to the new universal standard of USB-C, so we are still stuck with the proprietary Lightning connector. And that’s what SanDisk brings to the table with their iXpand. It’s simply a USB drive with a USB-A port on one side and a Lightning port on the other. This allows you to plug it into your iPhone or low-end iPad, or your computer and access the same files.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at the iExpand by installing the SanDisk iXpand app from the App Store, which is needed to interact with the flash drive. 

When you open the app for the first time, a wizard directs you through setting up the flash drive’s backup options. For now, I’m going to bypass this so I can get to the full app. 

There are two ways to use your iPhone’s external drive. The first way is to use it as a backup of your phone. To configure this click “Backup & Restore” from the bottom of the main menu. Then, choose “Back Up & Restore Photo Library” to backup your photo library. In the settings, you can enable automatic backup, then click backup to make your first backup. Once the backup is finished, you are clear to start deleting the photos off of your phone, knowing they are safe on your flash drive. Just make sure you’re plugging in your drive often, and the iXpand app is working as intended. If you need to retrieve photos you deleted, you can click the restore button, which will copy the photos from the flash drive back to your phone. 

Now, let’s go back and back up our contacts and calendar. On the first tab, I can back up my contacts and enable automatic backup. On the second tab, I can back up my calendars and enable automatic backup.

And, that’s it.

Unlike an iCloud Backup or iTunes, both of which create a full copy of your device, the iXpand can only backup your contacts, calendars, and photo library. For some, this may do the trick. After all, almost everything else is probably already configured to sync through a cloud service for free, especially your contacts and calendar. I already have an article that takes a look at the more complete backup options. I will link it below. 

Another use for the iXpand is for transferring files back and forth between your iPhone and computer. Those in the Apple world don’t have to worry about this dilemma since you can just AirDrop files between your devices. However, if you add a PC or Android into the mix, you may need something that can transfer files too big for an email. In a perfect world, iXpand could be that device. You could open the Files app and see the iXpand as an external drive or access the files from within the app. However, it’s not a perfect world. When you click on the iXpand Drive source, you’re taken to the iXpand app, and the drive does not show up as an external device. You would think that the option to navigate the drive would let you download files to your iPhone. But, when you try to download a file other than a picture or video, you’re told that the file format is not supported. 

Well, now it’s time for an abrupt conclusion. I got this drive on sale from an OfficeMax that was going out of business, with the hope I could show off this thumb drive you could plug directly into your iPhone. And, after playing with it a bit, the only real thing you can do with it is backup your photo library. SanDisk, how hard would it be to allow a user to access it as an external drive from the Files app?

Going back to that perfect world, if Apple would just put a USB-C port on the iPhone instead of waiting until someone forces them, this wouldn’t be an issue. Even better, if they had a way to plug a USB-C drive into your iPhone or iPad and be able to make a full iTunes styled backup, that would also be a great solution. 

In the meantime, if you want to plug a USB drive into your iPhone, you can pick up one of Apple’s $50 Lightning to USB-A adapters. Ultimately, if you want peace of mind, pay the $1 a month for the lowest tier of iCloud storage to back up your important data, or periodically plug your iPhone into your computer.

Thanks for watching! Be sure to like the video if you enjoyed it, and comment on what you would use a drive like this for. Click the subscribe and bell icon to be notified when I release a new video. Check out the links in the description, including our Patreon where you can directly support the channel. Once again, thank you so much for watching, and I will see you in the next one.