External memory continues to evolve on iOS. PhotoFast, which Todd Bernard has covered before here at iPhone Life(Review: i-FlashDrive-MAX Lets You Back Up and Share Photos and Files) has released what may be the ultimate flash card reader for iOS, the $39.99 CR-8800.
This diminutive Lightning-based drive holds a micro-SD card, all in the span of about an inch-and-a-half. Apple has never supported microSD card memory directly, and other flash solutions have provided some capability for backup and bringing content along on the road, but nobody has done it in such a small package without onboard power. The trick is appears is low power SD Cards, which the company suggests be purchased from them, though other low-powered cards should work if electrical specs are matched.
For my purposes, I like to load up these external memory sources with movies and music. Copy compatible content to the SD card, download the app and instant access to music, pictures or movies. The device will support up to a 128GB microSD card, doubling up the storage of even the biggest iOS devices.
Unlike Apple’s SD card reader, the CR-8800 ins’t just a photo transport device. The accompanying supports “Open-In,” meaning users can leverage other installed apps that can read the various file types. The device also supports most file management features, including renaming. Some pretty unique features include backing up your content from services like YouTube and Facebook, and support for a wide range of video and image formats not native to iOS, including Windows Video. The device will even store some streaming content like that from YouTube, in its app-memory.
The software here is both a jewel and an issue. PhotoFast has created a very capable device, and the software unleashes a huge number of features, but I’m not sure the average user is going to know how to differentiate in-app, vs. card vs. cloud memory. Like all things storage related, this device requires people to think like curators. They need to know what has been backed up to which SD card and where are the little cards are when they need them. I have flash backs to stacks of floppy disks, then zip drives, then small hard disks.
Don’t try to do too much with one SD card. If you are going create a video library, and you want to backup videos, then get more than one SD card. Although the software will backup cloud storage, it really isn’t a necessary feature because most cloud storage systems are pretty secure and backed by a big tech company or by plenty of cash.
That said, I’m finishing this review during a power outage, and the only thing connected to my cloud storage at the moment is my iPhone. My dropbox, however, and my iCloud drive are both sitting on my MacBook Air. You’ll need to decide on what use cases work best for you.
The biggest problem with the CR-8800 is its primary advantage: size. As I written here before (Travel Tips: Taking Care of the Little Things) these really small devices are easy to lose. I recommend putting the CR-8800 in a small plastic bag, because even the best backpack or bag isn’t going to hold this little card reader very well. If you do keep it loose, place it in the same pocket everytime, preferably one with a zipper or velcro flap.
One other thing to keep in mind: while using the CR-8800 you can’t charge your device, so make sure device is charged or you’ll end up swapping out your movie, for a bit of juice.
Overall, if you want to take along more movies or music than your iPhone or iPad can carry, or you want to backup your photos,, the CR-8800 is going to offer great features in the smallest possible package, all without the overhead of needed to be charged itself. You may have other use cases that call for top notch storage on your portable device. If those use cases include standard file types and well-known storage options, then the CR-8800 will probably fit your needs for offline backup or file transfer.