There are now several companies selling USB thumb drives for iPhone and iPad since the first ones with built-in Lightning connectors debuted late last year. By connecting a small and lightweight thumb drive directly to your iOS device, you can avoid limitations of onboard storage and cloud services and instead store and stream media like music, video, and photos using the drive’s additional storage.

A few things to consider when searching for the right Lightning drive: some have a battery that requires charging, companion apps for managing and streaming content from an iOS device vary in quality, and I found some have designs that make using the drives and your iOS device at the same time easier than others. Lastly, pricing varies quite a bit based on the the options below with drives ranging from 8GB to 256GB and other options offering bring-your-own storage using a micro SD card slot.

SanDisk iXpand

-Lightning and USB 2.0 connectors –iXpand Sync companion app for iPhone/iPad -Stream videos/music from connected drive -Auto camera roll backup -Password protected files -Needs to be charged -Cover to protect USB connector when not in use -Supports iOS, PC and Mac –16GB ($59), 32GB ($75), 64GB ($99), 128GB ($149)

Our Take: SanDisk has one of the best companion apps out of all the products on this list and some of the best prices. But the drive requires charging and has a design that forces the drive, and your iPhone attached to it, to sit awkwardly in your hand or on a table (as pictured above).

Hyper iStick 

-Lightning and USB 2.0 connectors -Stream videos/music from connected drive -Auto camera roll backup –iStick companion app for iPhone/iPad -Retractable connectors -Supports iOS, PC and Mac -Colors: Silver, Black, White –8GB ($79), 16GB ($68), 32GB ($139), 64GB ($195), 128GB ($349) -(Full review)

Our Take: Hyper’s iStick was originally one of the first on the market after raising over $1 million through Kickstarter last year. The product remains pricey but offers a more straightforward design that isn’t obtrusive like SanDisk’s design. When one connector is in use (Lightning or USB), the other end automatically retracts into the body of the drive. The app leaves a lot to be desired, however, and the prices mean you’ll likely want to opt for our top pick, Leef iBridge…

Leef iBridge

-Lightning and USB 2.0 connectors –iBridge app for iPhone and iPad -Plastic, silicon and aluminum construction -Stream videos/music from connected drive -Auto camera roll backup -Capture photos directly to Leef -Cover to protect connectors when not in use -Supports iOS, PC and Mac -Colors: Black –16GB ($59), 32GB ($79), 64GB ($119) ,128GB ($199), 256GB ($399)

Our Take: Our favorite design out of all the products on the list, the Leef iBridge’s wraparound design (pictured above) allows it to stay out of the way when the drive is connected and you want to continue using the device. SanDisk attempted a similar design, but iBridge did it successfully. Considering the design, pricing, a 256GB option, and solid companion app, Leef’s iBridge is our top pick out of all the Lightning thumb drives on the list.

But other options are available and coming soon:


-Lightning and USB 3.0 connectors -Companion app for iPhone/iPad -Covers to protect connectors when not in use -Stream videos/music from connected drive -Auto camera roll backup -Supports iOS, PC and Mac -Colors: Silver, Gray, Red, Gold -16GB ($55), 32GB ($69), 64GB ($125) , 128GB ($209)

Our take: It’s still an about-to-launch Indiegogo project, but if you’re not satisfied with any of the other options on the list, iKlips plans to outdo the competition with USB 3.0 transfer providing read/write speed of 140/20 MB/s. The other products on the list are using USB 2.0 opposite the Lightning connector. The prices listed above for iKlips represents 30% off the retail price for early bird preorders.

Amazon also has a few from little-known brands, like this one from Aizbo that accepts a micro SD card:

Aizbo i-Flash Drive with micro SD

-Lightning and USB 2.0 connectors –Companion app for iPhone/iPad -Covers to protect connectors when not in use -Stream videos/music from connected drive -Supports iOS, PC and Mac -Requires inserted SD card for storage ($28)

Options like this can be paired with inexpensive SD cards like these.

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About the Author

Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.