If you have an iPhone or an iPad and want to transfer files onto your device from a computer the old-fashioned way, then PhotoFast might have just the thing for you.
The Taipei company makes i-FlashDrive HD, a USB thumb drive with an extra plug that connects directly to your “iDevices.”
As a standalone unit, the i-FlashDrive is simply a tiny, portable hard drive, offered in capacities of 8, 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes. This square-shaped dongle, with a USB plug on one end and an Apple dock connector on the other, easily fits into your jeans mini-pocket.
But the main selling point here is that you have a simple transfer depot between your computer and iDevice. The idea behind i-FlashDrive is that you load it with files from your computer, so you can plug it into your iPhone or iPad and move your stuff there.
This allows you a quick and dirty way to do things like plop a video or music album onto your phone without having to plug your device into a computer and sync through iTunes.
Another feature of the i-FlashDrive is that it can also be used to transfer files between iOS devices, making it a one-of-a-kind product, at least for now.
But there are a few big caveats to consider. While it’s nice to have a “plug and go” method of transferring files between an iPhone and iPad, much of that usefulness is negated if you already use iCloud, which wirelessly syncs photos, music and documents across your devices.
And the files don’t instantly appear in your iPhone or iPad — you can only access them through the iFlashDrive app, which you have to download and install from the app store.
The app is free and straightforward to use, but points to a glaring limitation. You can copy that Jay Chou (周杰倫) album onto your phone, but you can only listen to it in the i-FlashDrive app. The files don’t become part of the music library on your phone, which means you can’t add it to your favorite playlists. The same goes for videos — they can only be viewed within the app.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the i-FlashDrive app has a built-in music and video player that gets the job done. (Also, the blame for the shortcoming doesn’t rest with PhotoFast, but rather Apple’s strict rules on writing software for iOS.) But I can imagine eventually missing Apple’s integrated iOS apps after a while.
Not all files have this limitation. From within the i-FlashDrive app, you can copy photos into your photo library, and you can open Word documents and PDFs in other compatible apps like Goodreader or Evernote.
Getting files from your computer to your iDevice using i-FlashDrive is relatively simple, but this is not the case in the other direction.
The only files that you can move from your iPhone or iPad to this USB thumb drive are photos, and you have to go through the process of copying them into a folder that can only be accessed from within the i-FlashDrive app. Music, videos and most other documents that you sync via iTunes are a no-go. (Again, this limitation has to do more with Apple’s guidelines for apps than engineering finesse on PhotoFast’s part.)
On the plus side, the i-FlashDrive app is set up to directly connect to a Dropbox account. This works nicely, except that you can’t copy files directly on to the i-FlashDrive from Dropbox. Instead, you’re left with a roundabout route, copying from Dropbox to your local folder on the i-FlashDrive app, and then copying the file over to the plug-in drive.