This post will be obsolete with iPadOS 13

My transition to using the iPad as my primary travel computer was a gradual one.  It started with leaving my laptop at home on purely personal trips, where I wouldn’t have to get any work done.  From there it gradually transitioned to the point where I haven’t had to travel with a laptop in over a year.

One of the obstacles I encountered along the way was getting files on and off of USB flash drives.  This is something that will get fixed for good in a few weeks when iPadOS 13 comes out with support for external drives in the Files app.  A year ago, when I was considering taking the final leap to the iPad, it wasn’t clear that Apple would ever address this. 

There were workarounds, however.  Sandisk makes the Connect Wireless Stick, a USB flash drive that you can connect to over WiFi.  The Kingston MobileLite Wireless G3 takes more of a Swiss Army knife approach, functioning as a portable charger and a WiFi access point, as well as allowing you to access files on USB drives and SD cards from an iOS device.  

While the Kingston does a lot more, both of these them take a similar approach when it comes to file management.  They each create a local WiFi network that you can connect to.  Once connected, you use their iOS app to move files on and of the device.   

Both iOS apps are serviceable, though I wouldn’t call either of them great.  The process for getting files on the SanDisk is a bit more intuitive; you can drag and drop (though the app does not support Split View) or use the share sheet.  The file gets transferred wirelessly to the drive.  Because the Kingston may not have an external drive attached the process is a bit more complicated.  You can send a file to the app via the share sheet (no drag and drop, though it does support Split View).  However, the file is initially transferred to the Kingston app’s storage on your iOS device.  You then have to use the app to move it to an attached external drive.  

I ended up buying both because they address slightly different scenarios.  The Sandisk covers situations where you need to get files onto or off of someone else’s computer, but it doesn’t help when someone hands you a flash drive with files on it that you need to access.  The Kingston covers both (and SD cards too), but it’s bigger and heavier.  

So why am I writing about this just before iPadOS 13 comes out?  I finally had to actually use it.  I’m presenting at a conference and thanks to a foul-up I wasn’t able to provide them with my presentation far enough in advance to preload onto the computer I’d be presenting from (this also gave me the chance to keep tweaking my presentation right up until I gave it).  I was able to transfer my presentation onto the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick without any issues.  Just to take the suspenders and belt approach (and because I wanted the chance to try it) I used the Kingston to put my presentation onto a regular USB drive as a backup.  When the time came to give my presentation, I plugged the SanDisk into the laptop that was hooked up to the projector and copied the file to the hard drive.  

The hour of the wirelessly connected USB drive for iOS may be getting late, but I was happy to get some use out of the Wireless Connect Stick before iPadOS 13 made it obsolete.