Hardware

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A serious portable storage solution for iOS

Many will say the USB pen is dead, and though there’s some truth in its long-term demise thanks to cloud storage and the like, we’re still in the midst of a long transition phase. However, when it comes to the kinds of restrictions built into the iPhone or iPad, a USB approach can be wildly useful.

The Leef iBridge Lightning and USB Flash Drive is a new gadget that focuses on design and usability to really provide a portable solution to iOS-based storage issues. The stick itself comes in 16, 32, 64, 128, and a huge 256 GB size. We tested the 16GB, though it’s easy to see how different sizes will see users utilize the stick in different ways – more on that at the end.

The iBridge is well-designed.

The iBridge has a well thought out design

The iBridge’s design is key here. It’s not really as snug as an SD card slot on Android devices, but it’s Lightning input curves back round so the main bulk of the stick sits snugly at the back of the device. It’s also its quick and easy process that wins it points – it’s great when you want to access content quickly, without having to go through the iTunes hurdle – especially time-consuming when the media wasn’t purchased via Apple’s channels. As such, the iBridge fills the gap between non-Apple related media, and viewing or accessing it on an Apple device.

The conduit to all of this is in the form of an iBridge app. Plug in the iBridge, download the app as directed and once the app is open you’ll find three options. The first is ‘Transfer Files’ between your device and the iBridge – maybe to save some space, you an transfer images from Camera Roll to the iBridge, then transfer them onto your desktop, like a more traditional USB pen, bypassing the laggy and non-user friendly iPhoto.

The app contains plenty of options

The app contains plenty of options

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A variety of media can be accessed via the app

The second is ‘Content Viewer’. This one lets you view almost any kind of content on your device, without being beholden to Apple’s format or app rules; photos, music, video, documents – it’s all easy to access in iBridge. The design is near-perfect. Music will be arranged by songs, artists, albums – just like in the Music app. Finally, there’s the iBridge Camera – which acts just as the regular camera app does, but stores the photos on the stick. Users can then choose whether to transfer them to the device and back again. The camera isn’t perfect – it won’t record video, and doesn’t allow for other camera modes, like slo-mo and burst – but for simple photo taking and storing it’s decent.

iBridge is sold as a storage enhancer, which, for a 16GB iPhone, would be an absolute revelation – but for those with larger device storage, the iBridge acts instead as a great way to switch between devices, laptops, tablets, without jumping through hoops – or simply as a backup for your device’s photos (which can be set up automatically) or videos. How it’s used will depend on what size the user opts for.

Users will find they'll use the iBridge for different things depending on the chosen capacity

Users will find they’ll use the iBridge for different things depending on the chosen capacity

For consumable and modern media, it may not have as much of an impact if you buy all your stuff via Apple, but if you may your own stuff, or use multiple outlets – iBridge is a great way to listen, watch, or view. iBridge gives the user the control of manual file sorting, instead of the restrictions imposed by syncing or cloud-based media.

It’s not a cheap solution – but it’s one of few that will give you this kind of flexibility on an iDevice, and could well become indispensable.

The Leef iBridge is available from Leef or Amazon in sizes from 16-256 GB and is priced from $59 (£49). The iBridge is compatible with the iPhone 5 and up, while its companion app will run on iOS 7 and up.

Review: Leef iBridge – expand your iPhone storage
It's not cheap, but its functionality and flexibility will make you wonder how you lived without it.
For
  • Flexibility to avoid iTunes
  • Plenty of storage options
Against
  • It's not cheap
  • Camera could do with added functionality
4.5Overall Score