Buying Guides iPhone and iPad

iPhone External USB Storage: The 5 Best Flash Drives for iPhone

Dan Price Updated 10-12-2019

Wouldn’t it be great if you could use a flash drive with your iPhone? You’d be able to access all your documents on-demand without worrying about internet connectivity and excessive data charges.


It is possible to use USB storage on an iPhone, despite some restrictions imposed by Apple’s iOS operating system. Keep reading if you want to learn about the best flash drive for iPhones.

iPhone USB Stick vs. Regular USB Stick

In theory, it’s possible to connect a regular USB drive to your iPhone using Apple’s in-house Lightning to USB Adapter. It works with an array of USB peripherals, such as microphones and digital cameras.

But if you try to connect a regular USB drive to the port, there’s a high chance you’ll see a “This device is unsupported” message. This means that either the drive has not been certified as “Made for iPhone” (MFi) and there are compatibility issues, or the drive is trying to draw more power than the Lightning port can provide.

A flash drive made for an iPhone will have a regular USB connector on one end of the stick and a Lightning connector on the other.

Before You Buy a Thumb Drive for iPhone

Wait one moment, however. Before you decide which iPhone thumb drive you want, there are a few points you need to consider:

  • Charging: Because all the iPhone flash drives use the Lightning port, you cannot charge your device while a thumb drive is in use. That means especially large file transfers, like backing up your entire Camera Roll, might not complete before your battery depletes.
  • Third-Party Apps: iOS flash drives rely on proprietary third-party apps to interface between the phone and the USB device. If the developer stops updating the app, you might experience compatibility issues with your drive and future versions of iOS.
    • There are also issues around usability. As you might expect, the quality of third-party apps varies considerably. Some don’t even let you export files to other apps on your iPhone, thus limiting the drive’s usefulness.
  • DRM Content: If you’ve bought content on iTunes, then transfer it onto a flash drive, it will not work.

The Best Flash Drives for iPhone

With the above considerations in mind, take a look at these iOS flash drives for the best experience.

1. SanDisk iXpand

SanDisk iXpand SanDisk iXpand Buy Now On Amazon $33.49

The SanDisk iXpand is unquestionably the best thumb drive for the iPhone X and iPhone 8.

The device is available in four different capacities: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. It can transfer data to your phone at 13MBps and supports USB 3.0 when connected to a computer.


The iXpand also has the most feature-rich app; it’s capable of backing up all your photos every time you connect the flash drive. It even has an in-app camera that can save your photos and videos directly onto the drive, rather than into your iPhone’s Camera Roll.

SanDisk has also come up with one of the most intelligent designs you’ll find. The Lightning connector end of the stick is in a flexible, rubberized sheath that can bend to fit through most iPhone cases.

(Note: The SanDisk iXpand is also compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro.)

2. Leef iBridge

Leef iBridge Leef iBridge Buy Now On Amazon $39.99


Not all USB flash drives for iPhones use the dongle approach; some have a curved design and thus sit out of sight at the rear of your phone. This is a preferable solution if you find yourself needing to use your flash drive for prolonged periods. Using this form, the drive is less likely to get dislodged during usage.

If you’d prefer an iPhone USB drive that sits behind the phone, check out the Leef iBridge. It is available in a 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB version. The passcode protection is particularly impressive; it links the drive with your phone’s credentials, meaning no one else can see the drive’s contents, even if it’s lost or stolen.

3. OLALA ID200

OLALA ID200 OLALA ID200 Buy Now On Amazon $12.99

You’d be forgiven for thinking the highly flexible OLALA ID200 flash drive looks more like a charging cable than iPhone external storage.


That’s for good reason—in addition to providing either 32GB or 64GB of storage, the device also doubles as a power cable. You can plug one end into your Mac and the other into your Lightning port to give yourself a power boost while on-the-go.

The regular USB connector supports USB 3.0 connections. That means you get 10MBps of writing speed and 30MBps of reading speed when it’s connected to your computer.

4. JOHAKU Card Reader

JOHAKU Card Reader JOHAKU Card Reader Buy Now On Amazon $39.99

One of the frustrating aspects of using external storage is all the different types of connectors you have to deal with. USB-A, micro-USB, USB-C, Lightning, and SD card connections are all commonplace. (We’ve explained the different types of USB cables Understand USB Cable Types and Which One to Use Why are there so many different USB cable types? Learn the differences between USB connector types and how to buy the best cable. Read More if you need some help with this.)

For iPhone users, the JOHAKU Card Reader is the solution. Shaped like a cross, it has four connectors, so you’ll always be able to access your various flash drives. Impressively, the USB port doubles as a microSD card slot. You can use it to pull files off digital cameras and video recorders.

You can even use this card reader to connect an Android device to your iOS device and transmit data between them. The JOHAKU Card Reader is compatible with the iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, and more.

5. EATOP iPhone Flash Drive

EATOP iPhone Flash Drive EATOP iPhone Flash Drive Buy Now On Amazon

The EATOP iPhone Flash Drive is another one of the best flash drives for iPhones.

Like the JOHAKU model, the EATOP device has come up with an ingenious design solution to give you as many connectivity options as possible. You can flick up the USB connector to reveal both a slot for a microSD card and a micro-USB connector.

The USB connector is USB 3.0 compatible. It has read speeds of 85MBps and write speeds of 35 MBps. However, only one version is available, with a 32GB capacity.

Do You Even Need an iOS Flash Drive?

The concept of using a flash drive with iOS is an interesting idea, and one that certain people will find incredibly useful. Remember, however, for quick file transfers, AirDrop between iOS devices and macOS is usually sufficient.

If you would like to learn more, make sure you read about the best USB 3.0 flash drives and how to manage the storage on your iPhone How to Manage the Storage on Your iPhone Need a few tips on how to manage storage on your iPhone? We'll show you how to access and clean up photos, contacts, and more. Read More .

Related topics: iPhone Tips, Storage, USB Drive.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Larry Rich
    January 27, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    All these work only for photos and videos, none of them - correct me if I'm wrong, I'd love to be corrected! - can do PDF or mp3. files. Does anyone know of one that does transfer PDF and mp3 to and from Mac and flash drive?

  2. Wayne
    June 13, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Is there a way to get camera apps to record to an attached USB drive, or a WiFi drive?

    I'm looking at doing some heavy duty video recording, 150mb/s+, but the iPhone se is only 16GB. So recording to an external drive is a must.


    • gary l haas
      November 19, 2019 at 1:06 am

      iOS13 allows you to use external drives

      if you use a powered hub you can go nuts
      i was able to connect two 2+tb external SSD drives at the same time

  3. John Edward Nickerson
    May 30, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks for the insight. I have iOS devices and use them all the time. I have a Windows computer that I have to use since I am not a Mac user. These drives are ways of doing video projects on my iOS devices and then transferring them to the laptop and from there to external drives with greater storage capacity. In a way this would make the ipad a primary computer for me since I do all my work on it already, and just have to find a way of transferring projects off of the ipad without having to use iCloud subscriptions. Good article about the usefulness and restrictions of these drives. I now know how I should use them and how they should not be used. Keep up the insights.

  4. Hentie
    April 1, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Will it be possible to download music from Itunes Library to Sandisk?

  5. John Birch
    March 6, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    I just bought the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive (February 26, 2019). I was thoroughly disappointed to discover the following problems:

    1. I downloaded over 7,000 images from my phone, but failed to download my videos.
    2. A week later I went to download images that I had taken since the initial download, but the software does not do this automatically. i.e. it does not ignore the previously downloaded images or identify them in any way. It shows all the images taken every day and you have to manually select what images to import, by the date. Unfortunately, there is no way to know what was imported previously.
    3. This comment only applies to people using Lightroom (LR): When you import, LR converts the images to DNG files. That's great, but for some reason, it changes the date of ALL the images to the date of the import (permantently erasing the original dates) so you have no idea when the image was shot (which is very important/critical to me).

    Too bad.