Have you ever wanted to increase the storage space on your idevice?

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

However much you like your idevice, it can be a pain that you can not connect either a USB flashdrive or an SD card to increase the storage capacity. This is particularly irritating at this time of year, of course, if you want to take some extra stuff on holiday with you – such as more music, downloaded movies, TV programs, and the like.

Well, I’ve found something that can go a great deal of the way to solving this problem. The specific item that I bought calls itself a Wi-Reader. There are other brands available and the specifications differ slightly.

The idea at the heart of this device is that it can read either an SD card or a USB flashdrive and transmit (stream) the contents via its own wifi signal direct to your iPad, iPhone etc. Clever, huh?

It’s not a perfect substitute for “onboard” extended storage as the contents are only available to a specific (free) app that you install on your idevice. That’s not quite literally true as you can make the contents available via FTP, but I don’t think that my own computer support clients would be likely to want to go off-piste into such rocky terrain.

I’ve been testing this device for a week now, and it works very well indeed within its limitations. The types of content that I’ve tested with it are:

  • Music – both aac format and mp3 format
  • Video – MP4 format
  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word documents (docx files)
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (xlsx files) – but it only show the first sheet in a workbook
  • Image files in tif and jpg formats

DW-17 Music View

Using the app’s “Music” view mixes all the albums together and lists tracks alphabetically…

I haven’t checked this out thoroughly, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that all of the data is available in a “read only” format. In other words, I don’t think you can use this device to create or edit files.

I have almost filled a 128gb San Disk Cruzer Blade flashdrive (mainly with music and TV programs converted from DVD format to MP4) and the response time in finding anything specific is perfectly acceptable. This 128gb flashdrive is currently available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £23.99.

The device itself is called an Apotop DW17 Wi-Reader. I bought it from Maplin for £39.99. If you look at these links, you will see that this particular model can also act as a battery charger for your iDevice. It will also work with Android devices using the freely available Android app, but I think it’s less likely to be needed on an Android device as they typically have SD or micro SD slots of their own.

DW-17 Folder View

…but using the alternative “Folder” view solves the problem

The only slight disadvantage that I’ve encountered is that you (obviously) need to connect to the wifi signal coming from the device in order to access its content. That means that you don’t have a wifi connection to the internet while you are accessing the wi-reader and the iPhone doesn’t attempt to connect to the internet using a 4G connection while the wifi connection is busy doing something else. Several times, I have wondered why I can’t check my email, only to remember that the iPhone’s wifi connection is otherwise occupied. However, that’s a small price to pay.

This solution is obviously not quite as convenient as having external storage slots available on the device itself, but it’s a very good alternative solution for anyone – like myself – who would like to have his entire record collection of about 1500 albums available with only about 120gm weight overhead in their luggage (including the charging cable and the San Disk USB drive). That comes to about 0.1gm per album, and at a cost of about 4p per album. Result!

SD memory cards are things we seem to take for granted

I recently saw an item on the BBC technology news pages announcing the launch of a 512gb SD card. These tiny devices, measuring just 32 X 24 X 2.1 millimetres are now the standard storage method for digital cameras – both still and video. Indeed, the same news item mentions that the motivator for developing such a large capacity SD card is the latest “4X” standard for video production. This can require up to 5gb for every minute of video shot.

The price of this new Sandisk card is £490. At first glance this may look expensive, but it’s less than £1 per gigabyte and the price is bound to drop as sales rise. Note that this entire article looks at SD cards – not solid state hard drives (very different animals).

From my own experience of computer support clients who use SD cards at all, it seems most people just accept that they are the storage method in their cameras and don’t use them for anything else. Moreover, if they transfer their images to a computer via a cable (instead of by removing the SD card and sticking it in their computer) then they probably never give the card a moment’s thought.

SD cards do have other uses, though.

2gb Class 2 SD card

2gb Class 2 SD card

Imagine, for instance, that you use a laptop or notebook computer that you carry around with you but work at home or in the office on a “proper computer” (ie a desktop computer). There are often going to be times when data needs to be transferred from one machine to another. Not all people want to solve this problem by storing stuff “in the cloud”, available to any device that connects to it. Instead, they will usually resort to the more common method of transferring data via a USB flash drive (also known as a thumb drive, USB stick etc). The problem with these is that they stick out of the machine. You wouldn’t be at all wise to pack your laptop into your case with 2 inches of USB drive sticking out of it. Why not use an SD card instead? Most computers (especially laptops) have a slot specifically for SD cards. Just push the card into the slot and the machine recognises the SD card just the same as an external hard drive or a USB flash drive. The card will either be flush to the machine’s case or, at worst, stick out a couple of millimetres.

Since the card doesn’t obtrude, you can leave it there forever if you want and use it as a backup drive. Used this way, it could save you from disaster in the case of hard drive failure but, it must be admitted, it won’t be any good as a backup if you leave your laptop in a taxi. Oops.

2gb Micro SD card and adaptor

2gb Micro SD card and adaptor

SD cards do come even smaller – physically – than the standard size. A “micro” version of them is very often used for storage on smartphones (except iPhones. IPhones don’t have any expandable storage). These micro SD cards can also be placed in an adaptor that makes them readable and useable as a standard SD card. Micro SD cards measure just 15mm X 11mm X 1mm. I’ve got a32gb micro SD card in my smartphone that has 7435 files on it. These are almost all music tracks, so that’s about 750 albums on a device smaller than a fingernail. Things have come a long way since the original Walkman, when carrying around more than half a dozen music cassettes seemed a bit obsessive!

The instructions for my smartphone (a Sony Xperia) specifically say that it can use cards up to 32gb. This probably means that it is limited to the “SDHC” version (which means Secure Digital High Capacity). If it were compatible with the latest standard (SDXC) then it could use the new Sandisk card mentioned above and any bigger cards as they are released – right up to 2tb (this is 2 terabytes, also expressed as 2000gb).

Apart from storage capacity, another factor to bear in mind when buying SD cards is the speed at which they can read and write data. Obviously, faster cards are more expensive. The speed is expressed in a “class” number. Most cards indicate that they are between Class 2 and Class 10 (where the figure represents the number of megabytes per second that can be read or written. The card must be able both to read and write at the stated speed). Even faster cards are UHS 1 and UHS 3 (representing 10mb and 30mb per second respectively). Class number doesn’t matter so much if you’re using the card for still images, but go for a high class number if recording video or if you take still images in “bursts”.

Cassette pile

You can store about 20 times as much music on a 32gb SD card as contained in this pile of cassettes

The music for my smartphone is on a UHS1 card and it performs faultlessly. The last one of these I bought cost about £25. Not bad for storing about 750 albums. That’s about 3.3p each. Compare that with the old “CD90” cassettes that cost about £1 to record two 40 minute albums. And just imagine the pockets you would need to carry 375 cassettes, each with 2 X 40 minute albums on!

Click this link for an even nerdier look at the humble but hard-working SD card.

© 2011-2015 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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