How to use external storage on iPad and iPhone with iOS 13

Posted:
in iOS edited June 7
With iPadOS and iOS 13, Apple is finally adding much-requested support for external storage connectivity on iPhone and iPad. There is a lot of details to parse through so we've done the legwork to lay out everything you need to know about using hard drives and other external media with iOS 13 and iPadOS.

iPad external storage
iPad external storage

Starting with iPhone

During the WWDC keynote, Apple focused primarily on the use cases with iPad and iPadOS, but the iPhone wasn't left completely out.






We had no issue connecting SD cards into our iPhone with Apple's SD card to Lightning adapter and having them accessible within the Files app. We could access all the folders and storage and manipulate them accordingly.

USB flash drive connected to iPhone with USB-A camera connection kit
USB flash drive connected to iPhone with USB-A camera connection kit


Some small thumb drives we were able to connect as well with Apple's USB camera connection kit that presents a USB-A port to connect them to. When the capacity got too large, however, it started to draw too much power for our iPhone and we got a modal alert explaining as much. As a middling solution, we used Apple's USB 3 camera connection kit which gives you not only a USB-A 3.0 port but a Lightning input as well. When we connected it to power we could now get other thumb drives to work.

This USB 3 kit still didn't solve all external storage woes as external HDDs and SSDs still were unable to connect to our iPhone. They either said they drew too much power or didn't connect at all.

In short, at the moment in iOS 13 -- as far as beta one is concerned -- thumb drives and SD cards work great within Files but larger storage devices do not. It is a possibility Apple could change things throughout the beta process or with a firmware update for their USB dongles.

The iPad is forever changed

The iPad is really where external storage comes in handy. It is exceptionally powerful and full-featured. Not only can you connect SD cards and thumb drives but portable hard drives and solid state drives. Desktop hard drives also connected without issue.

Multiple USB drives connected to an iPad Pro
Multiple USB drives connected to an iPad Pro


We wanted to push our iPad, so we connected our uniAccessories USB-C hub to our iPad Pro. We connected the USB-C port to power, one USB-A to our LaCie Rugged Drive, one to our Glyph Atom Raid SSD, one USB-A to our Victorinox flash drive, and lastly connected our SD card to the card reader.

All four external storage devices quickly appeared right in the location menu of our iPad Pro's Files app. We could move between them all, grabbing multiple at a time, or even save them to our iPad's local storage.

Compress and rotate files on iPadOS
Compress and rotate files on iPadOS


Thanks to iPadOS, you can now compress and unzip files without relying on third-party apps to do so. Quick actions also are here to rotate images and other file-specific actions. Safari got a new download manager in iOS 13 and iPadOS and within Settings you can direct all downloads to go directly to external drives rather than the internal ones.

All of this works best with iPad Pro over USB-C but the Lightning camera connection kit also works with previous iPads.

Powerful features

Officially, Apple will be supporting ExFAT, FAT32, HSF+, and APFS storage devices though APFS support is absent in the first beta.

External storage on iPad Pro
External storage on iPad Pro


Even though we are currently testing in beta, external storage is going to be huge with iOS 13 and iPadOS when it becomes fully available. There is so much you can do and it is all easy and intuitive. Multiple Files windows and support from external apps makes the iPad Pro an even more capable professional device.

Apple will be releasing iOS 13 and iPadOS this fall alongside macOS 10.15 Catalina, watchOS 6, and tvOS 13.

Thanks to Steve Troughton-Smith for his assistance with this piece.

Check out all of AppleInsider's other features regarding the new features coming in Apple's latest updates.
russw
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    john f.john f. Posts: 91member
    Yay.
    cgWerkscaladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 38
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 269member
    I’m a layman with basic knowledge here and I keep wondering how Apple is going to prevent malware from entering from external storage devices.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 38
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,057member
    Can you work directly off of media files on an external drive, rather than importing and exporting? Say in iMovie or Lumia Fusion. 

    MisterKit said:
    I’m a layman with basic knowledge here and I keep wondering how Apple is going to prevent malware from entering from external storage devices.
    The iPad USB stack is entirely in userspace, no OS access. So when you unplug it can't stay and infect the OS. 
    edited June 7 terrence1019caladanianfrantisekwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 38
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,291member
    MisterKit said:
    I’m a layman with basic knowledge here and I keep wondering how Apple is going to prevent malware from entering from external storage devices.
    Yeah this was the crux of the problem and the solution, preventing kernel access. Craig speaks about it in his WWDC interview w/ Daringfireball's John Gruber.
    russwterrence1019watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 38
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 989member
    The Author says that they wanted to push their iPad, yet it was plugged into power during testing.

    What and how many devices are supported on battery alone? 
  • Reply 6 of 38
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,036member
    hentaiboy said:
    The Author says that they wanted to push their iPad, yet it was plugged into power during testing.

    What and how many devices are supported on battery alone? 
    You won’t be using a hub without power.  So, one device (ssd/flash) that doesn’t require external power (at one time).
  • Reply 7 of 38
    vrfvrf Posts: 13member
    Can you test whether the iPad itself works as external storage? (Can I plug it into a desktop machine and copy files over without iTunes?) Happy about USB drives in Files, of course, just wondering if this important (for me) workflow has been addressed.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 38
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 253member, editor
    hentaiboy said:
    The Author says that they wanted to push their iPad, yet it was plugged into power during testing.
    Our battery was low and we wanted to show it could charge while using these devices. 
    edited June 7 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 38
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,797member
    Andrew, have you tried to click, or double click a file on one of those drives, and seen anything happen, such as its opening an appropriate app, or giving a list as we see in macOS?
    caladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 38
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,804member
    Is it possible how Files app works (if it does)  connecting to an SMB server, particularly can it be done on a wireless network, or even remotely?
  • Reply 11 of 38
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,563member
    Is there any way with the iOS 13 file software to force the iPad to keep file locally rather than deleting them whenever it feels appropriate?

    interesting to see how it worked with an iPhone, but external storage is much more useful for the iPad. The main use I could see with an iPhone is for media files. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 38
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,773administrator
    melgross said:
    Andrew, have you tried to click, or double click a file on one of those drives, and seen anything happen, such as its opening an appropriate app, or giving a list as we see in macOS?
    Finder connections to iOS devices are still a sync process. They don't behave like flash drives.

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/06/05/how-iphones-and-ipads-back-up-synchronize-with-ios-13-and-macos-catalina
    caladanianwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 38
    russwrussw Posts: 16member
    Good stuff, this could be a game changer.

    I'm interested in two use cases for photographers who travel and want to minimize size/weight but still want to backup and edit their images.

    1) Can I copy the contents of a SD card to a SSD drive using the iPad. This would be using Files, I assume, but maybe someone will come up with an app to make this better/smart so incremental copies will work as well. I'm using a RaspberryPi to do this right now- just uses rsync to sync files. 

    2) Did you test to see if Lightroom can work directly off attached storage (SSD drive, in my case)? Not just to edit a single image, more to do a quick select of images then edit.

    Russ
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 38
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,860member
    Sadly this functionality still isn’t what I’d like to see.    At least not ask understand it now.    For whatever reason Apple is very reluctant to give use the control over files that would take iPad to the next level.  

    On on the other hand maybe this is a sign that future iPads will have the capability to support SD cards.  I know that seems like a stretch but I have a hard time seeing how they can get any increase in iPad sales without honestly addressing professional needs.  A highly portable device needs a compact and highly portable way too address storage needs.  
  • Reply 15 of 38
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,860member
    melgross said:
    Andrew, have you tried to click, or double click a file on one of those drives, and seen anything happen, such as its opening an appropriate app, or giving a list as we see in macOS?
    Finder connections to iOS devices are still a sync process. They don't behave like flash drives.

    https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/06/05/how-iphones-and-ipads-back-up-synchronize-with-ios-13-and-macos-catalina
    I’m not sure I follow but looks like Apple still isn’t addressing storage in a mature way.    I’m already a bit behind following WWDC videos so maybe there is more to what is going on with external storage than I understand at the moment.  
  • Reply 16 of 38
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,291member
    wizard69 said:
    Sadly this functionality still isn’t what I’d like to see.    At least not ask understand it now.    For whatever reason Apple is very reluctant to give use the control over files that would take iPad to the next level.  

    On on the other hand maybe this is a sign that future iPads will have the capability to support SD cards.  I know that seems like a stretch but I have a hard time seeing how they can get any increase in iPad sales without honestly addressing professional needs.  A highly portable device needs a compact and highly portable way too address storage needs.  
    LOL, no, they are not, will not, be adding SD cards to the iPad. Onboard, network, and now USB storage is all you’re going to get. SD isn’t even “professional”. Why not CF? Nope, use a reader. 

    Still not the neckbeard’s device. Won’t ever be.  
    tmaymacpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 38
    "Desktop hard drives also connected without issue." I assume that means when I plug in my iPhone or iPad to my Windows PC at work, the PC hard drive will be recognized?
  • Reply 18 of 38
    mindwavesmindwaves Posts: 86member
    Personally, I don't care about connect SD cards to shy devices, although I know others will care a lot. I am very much a fan of the revamped Files app which will allow for a lot more capabilities.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 38
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,228moderator
    MisterKit said:
    I’m a layman with basic knowledge here and I keep wondering how Apple is going to prevent malware from entering from external storage devices.
    Yeah this was the crux of the problem and the solution, preventing kernel access. Craig speaks about it in his WWDC interview w/ Daringfireball's John Gruber.
    That's something they should bring back to the Mac. I've seen an SMB share over VPN kernel panic a Mac system repeatedly. It's one thing to have an unreliable and slow SMB implementation in macOS but to take the OS down and every open app with it, losing unsaved work, is pretty annoying. Keeping as much as possible away from the low-level parts of the system helps keep the OS stable.
  • Reply 20 of 38
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,773administrator
    "Desktop hard drives also connected without issue." I assume that means when I plug in my iPhone or iPad to my Windows PC at work, the PC hard drive will be recognized?
    That’s not what this means. What this means is that full-size 3.5 non-buspowered drives work.
    GeorgeBMacterrence1019watto_cobra
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