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Best External USB-C Storage Options for iPhone and iPad « iOS & iPhone :: Gadget Hacks



If you bought an iPhone or iPad equipped with USB-C but didn’t max out the local storage, there are some great external storage solutions beyond iCloud and other cloud storage services. And now that the iPhone lineup comes with USB-C ports, you have better-performing external drives available to you than anything you could ever get for a Lightning-based model.

The lowest built-in storage capacity on the iPhone 15 lineup is 128 GB, and that storage can quickly dwindle to nothing when you download content for offline use, such as podcast and TV show episodes, movies, and even maps. The cloud isn’t helpful in these cases, and these types of items can’t normally be stored on external drives, but external drives can be used for photos, videos, and other items accessible in the Files app.

An external drive is a must-have if you use your iPad like a regular computer or plan on shooting ProRes video with the iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max. It’s also great for holding large files, such as PSDs, which can get up to 2 GB each, and PSBs, which can get insanely large in Photoshop. And it’s good for just keeping backups of your photos or videos for safekeeping or to share with others.

Quick List:

Things to Consider:

To keep things simple, we’re focusing solely on external storage devices for iPhone and iPad models with USB-C ports. However, many of the external drives listed below should work with Lightning ports as long as you have the right cables and adapters.

1. Data Transfer Speeds

  • The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max support up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds with USB 3.2, and so does the iPad Air (5th generation) and some iPad Pro models. Newer iPad Pro models with USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3 support up to 40 Gbps. The iPad Air (4th generation) and iPad mini (6th generation) only go up to 5 Gbps. And the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus and iPad (10th generation) top out at up to 480 Mbps data transfer speeds with USB 2.0. So, consider your device’s maximum speed for reading and writing when purchasing an external drive.
  • To get higher transfer speeds between your iPhone or iPad and your external drive, you’ll want to make sure your USB-C cable is rated for higher speeds. For example, the USB-C cable that comes with the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus is good enough since the cable supports USB 2.0, but the same cable comes with the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. For faster transfers, you’ll want a USB-C cable that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 or USB 3.2 Gen 2. The external drive you chose may come with such a cable, but you can also go with an Apple Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) Pro Cable (1 m) for $69, which supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds of up to 10 Gbps and up to 40 Gbps for Thunderbolt. Generic cables are available for less.

2. ProRes Video Recording on iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max

  • If you plan to capture video in ProRes, you’ll most definitely want an external drive to record directly to since one minute of 10-bit HDR footage at 30 frames per second (fps) is about 1.7 GB at 1080p and 6 GB at 4K resolution. With just 128 GB of internal storage on an iPhone 15 Pro, at least 30 GB of which you should assume will go toward iOS software and system data, it would only take 16 minutes of 4K video to almost deplete your internal storage.
  • ProRes recording requires write speeds of 220 MB/s or more. If you have an iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max and plan on recording straight to an external drive, the drive must support write speeds of at least 220 MB/s, or you’ll see a “Slow Recording Speed” warning in your camera app. To keep things simple, all the storage devices below will support ProRes recording.

3. External Power Supplies

  • Since USB-C-equipped iPhone and iPad models support reverse wired charging with up to 4.5 watts output, all the external solid-state drives (SSDs) below should work without an additional external power source.

4. Formatting

  • Only external drives with a single data partition will work with an iPhone or iPad. So, resist the temptation to create multiple partitions.
  • Whatever external drive you get must be formatted as APFS, APFS (encrypted), macOS Extended (HFS+), exFAT (FAT64), FAT32, or FAT.
  • If you plan on recording ProRes video directly to the drive, it must be formatted as APFS or exFAT and can’t be password encrypted.

Option 1: Crucial X10 Pro Portable

The Crucial X10 Pro Portable is Micron’s newest portable SSD. This model can get you up to 20 Gbps transfer speeds, but the fastest iPhone and iPad transfer speeds over USB are up to 10 Gbps. Still, it’s worth going above and beyond if you ever plan on connecting the drive to a computer that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.

You can expect the drive to be formatted with exFAT out of the box, which means you can start recording ProRes video right away without having to reformat. If you need to encrypt your data, that’s an option. While it’s not the most durable drive on this list, it comes with some dust and water resistance, which many external SSDs don’t even offer, and decent protection against falls.

The X10 Pro comes in 1 TB ($119.99), 2 TB ($184.99), and 4 TB ($299.99) models.

If the price is too steep and you’re perfectly fine with up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, the previous generation, the X9 Pro, would be more than enough for you. It comes in the same storage options: 1 TB ($99.99), 2 TB ($159.89), and 4 TB ($259.99). All of these are preformatted in exFAT, but the X9 Pro also has a Mac-specific one that comes in 1 TB ($109.99) and 4 TB ($289.99) with APFS set up.

Image via Micron

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 2,100 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
  • 2,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Pros

  • IP55 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection up to 7.5 feet on a carpeted floor
  • Shock and vibration resistance
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • It’s a little pricey
  • No USB-A cable adapter

More Info

  • 3D TLC NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes USB-C cable
  • Anodized aluminum enclosure with a rubberized soft-touch base
  • Integrated lanyard hole
  • 2.56 x 1.97 x 0.39 inches

Option 2: Crucial X9 Portable

If you don’t need the pro-friendly specs on the Crucial X10 Pro or X9 Pro lineups, Micron’s Crucial X9 Portable is still a very good option for your iPhone or iPad. It maxes out at 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, which is all you need. But it uses 3D QLC NAND memory instead of TLC NAND, so it may not perform as well or last as long as the Pro models, which is probably why you only get a three-year warranty instead of five years.

Like the X10 Pro, the X9 has decent protection against accidental drops, but that’s all you’re getting in terms of durability. It comes preformatted with exFAT, so you can start recording ProRes video out of the box.

There are 1 TB ($84.99), 2 TB ($129.89), and 4 TB ($239.99) models you can choose from, and the prices will give you the best value over the other drives on this list.

Image via Micron

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 1,050 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1
  • 800 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1

Pros

  • Drop protection up to 7.5 feet on a carpeted floor
  • Shock and vibration resistance
  • Least expensive drive on this list
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • No IP dust/water resistance rating
  • 3D QLC NAND memory
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • No USB-A cable adapter

More Info

  • Includes USB-C cable
  • PC/ABS plastic enclosure
  • Integrated lanyard hole
  • 2.56 x 1.97 x 0.39 inches

Option 3: SanDisk Professional PRO-G40

If you have a newer iPad Pro model that supports Thunderbolt 3, Western Digital’s SanDisk Professional PRO-G40 SSD can get you up to 40 Gbps data transfer speeds. However, the drive’s USB-C connection will also clock in at up to 10 Gbps transfer speeds on other iPad models and the iPhone 15 series lineup. Still, with the inclusion of both Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C, it’s the most versatile drive on the list for getting the highest speeds on different types of devices.

The PRO-G40 SSD is also a very rugged device. It’s the only drive on this list that’s IP68-rated for water and dust resistance and can withstand up to 4,000 pounds. It also has a higher drop protection rating than Crucial’s models. Another highlight is that it’s preformatted with the APFS file system, so it will work out of the box with ProRes video recording.

While versatile, these drives are the most expensive on this list with 1 TB ($179.99), 2 TB ($259.99), or 4 TB ($399.99) models. If you don’t need Thunderbolt 3 data transfers, you can probably get by using any of the other drives on this list.

Image via Western Digital

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 3,000 MB/s read via Thunderbolt 3
  • 2,500 MB/s write via Thunderbolt 3
  • 1,050 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1
  • 1,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1

Pros

  • Only drive on this list that supports Thunderbolt and USB
  • IP68 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection up to 9.8 feet on a carpeted floor
  • 4,000 lbs crush resistance
  • Cooling aluminum core
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Preformatted in APFS

Cons

  • Bulkiest drive on this list
  • Most expensive drive on this list
  • No hardware-based encryption
  • No USB-A cable adapter

More Info

  • TLC NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • Aluminum enclosure with silicone base
  • 4.37 x 2.28 x 0.47 inches

Option 4: SanDisk Extreme Portable

If you’re looking for something a little more durable than the Crucial X10 Pro but cheaper than SanDisk’s PRO-G40, the SanDisk Extreme Portable is a good compromise. It has better drop protection ratings than Crucial’s devices and is the only SSD besides the SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable to have ratings for shock and vibration resistance. It’s also rated IP65 against dust and water.

Like the Crucial X9, it maxes out at 10 Gbps data transfer speeds — more than enough for any iPad or iPhone. You can also encrypt your data if you want. It comes preformatted with exFAT to shoot ProRes out of the box. And it also happens to be reasonably priced all around with 500 GB ($88.60), 1 TB ($99), 2 TB ($155.95), and 4 TB ($246.99) models.

Image via Western Digital

Specs

  • 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 1,050 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1
  • 1,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1

Pros

  • IP65 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection up to 9.8 feet on a carpeted floor
  • Shock resistant up to 1,500g
  • Vibration resistant up to 5 gRMS, 10–2,000 Hz
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Preformatted in ExFAT

Cons

  • SanDisk had to push out firmware updates to address data loss issues
  • No seal over USB port

More Info

  • TLC NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes USB-C cable and USB-C to USB-A adapter
  • Durable silicone shell
  • Integrated carabiner hole
  • 3.97 x 2.07 x 0.38 inches

Option 5: SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable

The SanDisk Extreme Pro is everything that the SanDisk Extreme is but with the faster USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 speeds that you can’t actually take advantage of on an iPad or iPhone. If you plan on connecting the drive to a device that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, you’ll want this model over the non-pro one. Another leg-up it has on its sibling is the cooling aluminum chassis, so the drive won’t run as hot.

However, the Extreme Pro is more expensive, with 1 TB ($112.99), 2 TB ($204.99), and 4 TB ($319.99) models. Other than the things just mentioned, the features of the Extreme Pro are comparable to the Extreme.

Image via Western Digital

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 2,000 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
  • 2,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Pros

  • IP65 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection up to 9.8 feet on a carpeted floor
  • Shock resistant up to 1,500g
  • Vibration resistant up to 5 gRMS, 10–2,000 Hz
  • Cooling aluminum chassis
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • SanDisk had to push out firmware updates to address data loss issues
  • No seal over USB port

More Info

  • 3D TLC NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables
  • Forged aluminum chassis with silicone shell
  • Integrated carabiner hole
  • 4.34 x 2.26 x 0.4 inches

Option 6: Kingston XS2000

The best thing the Kingston XS2000 has going for it is its size. As you can see in the picture, it’s small enough to slide into the little pocket in a pair of jeans, but this small size also inflates the price, making it the third-most expensive drive on this list overall. It’s also not quite as portable as a flash drive since you still need a USB-C cable to connect to devices.

It has limited dust and water resistance with an IP55 rating, and it lists drop protection and shock resistance as features, though Kingston doesn’t provide any actual numbers for those. But it comes preformatted with exFAT, so you can start recording ProRes video out of the box.

The XS2000 takes advantage of USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 speeds, but that’s only useful if you connect it to a device that supports the interface. You can choose between a 500 GB ($74.99), 1 TB ($114.99), 2 TB ($192.99), and 4 TB ($349.99) model.

Image via Kingston

Specs

  • 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 2,000 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
  • 2,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Pros

  • IP55 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection with included rubber sleeve
  • Shock resistant
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • No hardware-based encryption
  • Sustained write speeds tend to be lower than advertised
  • No USB-A cable adapter

More Info

  • 3D TLC NAND memory
  • Includes rubber sleeve and 12-inch USB-C cable
  • Metal and plastic body
  • 2.74 x 1.28 x 0.53 inches

Option 7: Samsung T9 Portable

If you’re looking for an encryption-ready drive with 20 Gbps data transfer speeds of USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 that you can take advantage of on devices beyond your iPhone or iPad (which max out at 10 Gbps), the Samsung T9 SSD Portable is a great option. Samsung has even performed tests with the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max to ensure it’s capable of having ProRes video recorded directly to it.

It has Samsung’s Dynamic Thermal Guard cooling to keep the drive’s temperature healthy and a high drop protection rating. However, there is no IP rating for this SSD, so it’s riskier to have around liquids and dusty environments. The latter is significant since the rubberized frame easily captures dust and dirt.

While it looks relatively small in the picture below, it’s actually the second bulkiest drive in this list, just below the SanDisk PRO-G40. The T9 SSD comes in 1 TB ($109.99), 2 TB ($199.99), and 4 TB ($299.99) models, which are all pretty much priced in the middle of everything else in this list.

Image via Samsung

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 2,000 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
  • 1,950 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

Pros

  • Drop protection up to 9.8 feet
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard cooling
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption
  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Tested by Samsung to work with ProRes 4K at 60 fps
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • No IP dust/water resistance rating
  • Surface can capture dust/dirt/debris

More Info

  • TLC V-NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables
  • Rubberized frame with curved diagonal lines and reverse carbon pattern
  • 3.46 x 2.36 x 0.55 inches

Option 8: Samsung T7 Shield

Another solid Samsung encryption-ready option is the Samsung T7 Shield SSD. It’s not as fast as the Samsung T9, but it’s more than fast enough for what your iPhone or iPad needs. Like the T9, Samsung ensures the T7 Shield works with ProRes video recording, and it works out of the box since it’s preformatted in exFAT.

It also has Dynamic Thermal Guard cooling and a high drop protection rating, but it surpasses the T9 in terms of durability since it’s rated IP65 against dust and water. It’s the third biggest external SSD on this list in terms of physical size, but it’s reasonably priced. Your options include 1 TB ($109.99), 2 TB ($152), and 4 TB ($249.99) models

Image via Samsung

Specs

  • 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB models
  • 1,050 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1
  • 1,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1

Pros

  • IP65 dust/water resistance
  • Drop protection up to 9.8 feet
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard cooling
  • 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption
  • Tested by Samsung to work with ProRes 4K at 60 fps
  • Preformatted in exFAT

Cons

  • Somewhat large compared to other drives in this list
  • 3-year limited warranty

More Info

  • TLC V-NAND memory
  • Supports NVMe
  • Includes USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables
  • Aluminum body with rubber cover
  • 3.46 x 2.32 x 0.51 inches

Option 9: ADATA Elite UE800

The last drive in our list is the smallest one. The ADATA Elite UE800 flash drive is less than half the size of the next smallest drive, the Kingston XS2000, and the USB-C plug is built right into the housing, so you don’t have to lug around a cable. The plug can even be hidden to protect it in your pocket or wherever you might keep it. However, the casing can be flimsy, and you get zero protection against dust, water, and drops.

The Elite UE800 can reach up to 10 Gbps data transfer speeds, but it’s preformatted in FAT32, so you’ll need to reformat the drive in APFS or exFAT if you plan on recording any ProRes video to it. The flash drive comes in 1 TB ($89.99) and 2 TB ($139.99) models.

Image via ADATA

Specs

  • 1 TB and 2 TB models
  • 1,000 MB/s read via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1
  • 1,000 MB/s write via USB 3.2 Gen 2×1

Pros

  • Smallest form factor on this list
  • USB-C plug can be hidden for protection
  • 5-year limited warranty

Cons

  • No IP dust/water resistance rating
  • No hardware-based encryption
  • The push button may not last very long
  • Preformatted in FAT32

More Info

  • NAND memory
  • Metal body
  • Capless sliding connector
  • Integrated lanyard hole
  • 2.87 x 0.84 x 0.35 inches




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