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Add iOS storage without the Apple storage tax

I don't often begrudge Apple its 40 percent gross margins - but their extortionate storage pricing is too much. They charge up to $2/GB when SSDs are $0.25/GB. But now there's a workaround for iOS: the PhotoFast CR8800.

The CR8800 is a tiny Lightning connected microSD card reader that works with a PhotoFast iOS app, i-FlashDrive ONE. The app enables you to transfer files between the microSD card and your iPhone or iPad. PhotoFast gave me one to try out. Here's what I found.

Hardware

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The card reader is about half the size of an average USB thumb drive, thanks to the small Lightning connector and the tiny microSD card. There are plenty of Lightning card readers, but this one is so tiny watching a movie with it on isn't a hassle.

It's also reasonably fast: I transferred a 500MB file in about 18 seconds from a 16GB microSDHC card onto my iPhone 6 Plus.

Software

Because iOS does not expose the file system to users, moving files around with the app is clunkier than if you were working with a PC. But if you need to free up a lot of capacity it is easy to back your photos from the ONE app: just press the Backup Photos button and choose Backup.

You can also move files from the microSD card into iOS apps. Select the file, click Share, choose Internal, and then select the app you want to open the file.

Or you can move files from the microSD card into the ONE internal storage. I moved a video file into the app's internal storage and played it directly from there - no need to move it into the Video app.

Ease of use

PhotoFast has a short YouTube video that runs through all the options quickly, as well as an FAQ that covers the same ground. If you're new to iOS or have never used external storage with it the few minutes it takes to review them will save you much frustration.

The Storage Bits take

Since I've been working with file systems for almost 40 years, I'm not thrilled with how iOS handles files. But I can see using this with my iPhone and iPad Mini to expand storage on both of them.

In order to get the device so small, PhotoFast did not include a standard USB connector either. So moving files between Lightning devices works well, but from a Mac or PC it doesn't. If you don't care about size there are large readers that have both Lightning and USB connectors.

You can buy a 128GB microSD card for as little as $35 online. That's a lot of capacity for not much dough.

As for me, I'll continue to buy 16GB devices, knowing I can add capacity for a lot less than Apple charges. That feels good.

Hey, Apple: charge for the cool stuff you do, not commodity storage.

Comments welcome, as always. When buying flash online, beware of prices too good to be true: there are a lot of counterfeit products online and vendors who lie. Read the negative reviews.