LAS VEGAS -- Maybe it isn't all about the hardware after all.
Seagate is updating its GoFlex Satellite, a wireless portable hard drive that sets up its own Wi-Fi hotspot for streaming multimedia to mobile devices. The updates are considerable and would seem to require adjustments to the hardware -- but thanks to some clever software tricks that's not necessary.
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The first major change is going to boost the battery life. Currently, the average battery life after a full charge lasts between four to five hours -- six if you're lucky, perhaps depending on a mixed use case.
With the upcoming firmware upgrade, users will be able to squeeze out roughly double that. Developers explained to me while at CES 2012 on Tuesday that this is possible as the software upgrade will involve a new feature that will temporarily bring over the file in use to the storage space available on the mobile device for streaming locally.
Yet, this should all be seamless and unknown to the user, and there shouldn't be any slow down times when transferring the files.
Of course, if the iPhone, iPad or Android device doesn't have any free space, the data won't be transferred, and the old battery life rate will stay put.
Another major conundrum that will be resolved is that the Satellite will now allow for users to connect to both the device and another Wi-Fi network at the same time. Previously, users would only be able to connect to the Satellite's emitting Wi-Fi connection.
However, as harmless that is for times when you don't necessarily need a Wi-Fi network (say, up in the air), that doesn't present much of a problem. But, when you do want to multi-task (i.e. streaming music from the 500GB-strong drive but also want to browse the web), you can't.
When the update is released, users can connect to the GoFlex Satellite under a specific "Satellite Drives" menu, while the Wi-Fi menu will be up for grabs as well.
I had a chance to review the GoFlex Satellite last May when the Seagate HDD was released. I was definitely pleased with how it worked and found that it really expanded media opportunities on my iPad, but this new functionality will definitely be welcome.
The firmware update and updates to the respective mobile apps are set to roll out for GoFlex Satellite drive owners this March.