[UPDATE: This article was modified on April 12, 2012 to correct some errors after we received and tested our own AirStash]
Given that Apple refuses to allow users to easily attach flash memory to upgrade the storage capacity of its products, there have been many work-arounds. For example, the Kingston WiDrive, Seagate GoFlex Satellite and the Hypershop Hyperdrive. Up to now, our favourite was the Kingston WiDrive – read this to find out why. For DIYers there is also a way of connecting an SD Flash card to the iPad via the Apple Connection Kit. However, it’s not particularly user-friendly.
Our favourite device is now the AirStash. The A02 is the second generation model. Wearable, the manufacturers of AirStash, has learnt some valuable lessons from their competition – particularly from Kingston. Whereas the Kingston is a large, flat WiFi flash drive with only a 4 hour battery life, Wearable (distributed by Maxell) has put theirs into a much smaller form-factor (a chunky stick) and given it a battery life of 7 hours (up to 9 hours reported by some users in the field – depending upon usage). The rechargeable battery inside the device takes 2 hours to fully charge from USB power.
Like the Kingston, the Airstash is based on flash memory and uses an App on your iOS device to stream movies, or upload documents and photos. It also uses WiFi and its App to get around Apple’s restrictions. Unlike the WiDrive, the Airstash uses removable SD cards as its storage medium. This gives you maximum flexibility, as you can easily swap out cards with different amounts of storage. In other words, the AirStash storage capacity is unlimited.
As an added bonus, you can plug your camera’s SD card into the back of the Airstash and immediately upload your photos to your iOS device. At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal – especially when Apple provides the Camera Connection Kit with SD card reader for the iPad. However, the Apple Connection kit only supports SDHC cards (which currently go up to only a 32GB capacity). By contrast, the Airstash supports SDXC cards (see below), which currently come in 64GB & 128GB capacities. This means you can use your high performance SDXC card in your camera and still use it on your iPad via AirStash.
The AirStash is compatible with Android and, indeed, with any device that has a browser. Once connected to the AirStash WiFi network, pointing your browser to the following URL – http://airstash.net – will list the contents of the AirStash with clickable links.
A nice feature of the Airstash is that it has a USB connector which has dual-use: it can be used to recharge your Airstash’s built-in rechargeable battery and you can drag-and-drop content from your computer to the Airstash, so it will become available to your iOS device. Unfortunately, when it is plugged into a computer it cannot be used as a WiFi server at the same time. You must choose between flash disk and WiFi iOS storage modes.
If you’ve never used a WiFi storage device with your iPad or iPhone, this is how it works:
- Turn on your WiFi storage device.
- Wait a minute, then open your ‘Settings’ App. Go to the WiFi section and connect to the device’s SSID (this effectively connects you to the WiFi drive’s network, disconnecting you from other networks)
- Open the special streaming App on your iOS device. Once it finds your WiFi drive, click to play/view content
At the moment, we can confirm that the AirStash can be used to store iTunes DRM content that you have purchased from Apple. When you click on a DRM item within the AirStash App, it opens the content in Safari – which handles the DRM authentication. We have not yet tested this with rented DRM content. We are assuming that this will work but we’d like to know if you can do so while not connected to the Internet. This is something that the Kingston WiDrive cannot do.
However, the Airstash cuts you off from the Internet when you connect to it – unlike the Kingston WiDrive which prevents this from happening by letting you program it to act as a pass-through router. In effect, the WiDrive connects to the Internet, so that when you connect to it you don’t lose your Internet connection. Wearable claims to be working on a patch/upgrade to resolve this problem (see the comment below).
We ordered a 16GB Airstash for the office, which came with a 16GB SD card. The amount of storage that the AirStash can hold, depends upon the technology of the SD card itself. Here is what the manufacturer claims:
- For SD cards (up to 2GB), follow the instructions here: http://support.airstash.com/entries/177857
- For SDHC cards (4GB to 32GB), follow the instructions here: http://support.airstash.com/entries/177857
- (MUST FOLLOW) For SDXC cards (64GB to 2TB), follow the instructions here: http://support.airstash.com/entries/20174151
For more information, check out the Airstash Website.