All of these products are aimed at giving iUsers more portable storage for their iDevices: namely, the iPhone and the iPad.
Like the others, the Kingston Wi-drive is being marketed as a Wifi hard drive for iPad – presumably, because nobody else would really need a wireless hard drive. But, I imagine that once it has marketed this product to the pioneers, that the rest of the world might start finding interesting uses for it outside of the iPad. For instance, putting hard drives into portable, battery-porwered modems and routers to create hotspots with a built-in NAS. A battery-powered NAS could be useful to ad-hoc project teams working on the road. Even if we end up putting things into ‘The Cloud’, we’ll still need to have local storage for when we’re disconnected.
For some unknown reason, Apple supports SD cards on their MacBook Air portables but not the iPad or the iPhone. Considering how convenient it is to stuff video, music, documents and other nonsense onto the iPhone/iPad, it seems criminal to hamper them with a 64GB ceiling. Enter the WiFi hard drive…
Kingston has based its wireless hard drive around flash memory technology, presumably to give it better portability and battery life. Unfortunately, they do not allow you to use your own flash memory. Had they provided a slot for you to insert your own SD cards, for example, they would have provided an infinitely upgradeable solution. I can imagine swapping out cards for family photos versus movies. Well, one can only dream… Instead, Kingston offers a built-in solution in a 16GB or 32GB configuration.
Battery life is purported to be 4 hours and the WiDrive is rechargeable via its mini-USB port. No proprietary AC adapter (yay!) This port also allows it to be tethered to a computer, so that you can drag and drop the files that you want to take with you on the road.
3 people can share the WiDrive at once. If you want to see a naff video that demonstrates this, watch here:
In order to actually use these files on your iPhone/iPad, you must download the WiDrive App from the iTunes App Store. The App allows you to view files in formats supported by iOS – nothing more, nothing less. What this means in practice is that you can store photos, movies and documents that adhere to iOS standards and view them from within the App.
What would really be cool is if you could make those files available to other Apps on the iPad device. For instance, if you have home movies that you don’t wish to convert to an iPad friendly format, it would be nice if you could send them to, say, AVPlayerHD – which is like the VLC of iPad.
Personally, I think that the WiDrive is a bit expensive for what it is. Had they allowed me to use my own storage cards, however, I would think differently.
Still, it’s a very sleek-looking device (rather like an iPhone) and ultraportable. No doubt, some people will find it just the thing they’ve been looking for.
[UPDATE March 2012]
I’ve been using this for awhile now and have a few observations. Because you must play content through the Wi-Drive app on the iPad, you are unable – unfortunately – to use Apple’s DRM. What this means in practice is that you cannot download a movie or TV rental to the Wi-Drive and hope to play it back later. These files must be loaded directly on the iPad to pass the DRM tests. Kingston could either build DRM capability into its App, or allow its App to transfer the file(s) in question over to the iPad to play – neither of which it can do at the moment. I would love to see this problem solved, as it makes a lot of sense to store these rentals on the side to save precious iPad storage space.
The four-hour battery time on the Wi-Drive is not a deal-breaker but frustrating in that you must remember to recharge this before you want to use it. Compare this to something like the Kindle which you can leave alone for a month, then pick up and use and put down again for another month, etc. This makes a device like the Kindle very practical for occasional and impromptu use. I know that the Kindle isn’t truly comparable in terms of functionality but my point is that it affects how the product fits into your daily life. The Wi-Drive isn’t really something you grab at a moment’s notice on a whim and hope to use whenever the fancy takes you. Instead, you must recharge it after every use, or else you’ll find yourself wanting to watch something and having the battery die on you in the middle of it.
The Wi-Drive App doesn’t recover well if you forget to setup your Network to support it first. For instance, if you start the App first – then realise that you forgot to set your network to the Wi-Drive, do so, and go back again – the App won’t see the drive. You’ll need to forcefully close down and restart the App for it to work. This is a minor irritation, as it introduces more steps. Also, you’ll find this very difficult to explain to a non-technical spouse, who’ll simply complain that it doesn’t work with screaming and upset kids in the car… while you’re a thousand miles away in the middle of a business meeting.
[UPDATE May, 2012: The AirStash is now our favourite WiFi hard drive device]