There continues to be a market for Lighting external storage adapters despite the ever-increasing capacity of iPhones and iPads, which serve not only for adding more storage for photos and videos but also as a means to transfer data between devices. While we’re not seeing as many new external storage devices as we did a couple fo years ago, new ones do appear on the scene once a while, and Naztech’s Xtra Drive Mini is the latest of these. It’s a small aluminum flash drive with a USB connector on one end and a Lighting connector on the other that takes Micro SD memory cards rather than relying on internal storage.
Xtra Drive Mini comes with a 16 GB Micro SD card in the package to get you started, but it supports card capacities of up to 256 GB if you’re willing to supply your own. These cards are also easily swappable so that you can use one Xtra Drive Mini with multiple cards. A key ring is attached with a very short chain, and a clear plastic cap covers the Lighting port which is also attached to the chain to keep it from getting lost. It’s an attractive and minimalist design that reminds us of Kingston’s DataTraveller Bolt Duo that we looked at last year, although Naztech’s flash drive has the keychain and cover directly attached rather than including a separate case. A blue LED at the base of the Lightning port flashes when data access is occurring over either the Lighting or USB ports.
Sadly, as with all iOS external flash drives, you’ll need to use Naztech’s own Xtra Drive Mini app to communicate with the device — Apple’s own Files app is only good for cloud storage providers, although we’re still crossing our fingers that maybe iOS 12 will finally bring unified flash drive support to the mix. Naztech’s app provides the usual mix of functionality, presenting you with a view of the app’s on-device storage and the storage of the connected Xtra Drive Mini. You can tap on the main circle to browser your iOS photo library and selectively copy photos to the flash drive, or drag-and-drop the upper circle to the lower one to backup all of your iOS photos. Folder icons for both internal and external storage allow you to browse by media type — photos, videos, music, or documents — or simply display a standard file browser view of all content on the device.
The app also provides the ability to “lock” files with a password, which appears to employ some kind of rudimentary encryption. You’ll be prompted for the password when attempting to view the files through the Xtra Drive Mini app, however you’ll lose the ability to access it from the USB port on your Mac or PC. The Xtra Drive Mini app also shows up on the standard iOS share sheet, allowing you to transfer files into the app from just about any other app, although this will save the file to the app’s internal storage, requiring you to then open the app and transfer it to the flash drive as a separate step — a cumbersome workaround that’s sadly common to just about every external flash drive we’ve looked at. Like most third-party flash drive apps, Naztech’s app is far from elegant and isn’t as intuitive as we’d like, but it does get the job done, and we were especially pleased by how versatile it is — you can back up photos and videos, create folders and organize files into them, create text files, view supported file types directly in the app, and open unsupported file types in any other apps that support the share sheet’s “Open in” functionality.
In terms of performance for transferring files, Xtra Drive Mini is about average. Unlike Kingston’s Bolt, Xtra Drive Mini isn’t USB 3.0, which will result in slower data transfer speeds on your Mac or PC. Performance over Lightning doesn’t suffer as dramatically — it’s not like we’ve ever seen USB 3.0 speeds over a Lightning connection anyway — but it does come in at only a little over half the speed of Kingston’s flash drive, with a transfer rate of about 4 MB per second. For example, a single 650 MB video file took just under two minutes to transfer, while 49 photos totalling 63 MB took about 17 seconds. Note that we only tested Xtra Drive Mini with the bundled 16 GB Micro SD card; it’s possible a higher-speed card might improve transfer performance. Further, with each flash drive requiring its own app, it’s also impossible to know for certain whether transfer performance is a function of the hardware or processing overhead in each individual app. It’s also worth noting that the Xtra Drive Mini app transfers photos and videos in their original formats, so if you’re using iOS 11 you’re going to end up with HEIC and HEVC files on their flash drive.
While we still believe the demand for external flash drives for iOS devices is diminishing, Naztech’s Xtra Drive Mini is a good solution for users of lower-capacity iPhones who want to be able to carry a lot of photos or videos with them, as well as those who have a regular need to move data between their iOS devices and a PC or Mac. The hardware is well designed, however the app, although very capable, could use a great deal more polish. The price also gives us a bit of a pause, since for $60 you’re only getting 16 GB of storage — half that offered by Kingston’s Bolt or Leef’s iBridge at the same price; however the pricing becomes much more competitive if you’re looking to increase the storage, since you can easily pick up 128 GB and 256 GB Micro SD cards on Amazon for quite a bit less than higher capacity Lightning flash drives with built-in storage. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Bolt is still strictly a solution for backing up photos and videos while Naztech’s app offers a great deal more versatility.