Flash-based storage extender for smartphones and tablets, but there’s a stodgy user interface to navigate
Travel for a while and your phone gets full. The Kingston Wi-Drive is designed to add to a phone’s storage capabilities, but there are a few niggles in Kingston’s implementation of this Flash-based storage extender that make it an accessory lacking in value.
Slim and sleek
The Wi-Drive is slim and sleek, arriving in a 122x62x10mm package that’s about the same size and style as an iPhone. Its small size, however, is its biggest weakness. Portable it might be, but at just 16GB or 32GB it doesn’t exactly open up a world of possibilities. With a movie likely to take-up around 1GB on average, that’s only about 16 movies on the smallest model.
Initial set-up for the Wi-Drive is simple. Charged up and connected to a PC or Mac using a (pointlessly long) one metre mini USB-to-USB cable, files can be dragged and dropped onto the device, though it’s best if you create three separate folders for music, movies, documents and photos.
Once disconnected, the Wi-Drive’s wireless connection needs to be activated by pressing a small green-lit LED button on the side; when the WiFi icon flashes blue, it’s broadcasting. Next, you download a free app called – you guessed it – Kingston Wi-Drive for iOS and Android. From the iPhone’s setting menu you’re can now locate the network created by the Wi-Drive. Once tuned in to it (you’ll need to come ‘off’ the WiFi network you’re already connected to), activate the app and – hey presto – you can access everything on the Wi-Drive.
During our test we had several instances of the connection between the two devices dropping out, and annoyingly the iPhone reverts to its ‘home’ WiFi network if it’s available. Entering and exiting the app and the iPhone’s settings menu proved tiresome. However, our main issue with the Wi-Drive is a software issue; the rudimentary way it presents the content is hard to get used to. Songs dragged from iTunes all have numbers, so all the opening tracks are grouped together.
In our test we managed to play MP3, AAC, M4A and WAV music files – the exact same files the iPhone is already familiar with. Unfortunately it’s not possible to re-route the audio to an Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth-equipped device (such as Apple TV or B&W’s Zeppelin). This is an app you’re using, not iTunes. And it shows. Though JPG, BMP and TIF photos are supported, we managed to play some MOV, MP4 and M4V files dragged from iTunes, but not AVI, MPEG and MKV files. PDFs, Word documents (including docx), plain text files, Powerpoint files (though only the newer .pptx extension) are supported, as well as EPUB files from a Wi-Drive, albeit with the help of iBooks to read them. MOBI and RTF files aren’t recognised.
In our tests we had no problem with multiple users; we managed to get three iPhones playing different content from the Wi-Drive, and a mix of 3G, 3GS and 4 models of iPhone (officially the Wi-Drive supports iPad, iPhone 3G/3GS/4 and iPod touch). Battery life is rated at around four hours.
The Wi-Drive is meant as a casual, basic and pretty temporary place to store a few dozen albums or enough movies for a few weeks away. As such, it works OK – but don’t expect a swish interface, or for this device to become a beloved iPhone accessory for an entire workgroup. Still, its A-Z obsession and complete lack of integration with iTunes aside, this gadget will serve its purpose on business trip where an iPhone’s built-in storage won’t cut it. However, with storage so cheap these days, the Wi-Drive ought to be far, far bigger – and much cheaper.