3 Ways to Expand Your Smartphone with More Storage Space

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Iogear MediaShair Hub

You know the old saying: You can never be too rich or too thin. These days I would tack on a third axiom: You can never have too much storage.

Most smartphone owners discover this upon stuffing their devices with apps, games, photos, music, and especially video, which can chew through your 16GB or 32GB of onboard storage in short order. Suddenly it’s clear there’s not nearly enough space.

Owners of a select few Android phones can add more by way of microSD cards, but not many of the most popular new models include that desirable option. (I’m not sure why; expandability was always one of Android’s selling points, yet even flagship phones like the Google Nexus 5 and HTC One M8 don’t offer a microSD slot.)

Fortunately, even so-called “unexpandable” phones can find extra breathing room by leveraging external products and services. Here are three ways to expand your smartphone’s available storage.

1. The Cloud

Bitcasa Infinite DriveIf you’re old-school (or, like me, just old), you’re probably accustomed to keeping all your media–documents, photos, videos, perhaps even your entire music library–on your phone.

Time to rethink that method. While your phone has finite space for that ever-expanding collection of stuff, we now live in a cloud-powered world, where space is copious and cheap.

Indeed, most of better-known cloud services (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.) integrate nicely with mobile phones (by way of apps, natch), allowing you to upload files to your account so you can free up extra space on your device. What’s more, they can stream media as well (though some are better at this than others). So if you have, say, movies you want to watch on the go, drop them into your cloud account, then stream them on-demand to your phone–without actually keeping them on your phone.

You might also consider ditching your music library altogether in favor of Google Play, Rhapsody, Spotify, or another flat-rate music service. Instead of trying to cram a 20GB collection onto your phone, you get to stream all the music you want from the cloud–no extra storage required.

Obviously all this is dependent on having a live, reasonably high-speed Internet connection. But, day to day, most of us do. So consider leveraging the cloud as a place to offload space-hogging mobile data.

2. Flash Drives

Silicon Power Mobile X10In an ideal world, you could expand any smartphone just by plugging in a flash drive (preferably a tiny one like this). Sorry, iPhone users: You’re flat out of luck (though see the next tip for an alternative).

Android users, on the other hand, can take advantage of USB On-the-Go (USB OTG for short), an option that’s baked into most current Android phones. In a nutshell, USB OTG allows your device to recognize external drives plugged into the microUSB port.

For starters, use an app like USB OTG Checker to see if your phone supports the capability.

Next, shop for a flash drive that has a microUSB connector (or, if you prefer, a microSD reader like the Meenova, which runs just $12). One random example: the Silicon Power Mobile X10, a 32GB USB OTG drive that’s currently selling for $16.99.

Finally, find USB OTG-compatible Android apps, which you’ll need in order to copy files to and from the drive, play music, view photos, and so on. One popular pick is ES File Explorer.

3. Wireless Media Hubs

Apotop Wi-CopyIf you’re not wild about the idea of a drive sticking out the bottom of your phone, or you have a phone that doesn’t even support that option, all is not lost: You can accomplish more or less the same thing with a wireless media hub.

These little gizmos let you BYO storage (memory cards and USB drives), but without the need for a physical tether to your device. I’ve tried a handful of them, and all worked surprisingly well on both Android phones and iPhones.

I recommend checking out the Apotop Wi-Copy, Iogear MediaShair Hub, and Kingston MobileLite Wireless. I’m partial to the MediaShair (currently $55 on Amazon), which can read both SD cards and USB drives, double as a mobile access point, and triple as a mobile charger.

What’s especially cool is that you can “serve” this wireless storage to multiple devices at a time, great if everyone in the backseat wants to watch their own movie on their own phone or tablet.

Of the three options here, wireless media hubs offer the most versatility. If you’re short on smartphone (or tablet) storage, I highly recommend giving one a try.

Photo credits: IoGear, Bitcasa, Silicon Power, Apotop

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