With CES in full swing now, and the need for collaboration between our editing and blogging team with all the hundreds of pictures and videos everyone is taking, I was pleasantly surprised when our friends at Kingston let us try out their 16gb Wi-Drive. Essentially a USB flash drive with a wi-fi hotspot built in, this would allow everyone to share the same storage right from their phones. Labeled as iPhone/iPod only, their is also a beta Android app in the market that works surprisingly well, on top of the hidden ability to use it from any web browser on the network.
Battery: The Wi-Drive has a built-in rechargeable battery. I haven’t been able to find any specifics on the length of a single charge, but I haven’t been able to run it out yet.
Simplicity: This really couldn’t be any easier to use. Holding the power button turns it on, doing it again turns it off. That is the only thing you can physically do with the Wi-Drive. After jumping on the Wi-Drive hotspot, the app is very easy to use. You can even navigate to its IP address from any browser on the network, so accessing it from a laptop is just as easy as using a phone.
Configuration: The configuration options of the Wi-Drive are accessed either from the app, or from navigating to its IP on your network, exactly like you would configure a router. Once their, you can configure all your standard Wi-Fi options, including adding WEP/WPA security to it to prevent people from jumping onto it and tampering with your files.
Weight: Despite being essentially the same size as my phone, it is incredibly light, and wouldn’t be a burden at all to leave in your backpack all day.
Compatibility: The Wi-Drive is advertised as compatible only with Apple iOS devices. However, there is a Beta Android app in the Android Market that works fine.
Charger: Although not really a selling point, the Wi-Drive also comes with a 1.2amp USB wall charger. Not only does that charge the drive fast, it also charges whatever else you plug into fast. For comparison, computer USB ports charge at 0.5amps, most Android phones charge between 0.8 and 1amp, and iPhones charge at 1amp.
Connection Method: One fatal flaw that prevents the Wi-Drive from coming with me everywhere now is the fact that it uses Wi-Fi to connect to other devices. This causes a problem because if you’re phone is connected to the Wi-Drive, it no longer has a data connection. This means that anything besides calls and text messages are out of the question while connected to it. This is a big deal because using group chat apps like WhatsApp to collaborate with the rest of your team who isn’t with you is impossible while connected to it. I would have preferred Bluetooth, or at least a Bluetooth option. Also, it is limited to 3 concurrent connections at once, which seems a little low to me. This could potentially be raised in a future firmware upgrade, but right now it’s a little on the low side.
Size: While the Wi-Drive is very slim and lightweight, it is very big otherwise for being only 16gb (32gb model also available). I understand that they had to also cram a battery and Wi-Fi radio in it, but if you are trying to carry it around with you all the time without keeping it in a backpack or something, it basically becomes a second phone in your pocket.
Advertising: The fact that this is advertised as iOS only will definitely turn off the Android community who doesn’t know that it also works with their phones. Nowhere on the box does it say anything about Android, and the only reason I even knew it worked was the Kingston rep who told me their is a beta Android app in the works.
Price: Considering the fact that USB flash drives can be had for less than $1 a gigabyte now, it can be a little hard to justify spending $60+ on a 16gb drive. The 32gb model goes for between $90-100 depending on where you look.
USB Connection: This isn’t really a big deal, but it is slightly annoying. The Wi-Drive uses a Mini-USB connection to both charge, as well as connect to the computer to function as an external drive. I would have preferred a Micro-USB connection, because that is what I already use for my phone, and now I have to drag another cable around with me.
The Kingston Wi-Drive is definitely a handy thing to have if you are taking hours of video you need to offload from your phone, or want an extra music collection with you without having to worry about SD cards or streaming over your data connection. For teams of people that need a place to collaborate their information and consolidate it into a single place, the Wi-Drive could prove invaluable. It is super easy to use, and if you leave it in a bag, you will forget it’s their. However, the lack of a Bluetooth connection option means that you will be forfeiting your data connection in order to use it, which could be a deal breaker for some people. That aside, if you need a portable storage option that you can use between Android, iOS, and computers without the need for tricky dongle adapters, then the Wi-Drive is perfect.
You can check out the Wi-Drive here at Kingston’s website.