If the iPad Pro is to become a true replacement for a PC, Apple needs to give users greater access to their own data.
I understand why iOS didn’t initially come with a file manager along the lines of Finder in OS X or Windows Explorer in Windows. Apple wanted iOS to be a simple alternative to PCs and Macs, and one way to achieve that was to lock users out from snooping around the file system.
But times have changed, and as Apple is now pushing the iPad Pro as a true PC replacement, it’s perhaps time to remove this arbitrary limitation. Specifically, I’d like to see Apple add a file manager to iOS that allowed me access to external USB drives connected to the device.
Right now, all that Apple offers are a Lightning to USB 3.0 Camera Adapter, and a Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader. The key word in the descriptions of both of these devices is “camera,” and that’s because they only support the transfer of photographs and video via the Photos app. The Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter does support USB peripherals like hubs, Ethernet adapters, audio/MIDI interfaces, but the support for file and document transfer is again oddly absent.
Over the years I’ve tried – and failed – to replace my PCs with an iPad. Initially, I found myself emailing files back and forth between devices, which not only was a chore but it made losing data a real possibility. Then iCloud came on the scene, which admittedly made things easier, but it’s still far from being a perfect solution. The main drawback is that it relies on an internet connection, which, in turn, puts an upper limit of file sizes you can realistically move about.
Also, when the internet goes down, work comes to an end.
I understand why Apple might be reluctant to bake support for external storage drives into its devices. After all, making external storage easy to use takes away the biggest push that encourages potential owners to buy devices with greater storage. But Apple’s chosen to call its new iPad the iPad Pro, and position it as a tool that can take over from a PC. As such, maybe this is one time where Apple needs to curtail its desire to upsell cheap storage for big bucks and give the device the flexibility it needs to get the job done.
Now that the iPad Pro has support for USB 3.0, the Lightning interface is now fast enough to allow the device to transfer files to and from flash drives and external USB drives. Extending that support to include networked storage drives would also be welcomed, and it would allow the iPad to grow beyond the limitations imposed on it by iCloud and become a true alternative to a PC.