While I find it fantastically helpful to have a couple gigs up in the cloud, there are still times I need to have access to files locally. I might need files which are too large to wait for a download, or I might need to easily share files with a couple users around me. I might just be in poor coverage without access to WiFi. For as good as our cloud solutions have gotten, I find I often still resort to “sneaker-net” to move files back and forth between different computers.
This gets even more complicated when I want to interact with a file on a mobile device, especially those pesky iOS devices which lack proper file managers. You can’t just load up a movie file on an iPhone while out and about for example. Plugging your iPhone or iPad into a proper computer and dragging a file over without iTunes means that file wont show up in any of the apps on your iDevice. Sure, there are other workarounds, funnily enough using iCloud for instance, but none have the simplicity of a point to point transfer.
Kingston was kind enough to send over a MobileLite Wireless Flash Reader for me to play with. The dream of the MobileLite is to create a local wireless storage solution for multiple devices to utilize. Specifically up to three devices can log in and share the info on either an SDXC Memory Card or USB Flash Memory Drive.
MobileLite is a small grey/black brick about the size of two iPhone 5’s stacked on top of each other. It’s fairly light at 98 grams, and it comes with a USB cable to charge MobileLite using a computer or AC Adapter. Kingston also includes a MicroSD card adapter for those of you which pull Micro cards out of your phones, cameras, tablets, etc…
Operation is simple enough, you fire up MobileLite, and it creates its own WiFi hotspot. Using the iOS or Android app, users can connect to that hotspot, and will see a file manager. That file manager is divided into two sections, files on your phone/tablet and files on the MobileLite. The files on the MobileLite are further divided to organize files on the SD Card and files on the USB Flash Drive (if you have both connected).
Throughput is very good. Streaming all but the highest quality Blu-Ray rips was a smooth experience free from all but the occasional bout of buffering, and MobileLite was able to handle multiple video feeds to my phone, my Nexus 7, and my Wife’s iPad with a minimum of lag, though at that point it did feel like we were pushing MobileLite to its limits. Audio files were cake, and it chewed through pics with zero issues.
The app isn’t the prettiest piece of software I’ve ever used, but most file managers usually aren’t any way. What mattered to me was that it was functional, and I found it supremely easy to interact with files saved on MobileLite with both Android and iOS. Like I said above, that’s no small feat considering how locked down iOS can be. The app allows for uploading from the iOS Camera Roll as well, which is very helpful for those times you might run out of storage on your phone, like say when you’re on vacation. For those on Laptops, MobileLite will broadcast as a network storage device, and I was able to log into it using my Windows 8 PC.
Thankfully, MobileLite can also function as a bridge, so if there’s WiFi internet connectivity around, you can log onto it with MobileLite, then share that connection with a phone or tablet. This is crucial as mobile devices, even laptops, can not connect to multiple sources at once. This was a smart play by Kingston so users could preserve their data connection while accessing a MobileLite.
Kingston estimates around five hours of use streaming content on MobileLite. Watching movies on two devices at the same time, my usage seemed to be fairly close to their estimate. On the whole, it would be just about enough runtime to watch a couple movies on a cross country flight.
Lastly, speaking of the battery, the MobileLite also features the handy trick of acting as a back up battery for your phone. On board is an 1800 mAh battery which powers the WiFi radio, but in a pinch you can use that juice to power up your handset. Definitely a handy little feature for the mobile warrior on the go.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with MobileLite. It’s refreshing to see such a polished experience for a first generation product. If I had any tweaks for a gen 2, I’d like to see a larger battery, and perhaps the ability to use Kingston’s fantastic Compact Flash cards for those of us on SLR’s which use that memory card format.
As it stands now however, if mobile file access and sharing is something you’ve been looking to do on your phone/tablet/laptop, Kingston’s solution so far is pretty bullet proof.