When my nieces mother came visiting, she not only brought her new husband, but also her DSLR camera, the latest and greatest model with seemingly infinite resolution. And four boxes of unused SD card. When I asked her why, she said "so I will not run out of memory".
That was a few years ago, and my latest iPhone has higher resolution than her DSLR had then. And now I know what she meant. It happened to me when I was filming our children performing in a little play they were doing at daycare. I had to go in and erase some pictures and then film again - until I had to repeat. Lucky I copied all the pictures to my Mac the weekend before. And I could not put in a memory card, because there is no slot for it in the iPhone.
This will happen however big your memory is. I know that from experience too. And it always happens at the worst time, just when your kids were doing something fun or remarkable that you really wanted to share with your friends and the family members back home. It is only afterwards that you find out that they will do fun and remarkable things all the time.
But you do not want to wait until you get back home and can back up your phone so you can take new photos. You want to share your photos all the time. And you want to keep them, including the ones you have not shared (yet). So what do you do?
If you have an Android phone, it may have an SD card slot. You can probably plug in an external flash disk as well, although this depends on whether there are appropriate drivers. You have a number of possibilities.
If you have an iPhone, though, your options are more limited. Not only because you do not have an SD card slot, but because Apple is more restrictive in what they allow. The iPhone connector does not allow you to use the memory stick and charge the phone at the same time. Although in practice neither does the Android phones, when you plug in a stick to the micro-USB slot.
With an Android phone and the appropriate adapter cable, you can plug in just about any flash drive on the market. With an iPhone you need additional drivers to make it work right. And clever manufacturers have used this to create devices which go beyond the barebones storage and automatically help you free up memory.
The pioneer is Leef, and their iBridge allows you to move files from your photo collection to the thumb drive. But different from Android, you can not move files from iTunes or iBooks, since Apple restricts how files can be moved around. This means applications which use the built-in mechanisms of the iPhone are similarly challenged. Including such potential space stealers as the Apple podcast app (since podcasts actually are downloaded from iTunes). You can not back them up either, so before you leave you had better prune your content.
I actually ended up buying a competing device, the Sandisk Xdrive. It has much the same functions as the Leef app, and it has the same curved connector which makes it very convenient to use - the connector has a little spring to it, so it fits snugly against the back of your iPhone when you use it.
The Sandisk Xdrive as a matter of fact looks nothing more like a whistle - so much so, in fact, that when my daughter saw it for the first time, she put it in her mouth and tried to blow. That is when you wish they had included a cap for the USB connector.
The app is very convenient to use and once you have set it up it automatically backs up your photos and videos when you plug it in, freeing up space on your phone if you set it to delete them once backed up. This of course means all your photos are gone from the phone and on the thumb drive.
This works very well - you actually get a feeling that the capacity of your phone has increased several hundred times. You have to be careful about one thing, though: Photos you share via iCloud will still be downloaded to your own phone and take up space.
The very convenience of these thumb drives is one of their major problems, however. They are so small you can easily drop them - and if you drop them down a drain, not only is the convenience gone, but so are all your pictures. You need some way of attaching them to a strap or similar, so you can keep track of them. But get that, and your phone never gets full again.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning six - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.