Review: SanDisk's iXpand Base Offers an Expensive but Simple iPhone Backup Solution

by

Western Digital recently introduced its newest SanDisk-branded backup product for iOS devices, the SanDisk iXpand Base, which combines nightly charging with backing up to make for an easy and intuitive way to protect your data.

The idea is to put the iXpand Base on your nightstand, plug it into the wall, and then plug your iPhone into the Lightning port at night. This charges the iPhone and allows it to transfer your photos, videos, and contacts to the Base for the purpose of backing up.

ixpandbase3

Design

The iXpand Base is a palm-sized tapered surface that's designed to serve as a sort of platform on which to rest your iPhone while it charges at night. The bottom of the base is made from aluminum, while the top is covered in a soft, textured rubber material that keeps the iPhone securely on its surface.

ixpandbasedesign
At the back, there's an SD card slot that houses an SD card where your backups are stored and there's a microUSB cable that is attached to a plug that provides power to the Base.

ixpandbasesdcardslot
Underneath, there's a spot for the USB-A side of a Lightning cable to plug in, and you will need to supply your own Lightning cable with this product. Once set up, the Lightning cable plugs into your iPhone and a backup automatically starts upon connection if the accompanying SanDisk iXpand Base app is installed.

ixpandbaselightningcable
Design wise, I'm not sure what to say about the iXpand Base. It's just a flat, slightly tapered surface where your iPhone sits. It's not much to look at and adds no utility to the iPhone -- I would have preferred to see a dock-style design for a cleaner look and better nightstand functionality.

ixpandbasedesign2
It doesn't take up much more space than my iPhone 7 Plus on the table next to my bed (though it is wider), but it looks messy with the white Lightning cable paired with the black cord coming out of the back of the device.

iphoneonixpandbase3

Backing Up

When you have the SanDisk app installed, as soon as you plug the iXpand Base into your iPhone, it will start a backup and begin charging the phone at the same time.

The backup feature scans your last backup, adds new photos and videos, and makes sure you consistently have a full resolution copy of your photos, videos, and contacts.

ixpandbasebackingup
Unfortunately, the iXpand Base can't be used when it isn't plugged into a power source. So if you wanted to take it on the go to use it as a portable storage solution without the charging component, that's not possible because it can't draw power from the iPhone.

An iPhone will only connect to the Base and start backing up when the Base is plugged into the wall, making it useless without power.

If you attach a microUSB to USB-A cable to the microUSB port on the Base, you can connect it to your computer to view the files stored on it and add additional files, but SanDisk does not provide one of these cables. The Base also doesn't connect to the iPhone when plugged into the computer. Files transfer over to a computer at USB 2.0 speeds.

Alternatively, you can also remove the SD card from the iXpand Base and stick it in the SD card slot of your computer if your computer has an SD card. The SD card is hard to remove from the base, though, and many modern Macs don't have an SD card slot anyway.

App

The iXpand Base app can work in the background to back up your iPhone as soon as it's plugged into the Base at night, which is a useful feature. Once it's been installed and an initial backup has been completed, subsequent backups will happen with no interaction on your part.

Just plug it in at night and the app starts the backup process. You'll see a banner on your iPhone letting you know it's in progress.

ixpandbasenoconnection
The app itself is bare bones. You can sync photos, videos, and contacts to your phone using the backup feature, but there's no option to sync individual files or photos to the Base from an iPhone.

The first time I synced my photo library, it took about 20 minutes, but each nightly backup has been much quicker. Restoring my backed up photo library to another phone was simple to do in the Settings section of the app, but it took awhile to transfer the files.

ixpandbasesettings
In addition to storing your photos, videos, and contacts, the iXpand Base app can be used to view, share, and manage them, but only when your iPhone is plugged in to the Base and the Base is plugged into power.

At some point during the testing process, the iXpand app duplicated several of my photos. I'm not sure what went wrong, but having duplicates in my backup is a huge hassle because they all need to be manually deleted and they take up twice the storage space.

I have a 128GB iPhone and the 128GB iXpand Base, and because it makes a full photo/video backup you'll need to buy a capacity that matches up with how much data is on your phone. SanDisk sells these in 32, 64, 128, and 256GB capacities. There is multi-user support, so with the larger capacities, multiple iPhones can be backed up.

Bottom Line

The SanDisk Base is a clever idea, but I was left feeling like it could have been implemented in a better way, especially at its $50-$200 price point. Not being able to connect my iPhone to the Base to view my files while it isn't plugged in is inconvenient.

When it comes to design, the flat puck of the Base feels like a lazy choice. The Base offers no benefit over putting the iPhone on a nightstand, and because I have to supply my own Lightning cable, it's no more convenient or stylish. I think this concept would have worked better with a dock style stand that allowed the iPhone to sit in an upright position, and given the size of the base, it seems like the components could have been built into that form factor.

iphoneonixpandbase2
While I liked the idea of being able to back my iPhone up automatically without thinking about it, I don't think this is a better solution than the small iXpand Lightning/USB Flash Drives SanDisk offers, or similar products from other companies. Those are more affordable, portable, and offer more functionality because they have both Lightning and USB-A connectors, making it easier to transfer files between devices.

If all you want is an effortless table top backup solution that does little else, the iXpand Base will provide that, but you can get more for your money with other backup and file transfer products.

If you do like the look and function of the iXpand Base, it's worth noting that it supports swappable SD cards. I'm not sure why someone would buy anything other than the lowest capacity version. It's cheaper to buy a standalone SD card and swap it in than it is to buy one of the higher capacity models.

How to Buy

The iXpand Base can be purchased from the SanDisk website. The 32GB model costs $49.99, the 64GB model costs $99.99, the 128GB model costs $129.99, and the 256GB model costs $199.99.

Note: SanDisk provided MacRumors with a 128GB iXpand Base for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: SanDisk

Top Rated Comments

ApfelKuchen Avatar
44 months ago
Agreed, this is not a comprehensive backup. It's a copy of specific data. To me, that's not a "backup" at all, as in "We've got your back." I'd consider "backup" to be misleading marketing.

Still, it has utility for certain purposes. To those who want multiple backups of their photos (not at all uncommon among serious photographers), this is a reasonably useful method for when a computer is not convenient/available. Then there are those who would rather avoid cloud-based photo storage/backup (whether iCloud, Google, Drop Box, or photo-sharing site). However, at the price, it's not likely to save money over paying for cloud storage. It also may be attractive for those who want an alternate method of transferring images from iPhone to other devices.

It's possible to do a hybrid backup - photos on this device, remainder of backup to iCloud (turn off photos backup in iCloud settings). However, that only complicates matters when a restore is required.

Overall, it's not at all attractive for my needs, but that doesn't mean others can't love it.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bingeciren Avatar
44 months ago
I don't think it is a substitute for the encrypted iTunes backups. With a full restore, I want to be able to restore everything, like messages, call log, health data you name it and practically continue from where I left.

I guess it is better than nothing however. I see so many people at The Genious Bar getting their phones replaced or renewed having a conversation like this:
- but what's going to happen to my data?
- Do you have a backup of your phone?
- uh no I guess not.
- then sorry, there is not much we can do.
- oh no but they were really important for me.
- sorry.....
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AlphaHumanus Avatar
44 months ago
My wife has an ixpand and loves it, I’ll definitely be picking this up.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
341328 Avatar
44 months ago

I don't mind the flat part of it, but they should sell a model that has more than one USB port or a top that has a apple watch charger. Seems lazy not to do more than one USB port for charging cables.

You charge your phone all night next to your head. I would never do this. I like the fact the Apple Watch doesn't have cellular.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
macbook pro flexgate

Apple Extends 13-Inch MacBook Pro Backlight Repair Program

Sunday January 17, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Apple this week extended its worldwide 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program, authorizing coverage for eligible notebooks for up to five years after the original purchase date or up to three years after the start date of the program, whichever is longer. The previous cutoff was four years after the original purchase date. Apple launched the program on May 21, 2019 after...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
macbook pro screensaver table

Some M1 Macs Affected By Fast User Switching Screensaver Bug

Monday January 18, 2021 1:57 am PST by
A growing number of user reports online suggest some of Apple's M1 Mac models are susceptible to a Fast User Switching bug that spontaneously activates the screensaver and leaves the user unable to dismiss it. In macOS Big Sur, Fast User Switching allows users to quickly switch between user accounts without having to completely log out. Based on posts in the MacRumors forums, Apple...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
apple fitness plus burn bar

Fitness+ Subscribers Now Have Nearly 300 Workouts to Choose From

Monday January 18, 2021 3:24 am PST by
Apple on Monday added over two dozen new video workout sessions to Fitness+, continuing a recent trend of building out the catalog of its fledgling subscription service on a weekly basis. Fitness+ launched December 14, 2020, and is designed to help Apple Watch owners keep fit through a series of guided workouts that are available across multiple workout categories. As you follow along with...