iPad 1: I want a USB port

I have an old-type iPad and would like to transfer gobs of media into it without having to e-mail it or go through iTunes. Ideally, I’d like to jam an adapter into the power cord port that would let it function like a USB port. I’ve seen an adapter for cameras that kind of approximates this connection, but the saleswoman didn’t think it would work the way I want it to.

Is the any product out there Yet that will do what I want for the model 1 iPad? Does the model 2 have a USB port? What are my options?

Sadly, no.

Everyone wants a USB port on their iPad. Paging Steve Jobs…

What an odd lack to persist into v. 2.

The iPad has a USB port. What it lacks are three things. Two of them are fixable in software.
It lacks device drivers in the operating system to talk to the usual range of devices you might like to plug in. It lacks a visible file system into which you can place stuff you load from a USB device. The last problem is more serious: the iPad can’t supply much power to any connected device. The power it does supply is 3.3v, not 5v, the USB standard. Those devices it does talk to over USB are self powered - like a camera - or suck very modest power, like the SD card adaptor (which has an internal voltage booster to run the SD card and control logic.). The power issue is soluble with a modified cable and external power source, but isn’t exactly standard USB.

The standard dock connector includes pins for USB signals. (Heck it used to include Firewire too.) This is after all how you talk to your host computer when performing updates. What complicates things slightly in that in this mode the iPad/iPod/iPhone looks like a device over USB. However for many years the iDevices have used “USB on the go” to implement their USB port - which is a variant that allows the port to also run as a host. In general most USB devices can’t do this - USB is an asymmetric protocol. But it makes perfect sense for what are really highly capable compute devices to work this way.

The file system (or lack thereof) is part of Apple’s drive to make the iPad idiot friendly. It walls off peristant storage so that individual apps see a private domain of storage, and don’t see one another’s files. Ostensibly to avoid confusing the user, and it appears as a prelude to the cloudification of the iDevice data model. Where all your data lives in the iCloud. The idea being that the iCloud will provide the data to your iDevice, over WiFi or 3G, and you will live in a wireless bliss.

If you only want to suck photos into the iPad the camera adaptor will work fine, either from a camera directly, or by sticking and SD card into the SD adaptor.

On the other hand, jailbroken iPads don’t suffer from the software limitations. But jailbreaking is not exactly the answer your average user is interested in hearing as a solution.

My feeling is that over time Apple will crack the kimono open slowly, and provide access to these wider capabilities, especially the underlying filesystem. However, whilst they are driving hard into the previously unplumbed territory of selling compute devices that even my 87 year old mother can use, they are not about to risk that drive by relinquishing the control they have over the nature of the user experience.

Try using the Dropbox app, or something similar. It’s how I move files to my iPhone.

What file types do you want on your iPad? If you jailbreak or use iPhone Explorer, you can transfer files onto it and use it like a USB disk, but you may not be able to play those files, which is probably not what you want. For certain file types, there’s help:

Photos - use the camera connection kit
pdf - the Kindle app allows you to transfer files using iTunes, but without syncing
videos - the app AVPlayer HD also lets you transfer files without syncing, and you can play many file types without converting.

what’s the downside to going through itunes for a one time huge transfer like this?

How about this?

I am consistently amazed by the number of people who have an iPad (/iPhone/iPod) and yet don’t comprehend its purposes and its limitations. It’s like saying, “I bought this toaster. It heats food, right? Why will it not make soup? Does anyone make an attachment that can let it make soup? This is so dumb.”

The iPad is not a desktop computer that happens to be small. It’s not a laptop that lacks a physical keyboard. It’s not a super-sized touch-enabled (classic) iPod. It’s not a USB stick that has a screen. It’s close-ish to a large iPhone, but people who have trouble with the iPad’s capabilities usually aren’t too hot on the phone either.

You want to transfer “gobs of media” of what kind(s)? You want to transfer from where? What will be this media’s purpose once it lives on your iPad?

The answers are different if it’s, say, a bunch of PDFs you want to have as a portable reference library that are already extant on a server someplace, than if it’s, say, a bunch of music and photos on your home computer that you need to have a backup of.

Sell the iPad and upgrade to an Android tablet. You’ll have several ways of transferring large amounts of data:

  • Connect it to a computer via the standard cable, and the tablet’s filesystem will be visible as an external drive. You can copy any files you want to the tablet, and access them from any app.

  • Most tablets have micro-SD card slots. Copy files to a micro-SD card on a desktop (e.g. using a USB card reader) and plug the card into the tablet.

  • There are Android apps that allow you to access Windows shared folders over WiFi. Use one to copy files.

  • Use a file synchronization software/service. I use SugarSync to synchronize a folder on the tablet with a specific folder on my desktop.

  • Some Android tablets have USB host ports (e.g. the keyboard dock for the ASUS EEE Pad Transformer). USB thumb drives can be used on these ports.

Mostly .cbr files (old comic books, which I can transfer one at a time via e-mail); I’d also like to watch TV shows in the .avi format, as converting them to .MP4 is kind of time-consuming.

For the latter: install the VLC app. It’s free and will play almost any video format. Yes, you have to transfer the files to your ipad using itunes to watch them, but you can add many files with one click.

I believe there are several apps around that will stream them from your PC if that’s too inconvenient, but I haven’t tried any.

What are you using to read your cbr files?

It may be more convenient for you to just convert them to epub.

cbr files are just rar files with pictures in them. I usually bust them open myself and use the default viewer on the jpegs. Mind you this is on a PC. I don’t know if an Ipad will let you do this. It’s a consumption device, so as a user you may encounter such silliness as it not having enough juice to run a common USB port. This is not a bug; it’s a feature. A feature to remind you not to be silly and try to put things on the device that didn’t originate in the Apple store.

The sales clerk here explicitly said it wouldn’t work for my intended purpose.

I’m using Comic Zeal Comic Book Reader, which is wonderful. I e-mail the .cbr files to myself from my MacBook to my iPad. It’s a bit rare to get more than one comic book to attach, even when zipped (and my iPad hates zip files).

Yep. Like it says on the box, you can sync using iTunes.

Looks like iTunes is your simplest solution, as usual. Why not?

I just now tried it with the “add to library” function that works on MP3, MP4 and PDF files, unsuccessfully. Maybe I’m missing a step?

I loaded this, and had limited success; the iPad won’t recognize the .cbr files, but I was in kind of a hurry and can only get wi-fi at work. I’ll play around with it more tomorrow.

It’s a media player and a pretty good one, but one that loads certain types of files with the equivalent of a medicine dropper. My impression is that other users of the device have gotten around the limitations I’m facing, and asking “how” strikes me as a pretty reasonable question.