How to use SD and microSD memory cards with iPhone

Although your iPhone doesn’t have a built-in microSD card reader, adding a memory card reader is easy. And it does not require any additional software. The same goes for the iPad with the Lightning connector.

Here’s what you need to do.

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Removable memory cards are still useful

Even in the days of Wi-Fi, it still makes sense to give your iPhone the ability to read and write to SD and microSD cards. They are still in common use. So much so that Apple returned the SD card reader to the MacBook Pro in 2021.

Cards are used in cameras of many types: drone cameras, control cameras … just ordinary cameras. Many Androids have microSD card slots, which makes the cards an option to share files between devices.

Consider using a backup app like OWC Copy That to back up all the pictures on your iPhone or iPad to the SD card.

Fortunately, adding a reader is simple and relatively inexpensive.

How to read SD / microSD memory cards from your iPhone

The first step involves purchasing an SD reader and microSD card with a Lightning connector. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid shopping – the best software in the world will not allow iPhone to read a memory card without new hardware.

But there are cheap options. The one I tested is available on Amazon for $ 11.99. It was made by Belcompany and includes a full size SD card slot and one for a miniSD card. There’s also a Lightning port so the iPhone can be charged while using the adapter.

This Lightning to SD / microSD card reader for iPhone is quite affordable.
Photo: Ed Hardy / Cult of Mac

Transferring data from the card to the iPhone isn’t terribly fast, but it’s not difficult. It took 37 seconds to copy the 1 GB test file from the microSD card in the Belcompany reader to the iPhone 13. But the other direction is much slower. It took almost 5 minutes to move that same 1GB file from the iPhone to the external memory card.

This card reader that supports Lightning is just one example. Take a look around on Amazon or AliExpress for an “SD card reader for iPhone” and you’ll see a multitude of options.

And there is a slightly alternative hardware option. The Cult Maca a guide on how to use a flash drive with an iPhone or iPad uses Apple’s USB-A adapter. This same adapter can be used with SD / microSD memory card readers designed to connect to a USB-A port.

No additional software required

There is absolutely no need for additional software to use the current iPhone SD card reader number. The iOS Files app is all you need.

Insert the memory card into the reader, plug the reader into the Lightning port on your iPhone, open the Files app and the SD card will appear. That’s really all it takes.

The SD card will appear in the files just like any other drive. From there, you can access everything stored on it. Or move files, play videos, whatever you need.

Plug in an SD or microSD card and it will appear in the Files app
SD or microSD cards appear in Apple’s Files app just like any other drive.
Photo: Ed Hardy / Cult of Mac

Just keep in mind that some Lightning-enabled SCD / microSD card readers are designed to use your own applications, not files. When buying a reader, be careful.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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