What Can I Do With the USB Adapter on the iPad?

Written by anne hirsh
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The iPad's included power adaptor comes with a USB sync cable designed only for data transfer to and from your computer through iTunes. Apple also offers the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which includes an adaptor that turns the iPad's docking port to a USB port. Like the sync cable, this port has limited functionality.

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iPad Ports

The iPad's only port, other than a headphone jack, is the 30-pin docking port used for the included charging/syncing cord. This cord has a USB male connector on the opposite end of the 30-pin connector, suitable for plugging into the iPad's 10-watt charging unit or a computer USB port. Even if you use a male-to-male adaptor to connect a USB device to this cord, it doesn't support functions other than syncing and charging. To connect other devices, Apple released the Camera Connection Kit, which uses a 30-pin connector on each of its two adaptors: one with an SD card slot and one with a female USB port.

Supported Functions

The USB port on the Camera Connection Kit supports camera input to transfer photos from the camera's memory to your iPad's "Photos" app. You can also connect an iPhone to this device for photo transfer. Other phones may work but Apple doesn't specifically support them. The device will work with some USB keyboards, but the iPad's software doesn't specifically support this function, so it's not guaranteed to work. Some USB headphones and speakers may work, as the iPad's software does support this type of external device, but as with keyboards the support isn't guaranteed.

Unsupported Functions

The Camera Connection Kit doesn't support transferring files other than photos. It also can't support other USB devices like external hard drives, flash drives and other storage media. You can't use it to connect a USB mouse, as the iPad doesn't have the software for mouse input. Essentially, devices that require USB power to operate rather than supplying their own power, as cameras and phones do, won't run on this connection.

Special Hardware

The Sanho company makes an external drive specifically for the iPad called the HyperDrive, which works with the USB Camera Connection Kit to extend your iPad's storage. As of July 2011, this is the only external drive that works with the iPad. This is because it tricks the iPad into seeing it as camera storage by dividing your files up into segments that work with the iPad and Camera Connection Kit limits.


If you're depending on using your iPad with external devices, you may be disappointed in your USB adaptor's performance. Wireless online storage and file transfers through cloud services, such as Dropbox, iDisk or Apple's forthcoming iCloud in fall 2011, allow you to expand your iPad's storage and load only the files you need without using USB hardware.

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