Hands-On Review: SanDisk ibi, the Smart Photo Manager for Organizing and Sharing

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The best camera may very well be the one that’s with you, but how do you handle that endless stream of digital files generated from the insatiable need to document your life in pictures? A new tool to help you cope with this insurmountable data stream is ibi, the Smart Photo Manager from SanDisk.

Named for the Latin term meaning, “there, in that place,” ibi lives in your home as a multi-faceted solution to help you collect, organize and share your photos and videos privately with the significant people in your life—your Inner Circle, to use ibi’s term.

With mobile and desktop apps at your fingertips, ibi allows you to access your photos and videos on the fly, while keeping them securely stored in a sleek white box at home.

Occupying a compact footprint of just 3.4 x 3.4 x 5.0" (8.6 x 8.6 x 12.7 cm) and weighing a mere 0.64 lb (0.29 kg), the ibi device occupies an understated white cylinder and runs on an included AC power supply that plugs into the back. Just above the power cord, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port is at the ready to accept image files directly from all those old flash drives that have been gathering dust from years past. Yet ibi’s true power is in its amazing capability to collect all your media files wirelessly through the ibi app.

Setting Up and Copying Your Media Files

Setting up the device is so basic, the only instructions packed in the box is a piece of paper with a simple graphic. You just plug it in, download the ibi app to your phone, create an account, and connect the device to your home Wi-Fi. For those who prefer a larger screen, a desktop version of the app is also available for Windows and macOS.

In addition to backing up photos and videos from your phone, you can centralize your digital life by loading media files from your social feeds and cloud accounts to the security of your ibi device.

During the initial setup process, the ibi mobile app will ask for the auto backup feature to be enabled, which will automatically copy all the existing media stored on your phone to ibi’s internal hard drive, plus all the new media you generate, going forward. It accepts photos and videos from Android (6.0+) and iPhone (iOS 10+) devices, as well as all your social media feeds and cloud services.

With 1 terabyte of storage capacity, ibi can hold an average of 250,000 photos or 100+ hours of video, which makes for a lot of stored content. And if you need more storage, you can link several devices together.

As someone who has been hoarding visual memories on a cell phone since my trusty old LG VX-6000 clamshell model, I had tens of thousands of photos to back up. It took a few days for all the images to be ingested, but ibi did the job automatically, without my giving it a second thought. Sure, my photostream is regularly backed up to the cloud through Google, but that is such an abstract concept, not to mention a storage solution managed offsite by a faceless entity. In contrast to that, all media uploaded to ibi is securely stored in the device itself, and all sharing is accomplished from the device directly to the user(s) you designate, with you in complete control. Your media assets are safe with you, not in a remote corporate server. And with ibi, you don’t have to worry about hidden costs or recurring fees.

Organizing and Sharing Media

The ibi app interface is simple to operate, with a clean minimal design that allows you to easily manage media assets. At the top left of the mobile app, a click on the three horizontal bars opens the main menu, with icons to Add Photos, Do More, and Copy from a USB. The Do More button opens to reveal functionality for social media and cloud imports, streaming connections via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku, and access to additional support services. For detailed information about using ibi, select the help button from the menu options for a detailed user’s manual, how-to videos and online support/

With ibi, searching for pictures can be as simple as scrolling through calendar dates. Or for a more targeted search, highlight your favorite memories by adding descriptive text.

When searching through Photos, a calendar icon toward the top right side of the feed opens to reveal a descending list of months and years, so you can efficiently find content based on a given timeframe. A click on the search bar allows you to see photos grouped by basic location; by objects such as person, food, tree, or cat; or organized by import type, such as the hard drive or cloud service they were copied from. Users with real ambition can scroll through their content and add descriptive labels to individual photos and videos for the ability to retrieve more targeted content using the search tool.

With ibi’s album feature you can curate your memories into discrete packages to share with your favorite people, who can add comments and even upload photos of their own when you invite them to collaborate.

To curate your feed, ibi allows you to create albums to view or share as a group. I was able to organize my pictures from a recent wedding into an album quickly to share with the parents of the bride. I made another album from a glorious summer weekend to send as a thank you to my host. The quickest way to share is by sending a link, which allows others to view and download files without registering on the ibi website. Or, for a more interactive experience, you can invite the people you care about to collaborate.

Your Inner Circle

Engaging with others on ibi is accomplished through the Inner Circle feature, which allows you to add trusted contacts to individual feeds with the device as a hub. Sharing single images or albums with your “real” friends outside of social networks allows both of you to have meaningful conversations about the content. The person on the other end simply registers on the ibi website for files to be served to them directly from your device. As the owner, you have multiple sharing options to choose from—Send Link, as described above, and Post to Inner Circle for individual images or Invite to Collaborate for albums, both of which allows the other party to view, comment on, add to, download, edit, or further share the content.

Invite family members and friends to your Inner Circle to share priceless memories, as well as the latest news.

Once a contact joins your ibi, they can add media to your device, which loads as a Memory in your Inner Circle folder. If members of your Inner Circle purchase an ibi device of their own, they can post media or albums for you to view in your Shared folder. If you want to stop sharing anything, just delete the memory or album (or even the member of your Inner Circle) to remove access to the content.

One thing to note about the image display: files may show up as cropped in your Inner Circle feed. To view an image full frame, simply click on it for a new window with a black background. If that image has a gray band along the top or bottom, toggle the magnification icon on the bottom to view it full frame. When viewing images individually, you can also choose an automatic slideshow function or display a reel of your images along the bottom of the frame.

In the age of digital media, precious memories can vanish in an instant if photos and video files are not regularly backed up on multiple devices. Media professionals live by the rule of backing up three times, yet non-professionals are often naïvely unaware of this concept. As a smart photo manager, ibi is built to be a trusted device for both storage and sharing, and its plug-and-play simplicity makes it ideal for all types of users—from everyday enthusiasts to photo fanatics, and selfie obsessives to soccer moms.

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