Connecting USB Devices to an iPad

Connect USB Devices to Your iPad With These Accessories

Smiling couple with headphones using digital tablet
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As tablet computers increasingly become mainstream and business devices replace laptops in some circumstances, users begin looking for ways to make their tablets work with existing accessories like keyboards and printers. Many of these accessories connect using USB flash drives and cords.

The iPad offers only a Lightning port to connect to other devices or, on older models, a 30-pin dock connector.

Notice the important omission here: There's no USB port. Other tablets have USB ports to connect to accessories, but not the iPad. So does this mean you can't use USB devices with the iPad at all? No. You can use a lot of different USB devices with the iPad if you have the right accessory. 

iPads With the Lightning Port

If you have a 4th generation iPad or newer, or any model of the iPad mini, you'll need the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to use USB devices. Apple makes and sells this device. You can connect the adapter cable to the lightning port at the bottom of the iPad, then connect a USB accessory to the other end of the cable. As the name might lead you to believe, you can use it to connect cameras to the iPad to import photos and videos, but you can also connect other USB accessories like keyboards, microphones and flash drives. 

Older iPads With the 30-pin Dock Connector

You're not left without options if you have an older iPad with the wider 30-pin dock connector.

 You just need an Apple 30-pin to USB Cable rather than the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. The cable connects your iPod, iPhone or iPad to your computer's USB port for syncing. 

Other Ways to Connect Devices to IPad

USB isn't the only way to connect accessories to an iPad. There are many wireless ways to use other devices, assuming they support these wireless features.

Not all do, so you may need to buy some new accessories if you want to take one of these approaches. 

  • AirDrop: This is an Apple technology that was introduced with iOS 7.0. It lets you wirelessly transfer files between iPads, iPhones and Macs. Learn more about AirDrop.
  • AirPlay: Apple's technology for streaming audio and video from an iPad to speakers can be used if you have an Apple TV. You can stream audio and video, as well as mirror your iPad's screen on your TV. Learn more about AirPlay.
  • AirPrint: This is another Apple standard designed for wireless printing. AirPrint support is built into iOS, but you'll need an AirPrint-compatible printer to use it. Here's a list of AirPrint-compatible printers.
  • Bluetooth: This short-range wireless networking standard can be used for communicating with keyboards, headphones, microphones and similar devices.