After years of resistence, Google is bringing to its upcoming Android M operating system a feature, which is considered a necessity for many smartphone users. Smartphones using Android M will now have official support for Micro SD cards, directly from Google.
The Micro SD support implemented into Android M is called Adoptable Storage Devices. It allows smartphones to “adopt” a Micro SD card and through formatting and encryption, use the external storage as if it was the internal storage built in to a smartphone. This ability allows users to transfer data between their devices and their Micro SD card and even allows them to store applications on a Micro SD.
However, Google made sure to indicate that these permissions are merely a compromise. Once a user installs a Micro SD card into their device and it is formatted and encrypted according to that device, they cannot use that Micro SD card on any other device. Luckily, most Micro SD cards are inexpensive.
While mobile users won’t be able to use a MicroSD card to backup and transfer data between devices, the ability to have expandable storage on device with no blocked permissions is a welcome feature. Android smartphone manufacturers have been supporting expandable storage on their devices for years, despite Google’s resistence to provide native support.
When Android 4.4 KitKat released in 2013, Google made changes to Micro SD permissions, which angered many users. The changes made it so smartphones would read Micro SD cards specifically as secondary storage and could not use the card for primary functions like writing or modifying existing files to a microSD. In particular users could not save applications on a Micro SD card without disabling functions of the app.
Google attempted to ease the restrictions on Micro SD cards in Android 5.0 Lollipop, by reinstating “writing” permissions. Still users did not have complete access to use their expanded storage at its full capacity.
Though Google has now conceded to Micro SD support, its own Nexus devices will not support the ability as they do not feature Micro SD slots. Google still remains that Micro SD cards take away from the speed and performance of a mobile device.
One smartphone maker, popular for using Micro SD cards has recently changed its tune. Korean manufacturer Samsung released its Galaxy S6 smartphone in April without Micro SD support, a move which many fans have criticized. However, the Galaxy S6 features UFS 2.0-based flash storage, which is the highest performing storage protocol on the market. It also increased the standard storage capacities in the Galaxy S6 from 16GB to 32GB. There are also 64GB and 128GB storage models of the Galaxy S6.
But pundits note that Google has likely compromised its stance on Micro SD cards to benefit lower end devices, like those in its Android One program. Android One devices provide quality hardware and regular software updates to price sensitive emerging markets. But many such devices have low hardware capacities, such as 4GB to 8GB of internal storage. Users would benefit from being able to purchase inexpensive expandable storage rather than paying more money for more internal storage on a phone.
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