Ever get into an online argument with someone that just insists that their way is the only way things should be done? I try not to engage in such attempts because their is never a winner in an online argument, but every so often I get sucked in. Last week Koushik Dutta put a funny GIF on his Google+ page illustrating how some people feel about their micro SD cards in their devices. I got a quick chuckle out of it, but some people began bashing those that want phones with expandable storage. The term outdated gets thrown around a lot and there is some merit to that. SD cards are old technology and with an ever expanding ecosystem built around cloud services it’s easy for some to say that expandable storage is no longer needed, but they’re wrong.
Why micro SD is Needed
The minimal amount of space allotted in most smartphones and tablets is 16GB. Depending on what device you get, your usable space can vary from around 12GB all the way down to just over 8GB. This is all before you start downloading apps, games and media. My LG G Pad GPE currently sits at about 4 GB of space with apps and games installed, no music is pinned to the device. There is no 32GB option either. If I wanted to pin music to my tablet I would easily exceed the space I have left. Now some of you are saying I could just stream the music, but what if that’s not an option? This isn’t some strange or unusual scenario I’m talking about, I know many people who have run into storage issues on their devices. My parents go on vacations all the time and my step mother would easily fill her phone storage on her GS3 with all the pictures and movies she takes if it wasn’t for the fact that she has a 64 GB micro SD card installed. In fact most people I know tend to take a huge amount of pictures and video with their phones when they know that they are going directly to an SD card instead of internal storage.
Now some will argue that streaming and cloud based services are the future and internal and especially external storage is not needed, but you’re wrong again. Ever try using streaming services in rural areas of the US? I live in New York State and most of you wouldn’t know this but NY is mostly farm land and rural areas. If I take a 40 minute drive to my friend’s house on the 400 south, you can kiss 4G good bye. In fact you’d be lucky to make a phone call. This isn’t some remote area that no one’s ever heard of, I’m only talking about 20 minutes from the Buffalo-Niagara region. If you live in these area of the US, streaming is simply not viable, you have to put your media directly on the device.
Google Play Services makes expandable storage obsolete. Again, wrong. What if you want to watch a movie on your phone or tablet, but you already own it on Bluray? You have to buy it again right? That seems rather redundant, why should I pay for the same thing twice when I could simply rip the Bluray to a format that I can watch on my devices? My entire Bluray library is backed up on my computer. The average file size is about 10GB and the movies look and sound amazing. At best I could fit one movie on my HTC One (M7) and no movies on my G Pad. But thanks to the G Pads micro SD slot, I can watch as many movies as I want. In fact, my family borrows my tablet whenever they travel so that they can watch movies on the plane. With music it gets better, you can pin your Google Play music straight to your SD card. No need to waste time when you get home to pin and unpin items you may want.
Some may argue that SD cards are not necessary where they live, but what about those in other countries? Talk to Damir Franc some time about the connection speeds he gets in Germany. We’re very spoiled here in the States with our broadband and LTE speeds. There are currently only 26 countries that have access to Google Play Music. Ask somebody in Japan how they like All Access and they’ll look at you with confusion.
No Advancements in Storage
With every new year, our phones and tablets have expanded in capabilities and technical specifications. In 2010 the Nexus One was the first phone to feature a 1 GHz processor, now quad core is the standard. The original Moto Droid had a 3.7″ display pushing out 265 ppi. We now have displays exceeding 5″, pushing out more than 400 ppi. Do you know what all these phones have in common? Storage space. Storage has never advanced. One would think that we would be seeing phones and tablets with with a standard capacity of at least 32GB or more. But we have not. Some will argue that it’s not needed because app sizes are still small. I remember a time when apps were no bigger than 1 MB, now I see them more than 100x that size. Games have gotten even bigger. It’s not unusual to see a game exceed a 1-2 GBs of space and that’s before any updates. This trend is not going to slow down. As apps become more capable, they will inevitably increase in size. So why still offer the same 16/32/64 GB option? The answer is simple, money. Look at Apple, they charge a criminal $100 for every bump in storage space. Every other part of mobile devices has been advanced except storage.
If you don’t need or want micro SD expansion that’s fine. Beauty of Android is that you have a wealth of options available to you. But those calling for its complete termination of use in mobile devices are simply fooling themselves if they think that their situation is the standard by which the rest of the world lives. I love my HTC One (M7) and my previous Galaxy Nexus, but I will not buy another phone that doesn’t have expandable storage. It opens up too many options for me and covers every scenario that I might find myself in when using my phone. One day, when broadband internet is available everywhere, physical storage may not be needed. But we are not there yet.