Jun 10, 2013
It’s a little feature. Literally, it’s tiny. However, it’s one that Google seems to foolishly be abandoning in their new devices: microSD card support. For whatever reason, Google’s Nexus devices are abandoning the extended storage offered by external cards, and are instead going with flash storage only.
Now, Google has some technical reasons for doing so, or so they claim: one is that Android only needed SD card support because many early Android devices only had limited flash storage, so SD cards were a way to extend on it, and aren’t necessarily needed any more.
But consider the benefit that Google gets: when you can sell 8 or 16 GB of more space, far more than the going rate for flash storage, then that’s just profit. Also, it’s a good way to make sure that people use cloud storage services more often, which hey, Google just so conveniently offers for music, videos, and files!
But here’s the problem with dumping SD card storage: games. They’re getting bigger in size, particularly as the need for higher-resolution assets comes in to play, and as titles that take advantage of the more advanced hardware become available. They’re evolving, and yet phone storage sizes haven’t. 8 GB was the standard a couple years ago and now 16 GB is, which is still hardly enough for what most people likely need. For people to have enough storage to keep their favorite apps around, storage sizes need to increase to 32 GB or bigger, or SD cards need to be standard again.
It’s the thing that I dislike most about the Nexus 7 – I foolishly bought the 8 GB version when it came out. And because there’s no SD card support, I frequently have to delete apps. It’s frustrating and it doesn’t have to be that way. Consider that microSD cards with the SDXC protocol are getting bigger and more cost-efficient: 64 GB can be had for around US$50-55 and 128 GB cards are on the horizon. Surface Pro owners are eating them up, for one! I imagine 80-96 GB of storage is enough for most any Android user, though.
But because the feature is somewhat dying out, and Google shows no interest in continuing it, this future of never deleting an app will only come when cloud-based app usage happens. Which it won’t because OnLive is a failure, and data plans are still limited.
It’s all very Apple-like in the worst way. Apple has famously refused to put extended storage on their devices, and it’s frequently been a negative. After all, when they can charge $100 more for the next step up in storage, why put a card slot on there? It’s largely just profit-grabbing, and it’s something that I’d rather not see Android manufacturers be tempted to do. But if Google’s doing it, then why wouldn’t they? And app makers and users are the ones who suffer.