Post-Jellybean: What good is the SD card now?

So you have upgraded to Jellybean? Cool. With the realignment of the OS with storage use, what good is it in adding a huge SD or MicroSD card to your Jellybean powered device?

Not much I tell ya.

One of the biggest gripes I had with the iPhone in the old days was that it’s fixed memory didn’t allow me to add more storage and to an extent, this was addressed by Android Froyo when it allowed us to add more storage in the form of external SD or MicroSD cards. Spiffy.

Confusion over SD Storage

Back in the days of Gingerbread, some terms were tossed about that confused the hell out of us.

SD storage = internal storage

The term, external storage was meant to denote the SD card.

Then when ICS and Jellybean came along, that freedom to add the card for storage was neutered by Google as they had memory addressing problems.

For some of us from the bygone era of the 80s, we know why it went down this path but for others, frustration and anger is all we have for Google for taking away this freedom.

First, with the addition of the external SD card in Froyo, you could move apps to the external SD storage. Well, in truth, you could move SOME part of the app but the app does not reside in SD land. That’s coz of how the OS uses memory and storage. For  a long time I tried to figure it out and then, remembered the days when I had a 48K Sinclair Spectrum. When they updated it to 128K, there was issues in how it could address the memory and storage.

The OS has to have an absolute address in order to find where the App is residing in your storage. It’s like email, you need a complete address before the email gets delivered to you. When you start to have removable storage, then you are bound to have problems as the OS will have to be told to hunt around the SD card to find the App. Froyo did this and to a large extent in an unsatisfactory way. Gingerbread still worked with such a method but often you will see missing icons on your dashboard because errors has caused the App to disappear. To overcome this problem, Google fixed the main storage for Apps so it cannot be moved and now you have this problem of not being able to move your apps to the SD storage.

What good is the SD Card now?

In a post Jellybean world, the SD card is probably limited in its use. You cannot install apps to run directly from you device and the only thing it can do is to allow you to store your movies, pictures, music and media files such as ebooks and PDFs.

These media files can be read by the App but until all apps are updated to do this, you will encounter problems where apps required you to put the media files into a directory that resides in un-removable storage.

I have encountered some Camera apps that do this. You can specify a directory within the removable storage to store your images. Other apps can read your media files such as ebooks and PDFs from a removable source.

This has some serious implications for those who LOVE to install and test apps. Now that you have a finite amount of storage, you cannot possibly go out and download all that your heart has desired and make it work. It can’t.

For those who only add-on entertainment media, such as music and movies, well rock on….

You need a fast SDHC or SDXC card that will give you up to 64GB of media storage, that’s a hell of a lot more than what Apple’s iOS can give you.

A class 4 card should suffice as it can give you up to 8MB of read speed and 4MB of write speed. But please do test this out before you jump the bandwagon as not all cards are made the same way.

For the rest of us gripping about the loss, well, you could do no worst by moving to iOS.

With 64MB of absolute storage, you will be thrilled at the prospects of storing all you apps in one place and have them work at the same time. Did I also mention the price? Oh yea, iOS storage comes at a premium.

If you have a lot of apps on your device, it’s best to get a device with much larger internal memory storage. The Nexus for example as a paltry 16GB as a maximum as of now. That’s insufficient to store stuff.

For example, if you downloaded the Batman game, it is 1.8GB in size. Imagine what it will do to your 8GB Nexus?!





  1. Komratanomin · February 1, 2013

    I hope they find out some good solution in next OS versions

  2. KC Jones · February 28, 2013

    Agreed, in my innocence I got a new phone (Samsung Galaxy S3 mini) with only 8Gb internal memory, but also uses 4Gb of it for the Samsung touchwiz UI, leaving only 4Gb. It is useless unless I root it, remove the samsung stuff and use the native android GUI. Will the next upgrade to android address this problem? If not, does anyone have a foolproof way of rooting this phone?

    • benardquek · March 1, 2013

      KC, it’s a typical case of having a phone with limited storage and there is no way around it at least until you root your phone to stock Android. All hardware these days are developed with the understanding that physical storage RAM will come down in price means it is up to manufacturers to decide how much they want to put in a device. But Apps are getting larger and though there are some apps (such as games) that make use of external storage for non-essential resources, the majority of apps are going to be resident in your Internal storage once you run them. An untested caveat around this is to use RAM doubler aps to increase the physical storage real estate. Unfortunately, there are no such apps that on Android as yet.

  3. · March 7, 2013

    I am Sorry! but I am confused. Does this mean that if I buy and attach the 64GB card in my Note2. It will work as an internal storage and I’ll be able to install the apps & games in my 64Gb storage.

    • benardquek · March 7, 2013

      No you can’t. The legacy Gingerbread apps such as games do allow this but not the new ones developed for ICS and Jellybean. Just remember this for your GN2.

      1. RAM is limited to 2GB.
      2. Internal Storage is 16GB
      3. External Storage is MicroSD (up to 64GB)

      All Jellybean based games are installed in 16GB Internal storage. There is a GN2 with 32GB internal storage but it’s not yet release onto the market.

  4. · March 9, 2013

    Thanks for you reply. Just wanted to know why google remove this feature? Can we expect this feature added in near future firmware updates?
    Currently I have installed the below games and only 1 Gb free space remaining, now for evry new game I have to uninstal my prev game.
    NFS – 2GB
    ModernCombat – 1.4 GB
    GTAIII – 799 MB
    Contract Killer – 500 MB
    other games – 2GB
    apps – 2 GB

    • benardquek · March 9, 2013

      Like you, I was hoping that it would be restored in 4.2 but it is not going to be possible as Google is forcing users to go onto the “cloud”. What’s more, they have this perception that hardware storage can only get cheaper, so the need to move apps to SD is negated as long as hardware manufacturers increase the size of internal storage.

  5. · March 9, 2013

    So, does this mean that in future or in current state we can store our apps or a games in the cloud.
    Also, I read somewhere that if we format our memory card from computer in FTS format. than it can be used as phone memory. Do you know about this? This is possible in windows phone I guess but not sure if this can be possible in android as well.

    • benardquek · March 9, 2013

      There is a way to “force” apps to SD card but it needs you to do some editing on Android SDK. You also need the USB adb drivers for windows. The method is described here. I must warn you that some of apps which require the resource folders to be in a fixed location will have problems resolving the directories on your SD card and may not work. Windows mobile uses a different method of addressing storage and memory so fomatting the SD card alone isn’t going to help. I don’t play much games on my phone so I have no real need to do this. I keep my Asus TF300 for heavy duty gaming as it has 32GB of internal storage.

      Lastly, Cloud storage and access is the future for all things mobile. I am very much old school and do not look forward to such a day. I prefer to have all my apps where I need them 🙂

  6. · March 9, 2013

    Thank you so much fr all your help!
    I also prefer to have all my apps where I need them… But I don;’t wanted to be restricted. Even, I believe that this restriction force you to keep the best apps or games on your phone rather than create a mini Google play store on your phone. Which is good thing…. 🙂

  7. Masterback · September 2, 2014

    its easier to root ur phone and use external 2 internal

    • benardquek · September 3, 2014

      Not a fan of rooting 🙂 there are so many devices and too few stable hacks to make it worth while. Even on cyanogenmod the releases are only for more popular models. It works best if you have a mainstream Android device.

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