Cloud End User phones

External SD card or no external SD card – Google Nexus4

Trefor DaviesJust scanned through a review of the Google Nexus 4 Android handset in the Grauniad. One of the things that caught my attention was the decision to not support an external SD card. Apple has lead the way with doing away with SD cards on the basis that they wanted everyone to do everything through the cloud.

The argument for a removable drive is that you can easily move data on and off the handset. My Galaxy S3 does support an external (micro) SD card but I have to say the only time I ever remove it is when I change handsets which, repair jobs aside, is less frequent than once a year.

Proponents of removable storage also remind us that we are using more and more space for photos and games. The former is certainly true for me but my needs would be accommodated with a large enough internal storage in the first place. What currently happens is that I run out of space on the phone (say) and have to adjust the settings to save media to the SD card which is a manual step that should be unnecessary.

All my pics are automatically backed up the the cloud using Instant Upload over WiFi. Once Instant Upload has done its stuff I then also shift them off the phone via USB to my laptop and once a month (ish) back up to one or two external hard drives. I’m not sure I’ll ever rely totally on the cloud for the backup.

So on balance I agree that we no longer need to support external SD cards as long as the phone itself has a suitably large capacity in the first place which, considering the low cost of memory, should not be difficult. Any growth in storage usage is likely to be down to a change in habits that accompany the use of a new handset so I can’t see that running out of space should be a problem – just make sure you have enough from the off.

Whaddaya think?

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

4 replies on “External SD card or no external SD card – Google Nexus4”

If they were giving enough storage in the phone then it would work, but the nexus 4 doesn’t do that. Even on my nexus 7 which supposedly doesn’t support memory cards I find myself using a card and USB OTG to store music and movies, leaving the internal memory free for apps etc. On my S3 I use the memory card for photos and for music. If you have a lot of media content then I think that’s best kept on memory card (in the absence of an equivalent expansion in the phone’s memory). Right now it’s a lot cheaper to buy say a 32 Gb card than to buy a phone with an extra 32 Gb built in. Also when I was away in Ireland over Christmas I struggled to access my photos via the cloud due to very poor network coverage (and of course roaming charges!)

I guess you are right Dom though I don’t use anything like that much storage. I might get through 10Gigs in a month & I thought I was a heavy user. My music tastes are pretty restrained as well – I tend to listen to all the same old (good) stuff over and over again – Pink Floyd, Donna Summer, Joe Jackson, 10cc. Showing my age a bit here 🙂

I felt quote bummed when my Nexus 7 arrived last year and it didn’t have an SD card or HDMI or even MHL output. I didn’t even think to check because back then both features were practically standard and you simply didn’t expect not to have them. My own fault but I still felt angry.

I’m a self-confessed app hog and as a result the internal memory soon filled up, which prevented me from installing the GPS maps that I wanted and made it near impossible to play any modern games as I’d always have to uninstall one just to get another. A bit like the days of having tactically manage the hard disk drive space of old, before storage was plentiful.

Likewise “the cloud” aspect only works when you’re near a wifi hotspot (no mobile broadband on my N7 and anyway it’d kill my usage cap if it had that), which in reality makes it quite impractical when you’re on the move. So removable storage, for me, is still a critical feature and that’s why I have 32GB SD cards by the bucket full 🙂 .

This is nothing new. And I believe it’s a good thing.

I was first confused by the lack of SD storage when I got my Galaxy Nexus around a year ago. Though it wasn’t a new thing even then, Google started this with the Nexus S, the second Nexus phone.

The phone I have still has 16GB internal Storage, which is usually sufficient, I have recently started to fill it up, mostly with FLAC music and a few videos, but also some of the larger games (EA and Gameloft titles in particular) which can easily use over 1GB each.

I like the way it works now far far better than my Old HTC Desire. Back in the Old days of android, the SD Card was a seaprate block device and it was removable. When you connect to your PC with USB, the SD card is mounted as a blcok device in windows so that you can easily access the files. However, it’s a block device, so you can’t mount it in two places at once. Once mounted on the PC it’s unmounted from the Phone, and this presents a problem if you’re trying to run programs from the sdcard with an Apps2SD sort of thing (there were several variants of Apps2SD, some worked better than others but they were all flawed).

With the new system using MTP or OTP, the internal phone storage is never unmounted and this means that 100% of it is available for Apps etc. No more awful bugs when the main internal storage runs low – that really used to piss me off about the old phone, you run out of memory and everything stops working, you have to start clearing data to uninstalling apps just to start receiving emails again.

So on balance, while upgradeability is diminished, I think the change is a very good thing.

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