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Why does Google hate your SD card?

By Joe Levi August 23, 2013, 4:03 pm
(cc) trophygeek http://www.flickr.com/photos/trophygeek/8550829632/sizes/o/in/photolist-e2BeK7-eaWgJq-eAoKS4-dWE4KS-dvGN9m-8gPedE-bQSS7t-e7cTVA-afkGLh-dn3Amh-8utGVH-972BqK-9UVPKc-dM5YGZ-8QpupU-7MRsxb-bdDvC2-7zjGbd-cx1347-7FKogS-c9jDQC-dt3z5Q-dTdt8v-85c2ZX-8kz5b7-8NrP9R-bQm5rP-dWQNZ9-8CC8fu-8kvTcX-e4JkNr-e97DhH-esTzFV-9xEc45-85c2Wv-85c2Sg-81DjMd-c8J2LL-c8J2xJ-8kz5gJ-dK93AH-8SvRYZ-8uwrnS/

A long time ago in a smartphone not terribly far away lived a slot that you could fill with a storage card. Most phones even came with a card, albeit a small one. Onto this card you could install games, store music and files, and have the freedom and flexibility of removing it and popping it in another computer. The uses were endless… then, one day, Google decided you didn’t need it any more, so they took it away, leaving us all to wonder: why does Google hate your SD card?

Technical Limitations

Back in the early days of Android there were some technical limitations to how Android implemented sdcard storage. There were certain cases where you could and couldn’t install apps to your SD card. Some apps wouldn’t let you install them to your SD card, and some apps wouldn’t work right if you installed them to your SD card. When looking at all those potential issues, then adding complications that would arise when the SD card was removed — well, let’s just say it wasn’t the best user-experience.


Even with all the possibilities for an inconsistent experience, many of us wanted to have an SD card just to be able to store things. Games could use the space to store large data files. We could tote around our entire music collections. We could even bring a couple movies along for the ride.

But that’s where things got complicated. App developers didn’t want their apps to be portable to another device simply by moving an SD card from one device to another (although that shouldn’t have been a concern at all); and content providers didn’t want music, movies, TV, or other content easily accessible for “ripping” off a storage card and distributed to a bazillion others.

There were other reasons, but I suspect it was copyright considerations that finally proved to be the tipping point.

Ultimately, Google stopped including sdcard slots in its Nexus devices, and even removed the ability for apps to be moved to the sdcard. Google’s own digital content is saved to internal storage, not the sdcard — even if you have a card present.

Some manufacturers still include an SD card slot, though most don’t supply a card with the device. That’s okay, I’d rather go out and buy a 32 or 64 GB card rather than the 2 GB one that most OEMs seemed to include. However, with the core operating system making the SD card so difficult to get to for storing large files files (especially TV episodes and movies), the usefulness of the SD card, even when present, becomes significantly reduced.

That's just, like, my opinion, man!
That’s just, like, my opinion, too!

If the DRM being used on Android is sufficient enough for content providers to accept it when media is saved internally, they should also accept it when media is saved to an SD card. Otherwise, the DRM isn’t really that trustworthy, is it? In any event, I want to be able to expand my storage by using an SD card. Google shouldn’t be limiting or restricting this ability, especially when its own smartphones only come in 8 and 16GB versions. Once I have a 128GB smartphone, I may reconsider — but I doubt it.

What about you?

Am I up in the night? Are we really living in a world where we don’t need to expand the storage capacities of our smartphones and tablets? Or am I right on the money, and Google should re-implement the full features and functionality of an SD card with the next version of Android and its next Nexus devices? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Leader image credit: (cc) trophygeek


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