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The argument over microSD cards isn’t a new one in the Android world. But maybe you’re buying your first or second smartphone, and you don’t know what all the fuss over microSD cards is about because you’ve never used one.

Here’s what makes those little memory cards so awesome and why you may want the option to use them in your next phone.

1) Save Money

Want to know the best part about microSD cards? They’re cheap. You get all of the advantages mentioned below, and you get them for less than the cost of cloud services. By the time you’ve paid $10 a month for online storage and another $10 for a music subscription, you could’ve already bought a microSD card that you could use for years.

Better yet, expandable memory drops in price rapidly, and it regularly goes on sale. A whopping 200GB card may be prohibitively expensive this year, but it will most likely be reasonable within the next couple years.

Until then, it’s a great time to pick up the 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB cards that retailers want to move off their shelves. 8GB and 16GB cards go for under $10 these days, and they’ve basically become necessary to go with phones that only ship with a couple GBs of usable internal space.

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Even the cheapest microSD cards would give you plenty of extra breathing room.

AndroidMicroSD-Amazon

These are the kinds of microSD card prices you can expect on Amazon.

2) Store More

How much internal memory did your phone come with? 8GB? 16? 32? More? You probably paid a pretty penny if you got a phone that can carry around 64GB or 128GB worth of files. It would have been cheaper if that phone had come with a microSD slot.

If you don’t have enough space, get a bigger card. Or just buy a second one. Swap them out if you need to. You have the option. You can store as much data as you have cards. No matter how much storage space a manufacturer sticks into a mobile device, something with a memory card slot will always be able to handle more.

AndroidMicroSD-Storage

This is my phone’s limited internal storage (left) compared to the amount available on a microSD card (right).

3) Have Reliable Access

Companies advertise cloud services as a way to access files wherever you are. But this is only a partial truth. If you don’t have a solid Internet connection, whether through cellular data or WiFi, then you’re not accessing anything other than what you’ve stored offline.

And being online is no guarantee that you can still get to your data. Sometimes servers go down and you can’t do anything but wait. That can really put a damper on your plans to listen to your favorite album as you put on your running shoes and hit the pavement for a jog.

AndroidMicroSD-Play-Music

MicroSD cards keep that music right where you expect it to be. The same is true of those photos you took at the last birthday party — those ones you tried storing only on Google Photos but re-downloaded after you couldn’t show them to your friend in the car thanks to spotty signal.

4) Take Control

As more people find their passwords being leaked, celebrity photos being stolen, and credit card data being compromised following yet another massive data breach 5 Important Lessons You Could Learn From Recent Data Breaches 5 Important Lessons You Could Learn From Recent Data Breaches A few months ago, the Internet was hit with one of the worst security vulnerabilities in recent times. Read More , they’ve become increasingly aware of the risks of trusting so much of their data to the Internet and the companies that power it.

MicroSD cards, however, offer a feeling of control. You have your data literally in your own hands. And unless your card breaks or gets improperly formatted, you know you can access your files whenever you want.

Whether you store data locally or in the cloud, someone has control over it. Do you trust yourself to manage your files or the employees of a distant company?

Is there a chance you might lose your data? Yes, but that’s life. You can lose irreplaceable thoughts by misplacing a notebook. A fire can wipe out most of the possessions in your home. We kid ourselves if we think anything will last forever.

5) Maintain Your Privacy

Speaking of data breaches, storing files locally also limits just how much information companies get about you. Every time you access a file from a cloud storage provider, they have a log of that. It’s both a drawback and a feature — an inherent part of making things work.

The same is true of music and video streaming sites. Whether or not a company ties your activities to your specific identity, nothing you do online is truly private The Paranoid Conspiracy-Theorist's Guide To Online Privacy & Security The Paranoid Conspiracy-Theorist's Guide To Online Privacy & Security Can you stay anonymous online? With not too much and the use of easy to use web-based encryption, security and privacy tools, we believe you can. Let us show you how. Read More , and if a service is free, there’s a likelihood it’s making money marketing your data. But those files you have saved on a microSD card? No one knows what you’re doing with those.

AndroidMicroSD-Samsung-MicroSD

Sure, you can never have complete privacy. A thief may still get your photos if they steal your phone and take your card, but that risk that doesn’t go away if you auto-upload all your photos to the cloud 5 Tools To Sync & Auto-Upload Photos From Android To Cloud Storage 5 Tools To Sync & Auto-Upload Photos From Android To Cloud Storage Nothing is more convenient than taking a photo on your phone and automatically having it be backed up to the cloud. Read More (unless, that is, you’re diligent about deleting your local copies immediately afterward).

Fortunately, some Samsung phones offer the ability to encrypt everything on your card in addition to internal memory. Better yet, Google has made this feature a core part of Android 6.0.

Still, MicroSD Cards Aren’t Perfect

It’s true. Sometimes microSD cards die, causing you to lose all of the data you’ve stored. If your device has limited storage, figuring out which apps you can move to external storage pre-Marshmallow isn’t exactly intuitive or fun.

Making a little extra money off of you isn’t the only reason many manufacturers have switched to relying on internal memory — it’s easier to troubleshoot problems when you know what space you’re working with.

But that hasn’t stopped customers from wanting USB ports and SD card slots on their laptops (well, MacBook buyers aside). Expandable memory simply gives you more functionality to work with. Heck, you can even use a microSD card slot to give your device more RAM How to Add More RAM to Your Android Device with a MicroSD Card How to Add More RAM to Your Android Device with a MicroSD Card If your Android phone or tablet is running a little slow, it might just need a bit more RAM. We can help with that. Read More .

Want Something with a MicroSD Slot?

Phones with microSD card slots are available all across the spectrum. Approaching the end of 2015, the latest flagship phones from HTC, LG, and Sony all come with them. But you’re going to want to avoid the Nexus line, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note 5, along with those phones from OnePlus.

As phones go down in price, microSD slots are all but guaranteed. Each of the great devices I recommended in a recent post about Android’s awesome affordable handsets 5 Ways Cheap Android Smartphones Beat the Flagships 5 Ways Cheap Android Smartphones Beat the Flagships Who says you need the latest and greatest (and most expensive) smartphone out there? The cheaper alternatives are actually really good. Let us show you. Read More  support expandable memory.

To summarize, most phones still come with microSD slots. It’s just that a select few of the most popular models sometimes do without, and that can be disappointing.

How do you feel about microSD cards? Do you keep a stockpile around? Are you ambivalent towards them? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Image Credits:micro SD card by Attila Simo via Shutterstock

  1. Peter
    March 24, 2016 at 3:08 am

    In an ideal world the SD card is great, and Ive been a proponent of them for years now. However, Im seriously considering giving it a miss next time. Often the internal memory is sacrificed in the name of 128gb possibilities on SD cards. Mine has 16gb. However, my android system files which must be stored on on internal memory already takes up almost 10gb as it bloats out with each upgrade. Also a lot of larger apps now, either wont move to SD card (facebook), or make it a difficult and manual process to move their caches and data to SD card (spotify). Of my 128gb SD card, Im only using about 7gb, largely photos and downloads, after manually going through amd moving each app I can across. It is laziness from developers who want minimum porting effort, and laziness from android OS developers who dont make.SD card options more seamless than they could, or used to.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      March 28, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      It is a shame that some smartphone makers have the gall to market a phone as having 16GB of storage but only making 6GB of that available to the user. That said, the problem here is more the manufacturer than Android in general. A 16GB Nexus 5 leaves considerably more space open to the user.

  2. JaapK
    March 8, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I will never buy a phone without the SD-card option.

    • Kirsten
      September 11, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      Me either!!

  3. chad
    February 4, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Samsung have lost me for now.
    I had the note 3 and currently the note 4
    They can jam the note 5 up their ass.
    No removable battery and no sd slot is a deal breaker.

  4. DianeHelen
    January 27, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Great article. Could NOT agree with you MORE!! This is something that really upset me finding the new gen of Samsung phones took this away. For now Im keeping my Galaxy s4 for as long as I can.

    As for data loss, yes sd cards can fail or get lost. But for the things that are really important, I always keep a copy on a big external hard drive, for extra protection. The ext SD card is such a great thing to have on a phone, I really hate that samsung and others have given it up for now. Ive heard rumors that the s7 will bring it back. We can only hope.

  5. avluis
    January 12, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Hey there! This comment is pretty late, but I need to know what device you are using as I'm a sucker for a clean and clutter free Android experience (like the Nexus devices that I love and use daily) but with the addition of SD storage.
    I'm also looking for a fairly cheap Android device to stick in the car for Android Auto and I am leaning to the Moto G (which gen, I do not know).
    Care to help?

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      January 19, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      I have used both a 2nd gen Moto E and a 3rd gen Moto G. I would strongly recommend either device, and both have microSD slots. Though with the Moto E in particular, know that you may not get all that many updates going forward.

      • avluis
        January 19, 2016 at 11:21 pm

        Thank you for the reply - I am leaning towards the Moto G as well since I prefer to get updates if possible. Any reason why I should pick up the 3rd gen specifically or is that the current one (meaning that 2nd gen no longer gets updates)?

        • Bertel King, Jr.
          January 20, 2016 at 2:52 am

          The 3rd gen Moto G is the current model, so it's likely to receive updates for a year longer than the 2nd gen (since the older model has already been around for longer and may hit the end of its support life relatively soon). I would also consider the 3rd gen an all around better phone due to the improvements to build quality and specs. That said, I've never used the 2nd gen Moto G myself.

  6. Timothy Skinner
    December 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    An SD card slot is a must in my phone. I'm avoiding the Galaxy S6 because they took it out. I will not pay a fortune for a limited hunk of junk, its no better than the iPhones now except you can download files to storage and has Android. I've been with Samsung for years now, but I'm probably going to swap to LG G4 or keep my current phone until Samsung brings out a decent phone with a card slot.

    Cloud will never replace hard storage on portable devices. You cannot get a decent level of data on any reasonable priced plan, and you probably never will in Australia.

    I hope the companies will wake up and stop removing neccessary parts of their devices. Processors and RAM mean nothing if you can't store what you want on the phone.

  7. Lee Spadafora
    November 4, 2015 at 3:18 am

    Sandisk 200gb at amazon.. 150.000

    let see what black friday bring..

    • Howard Blair
      November 4, 2015 at 5:56 pm

      Patriot 128GB at Amazon.,..around $46...arrived today, and it's pretty fast (rated 70MB/sec).
      The biggest, baddest new goodies are always hideously priced at first, but whatever they replaced suddenly become reasonably priced...especially if there's competition.

      • Watcher
        November 6, 2016 at 2:34 pm

        I bought 2 PNY 128GB MicroSD cards on Amazon for $30 months ago and that wasn't even a real sale.

  8. Ayeni Adedayo
    October 31, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    When I got locked out of my phone by the android privacy protection, I lost all my data. If my phone had external SD card, it would have been less hurtful. You can read about my full ordeal on my blog http://dayo.com.ng/never-ever-use-privacy-protection-password/

  9. orotta
    October 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I used to think that without micro SD a phone is useless, but not anymore and this is why. Correct me if I am wrong here, the presence on micro SD on the phone use power where the SD card is mounted or not. So no micro SD means some power saving. But we are here to talk about storage and not power saving.

    Ladies and gentlemen, meet Micro Duo USB OTG Flash Drive. They come in 32 GB and 64GB. The 32 GB costs $35 Canadian dollars. You can add it on your key chain like any jump drive. So next time you are travelling, bring those movies along with you and chill all the way.

    The cool think about this babe is that once you attach it to your phone, the file manager pops up and show you all the contents in it. Then you can go to watch your movie, or pictures or better finished that project on the mobile Word. And yes you can copy files from your internal storage on it and vice versa.

    Therefore, I ain't afraid of no SD.......if storage is needed, who do call? ....Micro Duo USB OTG Flash Drive!! :) Have a safe Halloween ya'll .....and North America, don't forget to change your clock at 2am on Sunday morning, we getting extra one hour of sleep :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OOsQIIOJnQ

    • Jalf Dado
      November 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      True...unfortunate some phones will not read the USB flash OTG. Only if you have newer divice.

    • Howard Blair
      November 4, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      Oooh, I LOVE the idea of something sticking out of my phone's USB port all the time. It's a great way to break the USB drive *and* the port, all at once!

      On the other hand, my SD card either sits flush with the slot, or behind a trapdoor, or tucked under the back cover, safe and (hopefully) well protected.

  10. Jeremy A Moats
    October 31, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I just have 1 question: HOW do you move apps to your SD card that have the "Move to SD Card" button grayed out, but they are still on your phone's internal memory?

    Without ROOTING my phone, is there a method of forcing those apps over to the SD card and still have them operational?

    • Howard Blair
      November 4, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      It's entirely up to the app developer. Some have "start with the phone" functionality (for notifications), so they *have* to start before your phone has a chance to mount the card and run the Media Scanner (building your MP3 library, for example), so they force you to keep them in internal memory (something that Marshmallow is supposed to fix, if you're willing to reformat the card with Linux's EXT4 file system and leave it in).

      It sucks...my phone has 5GB free and a 64GB SD card, and I still have to wait for the app icons to show up after a restart; once in a great while, it'll fail and say "Format the card?" - I just say no and restart again.

  11. Pravin S
    October 31, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Good one, Bertel.

    I never bought a phone without SD Slot, I will never buy one.

    This is one of the reasons why I don't like iPhone. No phone is complete without an SD slot. :P

    In 2009, I had N97 with 32 GB Internal, but I also had 4 GB SD for swapping data.
    Now I have S4 Mini with 8 GB internal and I have 16 GB SD, Class 10 U. Previously, I had 8 last year. And 32 is not too far away.

    I prefer storing my musics, videos, and images on SD than cloud. Cloud is not instant, an SD card is. And it doesn't need internet. I can move apps to SD and I don't accidentally wipe the whole data during factory resets. Backing up data from SD to computer is faster and convenient.

  12. lelandhamilton
    October 30, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    I get the hand-me-down phones when my son buys the latest phone and greatest. I'm not to happy that the latest hand-me-down phones do not have an SD card slot for the extra memory. Previously I had a number of photographs, my wife's poetry and some other important files on the android SD card. At least I have them backed up on multiple drives accessible from my desktop: fixed, portable, USB and some of the more critical files on the internet. The photographs are also part of a backup set kept on a portable drive and a separate drive partition. New photographs are automatically added to drop box so they will be on the desktop drive and the internet. The critical file USB drive is usually in my pocket of the pants that also has the keys and wallet, so in case of fire it's with me. I just have to buy one that is twice the size of the previous one every few years.

    I'll have to look into the SD card dongle for android micro SD slot.

    BTW: speaking of backups, I have a duplicate drive for the main multi-partition drive and every so often I due a full disk clone.

  13. Eman 08
    October 30, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Not a big deal lol. Go buy a USB mini adaptor for any phone that plugs into its charger port and slide in an SD card and bamm! That's essentially makes up for the missing SDcard slot. A web site called Leef makes them.

    • Jalf Dado
      November 3, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      You might want to consider that. Some phones will not read a USB flash drive OTG.

  14. Joe Porkamotorka
    October 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Smartphone without SD card is "no go" for me. I'm great fan of SamusungGalaxyNote phones, but SG5NOTE is now just a crap for me. Same goes to phones without FMradio and removable batterie. I just can't understand, how could phone manufacturers be so stupid to leave good funkcionality out. I would rather buy cheap NOname phone with right stuff than Apple without SD, FM and removable batterie. Iphone=SSG6=expensive garbage!

    • Kasey Clark
      October 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Exactly! I won't buy anything without a card slot and removable battery. FM tuner is one of those things I'll never use but being able to put my files on my device is a big point for me.

  15. Douglas Ledet
    October 30, 2015 at 6:38 am

    My ASUS T100 will not update itself with the MicroSD card in the machine. It gets an error when the card is in and updates fine without the card.

  16. Benjamin Rodriguez Reyes
    October 30, 2015 at 5:52 am

    "along with those phones from OnePlus."

    Except the new OnePlus X, which is great news since it's limited to 16GB internal. So once it gets updated to Marshmallow you can get a 64GB card for 20 bucks and never worry about storage again. For the low, low price of $250 plus a $20 SD card, it is tempting.

  17. likefun butnot
    October 30, 2015 at 2:55 am

    I like being able to give my phone a different personality depending on the card I have inserted. I carry a 200GB card in my LG G4 that has enough of the stuff I need for everyday needs, but I also have a few other cards I've set aside for all-day photography use (I don't re-use cards with lots of photos on them; I treat them like the photographic negatives and put them someplace safe) or just to give away to someone who needs something on a tiny portable disk.

  18. Judah Richardson
    October 30, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Reasons 3 - 5 are why I prefer MicroSD. Don't have to worry about cloud storage and whether I can access it or how much data it will cost.

  19. Chris Barnett
    October 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Generally I agree, although a couple of times with the same phone, (Samsung Note 4), my SD became corrupted, and unusable, losing all the photos/music stored there. My current phone has 64 GB internal storage, and no SD card. I'm also not a big cloud user for pictures or music, but so far I have plenty of room to spare. So, whichever option you go with, make sure to backup!

    • Watcher
      November 6, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      My bet is you had a card with a cheap motherboard, a knock-off made to appear like a SanDisk, Kingston or Samsung. There are many websites around to help you identify these knock-off MicroSD cards that are currently sold on Amazon as well as other reputable sites. To my knowledge, there are more reliable cards that don't seem to have any knock-offs like ADATA and PNY as I haven't had any failures or issues with them.

  20. Logan VT
    October 29, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I refuse to purchase Apple phones or tablets because they do not allow removable storage (that and I refuse to be limited by iTunes any time I want to put data on or off my device). I have been a loyal Samsung user for many years but if their current practice of not including a microSD slot continues past when I am going to upgrade my phone I will have to go with a brand that does include the microSD slot.

    The "cloud" is a great concept and all but I still believe in physical possession of my data and my ability to use it. There are so many times I want to listen to music/watch video and do not have access to the "cloud" (subways, airplanes, mountaintops, halfway across an ocean, etc.) that extra storage is the only way to go.

  21. Howard Blair
    October 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    "To summarize, most phones still come with microSD slots. It’s just that a select few of the most popular models sometimes do without, and that can be disappointing."

    You've forgotten one of the most popular smartphone and tablet lines, especially among hipsters - Apple is so arrogant none of their iOS devices comes with one, because they want you to buy *everything* through iTunes and sync it the same way.

  22. Stephen France
    October 29, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    One caution. I lived through the plug-in cartridge era of PC's. You can't put them in and out a lot of times - the contact surfaces become fouled and scar.

    • Howard Blair
      October 29, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      I typically only insert or remove an SD card once or twice, either to move stuff from my PC via card reader (and then very rarely; USB or WiFI are the more common methods of transfer), or when I'm upgrading to a new, bigger card.

      SD cards generally get changed as often as SIMs.

      I'd expect that manufacturers are designing SIM and SD slots the same way they've engineered USB connections - miniUSB connectors were rated for 10,000 insertions/removals; when they moved to microUSB, those connectors were rated for 100,000 cycles (ten times as durable). I don't think you have a lot to be worried about these days.

  23. Qwan Wilson George
    October 29, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you for writing this someone needs to tell this a few arrogant phone manufacturers.
    mSD slots are needed in phones you can even use them as a USB drive to transfer stuff. All you need is ur charger usb cable.
    Its pretty slow in comparison to a USB 3.0 pendrive but in an emergency with no pen Drive around it does the job

    • Howard Blair
      October 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      I think the "USB combo drives" are being used for transfer (the USB drives with full-size connectors on one end for PC use, and a microUSB connector on the other for On The Go (OTG) phone/tablet use.
      Doesn't mean you can skip the SD slot - you don't often remove those, and Android 6.0 wants you to format it with Linux EXT4 to use as "native storage," so your Windows/Mac PC can't read it anyway.

      • Qwan Wilson George
        October 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm

        Jeez!! I am talking when you don't have a USB drive at ALL. Everyone Has a phone with them. But not everyone carries a USB drive around. Sometimes your friend does not want to give you his cause USB pendrives never come back. SO a phone with a msd slot and a card saves the day. Everyone has a charging cable lying around so you just connect it to your phone and it works.
        you have storage mode in Android 6 that will make it work in windows and mac BTW
        Only problem is everytime you do that you have to switch back your storage setting to use SD card again. Because when you use that mode it makes the SD card unavailable for the phone.
        But I prefer using it cause it detects on all computers and OS and is faster

        • Howard Blair
          October 29, 2015 at 11:19 pm

          Funny, my Android 4 and 5 devices allow MTP (Media Transport Protocol) to transfer files via USB cable. I'm talking about reading and writing the card in a SD reader slot, not in the phone; with Android 6, you have to reformat the card as EXT4 in order to use it as "built-in storage" (an extension of the "root" filesystem), in which case you either need an EXT4 driver for Windows, or transfer everything via WiFi or USB with MTP.

      • Qwan Wilson George
        October 29, 2015 at 4:04 pm

        Oh and I forgot to mention Wifi You can just hook up your phone to Wifi and use it as a storage if you have a Micro SD card in it. I forget to mention that because I am WIFI Phobic. I don't use it in my home or office and I don't think I will ever use it. I just use cables everywhere

        • Howard Blair
          October 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm

          Why WiFi phobic? If you go out anywhere, there's free WiFi everywhere...libraries, McDonald's, Starbucks, even WiFi at WalMart so you can transfer files to the photo printing kiosk. It's not a health risk, and if you use WPA2 with a strong password, pretty secure (until WPA3 gets ratified). Phones and tablets don't have Cat5 connections, and all of them have wifi...

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