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