Micro SD: are they really necessary in our phones?

March 8, 2014 Tech

There’s no denying that Micro SD can be appealing. Regardless of how much storage your smartphone has, a micro SD card can boost it massively. You might think that there’s no downside to having a microSD card slot even if it’s not likely to get used, but that’s not entirely true.

 HTC One with micro SD slot

Slow storage

For one thing, microSD cards can hugely impact a phone performance.

According to a study carried out by Hyojun Kim at the Georgia Institute of technology, using a microSD card in your phone can cause it to become sluggish, with even basic tasks like web browsing suffering as a result. Overall performance can often drop by between 100% and 300% and in one case the study found that there was an incredible 2000% decrease in performance.

Even at the lower end that’s a massive loss in performance and is an unacceptable trade off for some extra storage, particularly on higher end handsets where you’re paying hundreds of pounds extra for a boost in specs.

The reason for the performance loss is simple, microSD cards themselves aren’t fast enough. They can’t keep up with the power and speed packed into modern smartphones.

 

Bad memory

Speed isn’t the only issue either. In late December, hardware hacker Andrew Huang gave a talk at Chaos Compute Club Congress, where he explained that “flash memory is really cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it’s too good to be true. In reality, all flash memory is riddled with defects – without exception.”

The illusion of a contiguous, reliable storage media is crafted through sophisticated error correction and bad block management functions. This is the result of a constant arms race between the engineers and mother nature, with every fabrication process shrink, memory becomes cheaper but more unreliable.

Likewise, with every generation, the engineers come up with more sophisticated and complicated algorithms to compensate for mother nature’s propensity for entropy and randomness at the atomic scale.”

 portable power bank for ipad air

The good news is that phone storage is increasing. The iPhone 5 boosted it to 64GB, and it’s surely only a matter of time before 128GB of storage and beyond become common in phones. We wonder that happen sooner rather than later.

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