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Android 4.4 update for Samsung Galaxy S4, Note 3, likely to cause microSD problems

Posted: , by Maxwell R.

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Android 4.4 update for Samsung Galaxy S4, Note 3, likely to cause microSD problems
As Samsung begins rolling out the Android 4.4 updates to the venerable Galaxy S4 and Note 3 devices, you should be aware of an issue that is sure to be a problem for many of you.

The new specifications in the Android API pretty much makes your SD card useless. Since Samsung is following this specification, expect to see problems emerge when apps attempt to write or modify existing files to a microSD card.

In plain English, that means your microSD card is secondary storage and apps will not be allowed to use it.  If you want to see it in "geek speak," Google’s own language about the specifications says it equally plainly to developers and partners:

"The WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission must only grant write access to the primary external storage on a device. Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions."

There are legitimate arguments that have been made in favor of, or against, microSD card or secondary storage in mobile devices are far from settled. Flash memory on SD cards is not the most reliable, though the name branded storage cards tend to be higher quality. Data transfer speeds are not the fastest either.

However, this feature set, the ability to write, modify, remove files from secondary storage has been part of Android since the beginning of Android. To take it away poses some real inconveniences for a lot of people.

Some folks may simply chalk this up as Google’s desire that people use the cloud, most notably Google Drive, Google+, and other Google-based media features. Regardless of what you hear, officially or not, that is definitely a significant driver behind Google’s calloused approach to secondary storage.

The problem is that for a large part of the smartphone using world (of which Android owns the vast majority), relying so much on cloud based storage solutions is not always economically feasible. Wireless data plans (not to mention network performance) are not always friendly to such a set-up. Then there is Wi-Fi, data plan friendly, but not ubiquitous in emerging markets (or in developed markets for that matter) and even then, the bandwidth may simply not be there.

Samsung made a distinction with its hardware in that one could expand storage capacity with microSD cards. Since Samsung just signed a big understanding with Google that covers a whole range of issues, it will be interesting to see where that leaves future hardware offerings.  The same thing happened with the Android 4.3 update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition not too long ago. 

Samsung makes just about everything, including flash memory, we find it hard to believe that the company would willingly give up such a significant portion of business. The introduction of the Galaxy S5 may reveal some idea where the conglomerate goes with this. While we are pensive about writing off microSD cards for good, we are not so sure their future is assured either.

One thing is certain, if this does prove to be the death knell for secondary storage in Android handsets, 16GB Samsung devices are simply not going to be enough.

sources: Tod Liebeck (Google+) via GottaBeMobile and AndroidOrigin

  • Options

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:04 2

1. androiphone20 (Posts: 1654; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)

Now that's a kicker

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:21 3

7. Finalflash (Posts: 3107; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

It isn't too well explained in the article and the reasoning is chalked up the some very stupid reasons. There is no conspiracy style emphasis on cloud storage instead the reason they are advising against easy access to SD cards is for consistency. Largely copying and pasting to SD can be quite slow and apps that do that can cause crashes and slow downs very easily (the most time consuming thing in an app is reading and writing to the internal SD, external SD is a whole other problem when it comes to timing). So they are making sure that only the internal memory is used for app operations and the external SD memory is there for only expansion purposes. So I can keep my movies and music and pictures on it, but not saved to it from an app dynamically. The OS will largely only save things to the internal SD to keep things more consistent and hopefully change the image of android crashing and what not because people buy cheap SD cards with low performance and then complain about crashes caused by that. You can move things on and off the SD manually if you must.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:27

12. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10456; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Thank you.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:28 1

14. Maxwell.R (Posts: 214; Member since: 20 Sep 2012)

Those issues you bring up are certainly valid, but can also be abated as SD cards get faster. Outright disallowing the feature altogether is akin to amputating a foot over a hang-nail. Of course, a company (Google) that makes its money throught ads targeted via granular data mining of customer information would never be a driver (yes, that is sarcasm).

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:40 1

19. neops (Posts: 287; Member since: 28 Jan 2014)

WTFart? What BShe3p is this? Do it manualy? For facts' sake!

I agree that "Google’s calloused" but are you too Sammy?
Slide over it ASAP!

she3p is an offensive word phonarena?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:21

24. Finalflash (Posts: 3107; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

Well that is the thing, some manufacturers won't follow this anyway, and that is the beauty of the Android system. The ones that do stick to guidelines will of course be a hindrance to their customers, but this is designed to make it easier for those who aren't so tech aware.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:08

2. technomichael (Posts: 18; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)

on my s3 i have a 32 gb card with music on it, if i try to transfer my card to a phone with 4.4 or my s3 gets updated to 4.4, will i still be able to listen to music from my sd card?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:25 1

10. Finalflash (Posts: 3107; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

Yea, but don't expect to be able to download an album to the SD dynamically, you will have to download to internal SD first and then manually move it to the external if you want.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:08 1

3. ThePython (Posts: 889; Member since: 08 May 2013)

And that's why Samsung should learn with Motorola or Apple how to successfully update your devices.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:17 8

6. _Bone_ (Posts: 2154; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

... neither of which sports an SD card slot in their latest flagship, so well done saying something silly.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:22 1

8. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

English may be a second language for Python.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:26 2

11. Finalflash (Posts: 3107; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

He's a cat (apparently grumpy cat), it is amazing he is even able to type that much.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:32 3

18. _Bone_ (Posts: 2154; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Logic may be secondary too, Samsung's facing microSD issues cause they offer cheap storage and Google is bullying that offering.

Still, 16GB extra costs $4 for a Galaxy, $100 for an iPhone or Moto X.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:51

22. ThePython (Posts: 889; Member since: 08 May 2013)

English is my third, actually. My second is C++

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:44 1

21. rd_nest (Posts: 1593; Member since: 06 Jun 2010)

Read the damn article and the source links. If at all it's the fault of Google.

Comment later, you will avoid lot of embarrassment.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 14:42

50. ThePython (Posts: 889; Member since: 08 May 2013)

Embarrassed? Me? On the internet?


posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:15 1

4. strikercho (banned) (Posts: 156; Member since: 20 Mar 2012)

They can call it Kit Kat, Big Mac, Jim Beam, whatever. It is and will be the same piece of bad copy of iOS. Until Samsung uses that buggy OS, I will remain not one of their customers.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:24 5

9. UglyFrank (Posts: 1657; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)

Hello brain, are you still in there?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:28 3

15. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10456; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Who let the troll out?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:38

27. tedkord (Posts: 11720; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

If he did use Android, the average IQ of Android users would plummet.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:38

28. tedkord (Posts: 11720; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

If he did use Android, the average IQ of Android users would plummet.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:23

25. tedkord (Posts: 11720; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

It's probably best you remain not one of their customers. You're clearly not intelligent enough to use a real OS.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:16 1

5. Skolar (Posts: 1; Member since: 18 Feb 2014)

Just root your phone install a custom 4.4 KitKat ROM that has the SD CARD permissions set back. Problem solved.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:56

23. jellmoo (Posts: 1598; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)

I'm sorry, but voiding your warranty to fix an issue isn't a real solution.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:27

13. cleat-glitch (Posts: 109; Member since: 07 Feb 2014)

stupid...if they do this...my next phone won't be note4...it will be the 5in. iphone

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:29 3

16. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10456; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Go to www.sammobile.com and read the article there that was posted yesterday. This one isn't that great and doesn't explain things as well as SM did.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:36

33. AntiFanBoyz (unregistered)

You're either an idiot or a troll. You essentially said "If Samsung does what Google wants and cripples the SD card, then I will switch to a device that doesn't even have SD capability at all." Brilliant.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:30

17. livyatan (Posts: 867; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)

Yeah, I was puzzled to notice that on my Note 3..tried moving apps to SD but nothing happened.

SD cards having to settle with media files only isn't that much of a problem for devices with 32GB of internal storage (or 26GB more precisely) I guess, but for 16GB it does start to be a problem for anyone who likes to have a lot of games on the device.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:43 2

20. Cyberchum (Posts: 675; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)

Who said android is open when Google is constantly locking it up and forcing OEMs to abando MICRO SD support. Gawd knows I'm never going to buy a phone without an option to expand memory with even if the phone comes with 64 gigabytes of internal memory.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:34

26. tedkord (Posts: 11720; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

Google isn't forcing anything. Samsung can modify Android anyway they like. That's what open source is.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:37

34. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

Moron Google is indeed forcing this and they've bullied Samsung to boot.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:45

29. skymitch89 (Posts: 1299; Member since: 05 Nov 2010)

I've got 4.4.2 on my Note 3 and haven't had any issues with the sdcard. Of course pretty much the only thing that I have on there are pics, videos, & music; no need to put apps on it when there's more than enough storage on my phone for apps.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 18:46

30. nlbates66 (Posts: 328; Member since: 15 Aug 2012)

if I remember correctly, Samsung coded their way around Googles silly API restrictions a while back, they'll likely have done the same for newer versions of Android.

If not, then less reason for me to miss android after my next phone purchase. :)

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:21

31. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

Blame the pirates for this. This is to keep thieves from installing apps via .apk. It also keeps us law-abiding users from properly using file managers.

Google uses the nuke option to solve its pirate problem rather than actually take responsibility and police its own app store. This is a huge loss for non-pirate users.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 21:47

44. hurrycanger (Posts: 1563; Member since: 01 Dec 2013)

Really? You cannot download or copy apk files to the internal storage? Is this a joke or what?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:31

32. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

This article didn't really explain it well and makes it sound very doom and gloom. Considering 4.4 is on some note 3 and s4 and there hasn't been any big noise made about, I think the issue isn't that huge. Considering no one even new anything had changed until this api stuff was found it Imo shows that the issue isn't that big.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:39

35. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

Speak for urself. If u were familiar with the dev sites instead consumer blogs ud know the raging controversy this has engendered.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:53

39. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

Actually I use xda regularly. I've seen some issues noted but it's not blown up as the news of knox being added for example . I'm not happy about this, I'm sure once I get kitkat I'll be vexed and will see the issues. Right now I just use sd card to keep my music, photos and videos and know with this shi*ty update I'll be able to use it the way I do I think anyways. I think the issue comes is that individual apps have to write to there own private sd folder and only that app can access to that folder and when app gets deleted, everything gets deleted so does that private folder and. So my personal problem will be that if I edit a image using an app, I will have to manually move that image from that private folder so that it doesn't get deleted if I remove the app. Honestly I don't understand it too well, I've read a few pieces on this and kind of gets confusing. If you can explain or knows a site that does it really well Ill be happy to listen.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 20:05

40. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

Fair enough.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:45

36. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

Also want to add that Google is just taking the mick and should leave us people who want to use sd cards alone and stop trying to force us using the cloud or internal storage.. If they really care so strongly about internal storage than make all oems use 64gb as minimum or give us unlimited data otherwise f off. Fingers crossed that it isn't too big of a deal but won't know until I get 4.4 myself. Before anyone screws at Samsung, this isn't there fault it's googles

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 20:17

41. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

I actually I apologize and agree with u somewhat. Most users and even some devs really had no idea about this and only the heavy users and devsvof file manager apps noticed this. U r correct.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 20:27

42. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)

Nothing to apologise for, one thing for sure is that whether the issues are big or not it will be annoying and Google is really starting to annoy me. Just wish they would leave users of sd cards alone.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 23:47

47. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

All good then!

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:45

37. 13Elves (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 Feb 2014)

Here's a good explanation if this decimated function


posted on 23 Feb 2014, 19:53 1

38. jibraihimi (Posts: 764; Member since: 29 Nov 2011)

Android is going apple way, and windows phone is going in the direction of android, I read somewhere before that we 8.1 will allow apps to be installed on external storage that is sd cards, so maybe in future if Google continue with this behaviour, then they will do big favour to windows phone, which will gain lots of traction in emerging markets, where cloud storage is still not very popular due to slow net connections or high cost of 3g or 4g.........

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 21:02

43. xtremesv (Posts: 297; Member since: 21 Oct 2011)

I have my SGS4 running KitKat 4.4.2 right now and Spotify still downloads the music on the MicroSD card. Is it what that "except", in the new spec, means?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 22:14

45. retronig (Posts: 23; Member since: 21 Nov 2013)

Well I have the note 3 and I am planning on keeping jelly bean. Screw Kit Kat and Samsung if this ends up being correct.

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 23:16

46. SayMobile (Posts: 104; Member since: 29 Jan 2014)

I am using the galaxy s4 with the android 4.4 kitkat update running and my 16 GB external memory card is working absolutely fine, no issues their

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 13:35

49. jrp888 (Posts: 1; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

This update really messes with people who listen to a lot of podcasts. I don't have much storage space on my phone so it is a real pain not to have my podcast app download directly to my sd card. If this isn't fixed I will root to fix it myself.

posted on 24 Feb 2014, 22:27

51. DLAROC (Posts: 7; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

This isn't nothing new.. Ever since I've had my S4 (about 6 months on 4.2.2 and 4.3) I've never been able to save apps to the SD card. I use my phones local storage for apps and my SD card for music and HD movies.

posted on 11 Mar 2014, 14:56

53. geordie8t1 (unregistered)

I'm not calling you a liar or anything but that is wrong, maybe there is a problem with your phone or the micro sd, the day I got my s4 last year this feature never worked but there was such uproar about samsungg storage issues they released an update like 2 weeks after it's release and this allowed apps to ad in the application manager settings, if you don't have this I am really unsure why it is not possible, I have just updated to kick at and although there is hardly any difference visually, on my s4 at least apps to sd still works, I have just tried to install FIFA 14 which is about 1.35gb data file and it all installed to the phone and then the data part of the game was transferred to the sd card. :-) so far so good for me at least

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 04:52

54. DLAROC (Posts: 7; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

Lol. I'm not lying. I'm sorry to say this to you, but you are the one who is wrong. The data can be saved to SD. The App cannot. It's a fact. No apps can be saved to SD card, only data and media. The apps are stored in your internal storage. (Phone)

posted on 13 Mar 2014, 05:08

55. DLAROC (Posts: 7; Member since: 24 Feb 2014)

Disregard that last comment. Lol. But yea, I'm not lying. I didn't know until now. I have Tmobile and it didn't get updated to move apps to SD until a month ago when it finally got 4.3. I just never noticed since then because I havnt been installing apps. I'm now on 4.4.2 and I checked and it works as well.

posted on 11 Mar 2014, 08:52

52. geordie8t1 (unregistered)

so for example my galaxy s4 that comes with 16gb and only 9gb of usable space means that if i am to update to the latest version that i may only be able to add 1 or 2 high end games and a handful of sizable apps and then my handset is full??? samsung addressed this last time with a small update to use the sd storage, however if google is over riding them and forcing users not to be able to use their micro sd cards, then why oh why are these stupid companies STILL only offering 16gb of storage?????? phones that are restricted need to be now minimum 64gb as standard, cloud storage is nowhere near good enough yet to be as a permanant solution, mainly because most carriers do not offer either unlimited internet or decent enough sizes, those that do have their own problems in that they have worse coverage overall and unlimited internet is used as a sweetner to get a larger customer base.
either data plans need to increase rapidly to allow for better cloud usage (Unlikely) or phones need to either fix the micro sd problem or phones need to stop being 16gb and start being 64gb with micro sd support.

posted on 23 Nov 2014, 13:42

56. sws227 (Posts: 1; Member since: 23 Nov 2014)

I keep all of my music, pictures, videos, and other personal info and documents on my micro sd. I have done this with all of my smartphones, mainly because if my phone crashes, gets dropped/run over, or even submerged in water, I can pull my sd card out and put it in another phone, without relying on web based backups like the cloud. The likelihood of it getting damaged in any of those situations is very very slim. I have a second micro sd that I routinely sync with the one in my phone. Now after this new update, it keeps removing my sd card or saying that it is blank, when all of the files are still on it. The update is also eating my battery by constantly removing and reloading my card.

posted on 07 May 2015, 07:30

57. DmitryChulkov (Posts: 1; Member since: 07 May 2015)

more info here h ttp://mans.io/brand/Samsung

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