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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

56 Comments
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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: 3224; 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: 10457; 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: 297; 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: 3224; 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: 3224; 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: 897; 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: 2155; 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: 3224; 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: 2155; 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: 897; 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: 1606; 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: 897; Member since: 08 May 2013)


Embarrassed? Me? On the internet?

Lolno.

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: 1732; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)


Hello brain, are you still in there?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 15:28 3

15. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Who let the troll out?

posted on 23 Feb 2014, 16:38

27. tedkord (Posts: 12301; 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: 12301; 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: 12301; 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: 1701; 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: 10457; 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: 679; 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: 12301; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


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

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