Adoptable (Flex) storage is the best thing to happen to Android since virtual keyboard support

Adoptable (Flex) storage is the best thing to happen to Android since virtual keyboard support
Now that all the interesting flagships for the first half of the year are out, you may have heard the term "Adoptable storage" or "Flex storage" being thrown around a lot. It's a new feature for Android 6 Marshmallow, which was a bit on the quiet side – Google didn't tout it much, and it seems like developers and phone manufacturers like to talk about it much more often than the Android creator.

When the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, and LG G5 launched, techies worldwide were happy to hear that both companies' flagships support microSD cards for storage expansion, but disappointed at the news that the devices don't utilize Android Marshmallow's Adoptable storage. The HTC 10, however, was advertized for supporting Flex storage, which was met with praise.

So what is Adoptable storage, what is Flex storage, and should you care?


Short answer – yes, you should. As you probably know, Android smartphones have supported microSD cards since the dawn of time, but for limited functions. Users were mostly only able to store their photos, videos, and music on the cards. Now, this is not bad at all, as these are some of the biggest storage eaters out there, but, nowadays, with mass games like Hearthstone and Modern Combat 5 easily reaching 3 GB per game, music streaming apps caching songs like there's no tomorrow, and photo-sharing apps storing an infinite amount of thumbnails and pre-cached images somewhere on your phone, it's easy to see how the industry standard 32 GB of on-phone storage just isn't cutting it.

Enter Adoptable / Flex storage. Both words are used to describe the same Android 6 Marshmallow feature – our best guess is that “Flex” was an internal callsign for the function, while “Adoptable” seems to be its official public name. So, what does it do? As the name suggests, it “adopts” your SD card to really turn it into a part of your phone's internal memory. When you insert a new card, you will be asked how you want to use it – as “Portable storage”, which will limit you to just moving media files to the card (the old way), or as “Internal storage”, which will format the card and make it unusable with any other device unless it is formatted again.

We assume the special format was put in place to alleviate any security concerns. Once you set the microSD card as an Internal storage unit, it will not be readable by any other device but that very phone. So, for all means and purposes, it truly becomes a part of your handset's very own storage.

New apps and media items will first try to fill the SD card


From that point on, you can expect your smartphone to treat the card as its primary storage option. Screenshots, photos and videos, apps and games, et cetera will first try and fill the newly adopted storage before they make their way to the phone's memory. This means it's a good idea to invest in a quality card that ensures speed – in fact, if Android detects the card to be slow, it may issue a warning, telling you that apps may perform poorly.

If you remove the card, you will get a special message, reminding you that your apps will fail to work, and you will also be unable to take screenshots. If you happen to lose the microSD card, you can ask the phone to “forget” it, but be warned that this will result in all of the data on the card to be lost forever!

That's pretty much it. The only flagship we know of that supports Adoptable storage out of the box right now is the HTC 10. However, if you own a Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 edge, there is a way to force the device to treat your SD card as Flex storage. It's nowhere near as pretty and elegant as the native way, but at least it doesn't require root and is pretty easy to do.



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59 Comments

1. Mxyzptlk unregistered

No it isn't. SD cards can be unreliable and unpredictable. Onboard storage space is much better and faster than anything from an SD card.

3. Shocky unregistered

Unfortunately I have to agree with you, no sdcard currently available comes close to the speed of internal storage options. Plus they are unreliable, I've had so many randomly fail over years .

6. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

yeah, its amazingly slow compared to UFS 2.0, it will make games loading significanly longer.. maybe its usefull for cheap phone with 8GB or 16GB storage :-/

12. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Seen no slowdown in loading beside two game thats take 1 or 2 second more to load. big big deal... Samsung lover much you guys are.

22. Shocky unregistered

Last time I checked the Galaxy S7 had an sdcard slot, it doesn't support this officially but there are work arounds without root so this affects Samsung users as well. Loading a large game from an sdcard adds a lot more than 1 or 2 seconds to your loading time.

30. vincelongman

Posts: 5691; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

SD cards are great for music, videos and photos There's going to be UFS cards soon, based on UFS 2.0 They should be comparable to onboard UFS 2.0 storage Should be great apps and games too http://www.jedec.org/news/pressreleases/jedec-publishes-universal-flash-storage-ufs-removable-card-standard

42. Shocky unregistered

Looking forward to this, I just hope they're reliable.

32. TheUnbiasedGuy

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 21, 2016

About the sd card fail issue, that's a bit weird,my sandisk 16 gb card is 5 year old and survived many phones, as to name a few-galaxy y,note 1,tab 3,note 3(still using),or maybe it's just me.

37. BluRayPlayer

Posts: 11; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

I also have a sandisk 16 gb card and im still using it for 4 years and it still works just fine. Am sure you're not the only one. :D

38. TheUnbiasedGuy

Posts: 50; Member since: Apr 21, 2016

Phew,My faith in humanity restored.LOL

49. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

No you are not the only one, I have one that has lasted for a good 2yrs or so. However, I have also had 2 fail. Unfortunately it is still to common for me to actually rely on it as true storage.

8. aznhachi

Posts: 212; Member since: Apr 12, 2016

no wonder samsung ditch that feature from s7/edge

10. Canaan

Posts: 351; Member since: May 25, 2014

Then they should have given us 64 and 128 GB versions of their phones. I'm contemplating upgrading to the IPhone 6s plus next month just for the higher storage options they offer.

26. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

48. Canaan

Posts: 351; Member since: May 25, 2014

I'm not going to pay full price for them especially when I'm paying for College out of pocket right now. This is why I haven't bought a Nexus 6P either since you have to buy them at full price. They should have offered payment plans like Motorola and HTC.

55. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

So, it's not that they're not available, you want payment plans to cover your budget, totally different cases. Stop impotently trying to mix them up...

14. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

No wonder? They could just deactivate it and let user activate it inside the setting yourself if they want it. ppl who get randomly fail over years are using crappy sd card ( and yeah Samsung card are crappy the only card i had issue was a high speed Samsung one on my htc desire hd back in the day. )

21. Shocky unregistered

Most of cards I've had fail where from Sandisk and one from Samsung, the only working 64GB micro sdcard I have working is from Samsung. It least I think it's still working, I don't currently have anything to use it in. :D

11. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

What a lots of crap from ifanboy. Only time i had issue with sd card was on the htc desire hd a few years back. Never had any SD card issue since then on ANY other android handset i used. Been using adoptable SD on my moto x play since month whitout any slowdown or issue. Ofcourse onboard memory will be faster overall but you do know there is stuff reading from thats memory at all time right? So its cannot use full speed ever. Its like having a computer with 1 super fast drive or 1 super fast drive and one normal drive.

23. Shocky unregistered

It would be comparable to having an SSD drive and a standard HDD. The HDD would be a lot slower, which is why HDD's generally don't feature in new builds anymore. I don't use any because they slow, I'd be pretty pissed if my SSD storage was limited to 32GB and I had to start installing 30GB games on a HDD. That's basically what's happening with Android but obviously the games are a bit smaller, 4-6GB for the largest Android games right now. You don't know too much about hardware in general do you?

29. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Your comment is just broken. And you're wrong.

56. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Sour Grapes!!!

27. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

For once I agree with you. There's no advantage I see in this stuff, plus you risk losing a random set of data when the SD card fails (although that has never happened to me with any of my non-fake MicorSD cards). Could always move apps to SD card anytime when formatted as external storage, and you reserve the advantage of being able to share the SD card between multiple devices without needing to reformat it, which IMO, is a must for my SD-card equipped SmartPhone. Plus you're always aware of what data is in the internal/external partition, so no surprise data losses when the card fails.

34. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

In a flagship, it is nonsense especially when you only have 8GB of external memory and have the 32GB model, for example. When you activate Adoptive Storage you will only use the 8GB part and the 32GB internal will no longer be usable. Now if this feature is available to low end Marshmallow devices which has low internal memory and has a sdcard slot, then Adoptable Storage is a very useful feature.

39. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Yup, it makes sense for low end devices who's internal storage is like soldered-on-board MicroSD card with low capacity. Performance will be indifferent and it allows installing big apps directly to the MicroSD card instead of first the internal (which is already the low on storage).

53. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

Based on what I experienced on my Android One, installing apps on external storage bears no significant difference on performance and it is barely noticeable.

45. jdrch

Posts: 107; Member since: Jul 08, 2014

Ridiculously dumb argument. 1) portable storage uses SD cards also. 2) U3 SD cards from SanDisk and Samsung are pretty much bulletproof, and if they do fail, they're supported by great warranties. 3) Most of the problems people have with SD cards involve formatting them in devices other than the device they're primarily used in OR not using the SD Card Association's official formatting utility. I've only ever had 1 microSD card fail on me since I started using them in 2009, and SanDisk replaced it quickly. Stick to U3+ cards from Samsung, SanDisk, and Kingston and you'll be just fine.

51. Shocky unregistered

1. Speed differences are still huge so it's a valid comparison, type of storage is irrelevant. 2. They are not bullet proof, they both put out bad batches and SanDisk have openly admitted to that in the past, Samsung tend to stay quiet about them. 3. See 2. You've been lucky, all hardware has a small percentage that fail and sometimes quality drops and you have entire batches which have a much higher chance of failure (they still sell them anyway). Their support is great but that's not really reassuring when they fail and you lose your data.

2. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

This is the first time I ever heard about all this. Seems to me they took Apps2SD and just putting apps on SD cards and finally fixed it for using apps n games while on the SD card. In the past it worked somewhat but it broke most widgets and things that really needed to be on the internal storage. I think moving games to the SD card after playing it wiped out saves, progress.

15. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Well now its work perfectly well :)

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