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

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:


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

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56 Comments

1. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

Now that's a kicker

7. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 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.

12. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Thank you.

14. Maxwell.R

Posts: 218; Member since: Sep 20, 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).

19. neops

Posts: 297; Member since: Jan 28, 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?

24. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 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.

2. technomichael

Posts: 18; Member since: Dec 27, 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?

10. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 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.

3. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

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

6. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

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

8. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

English may be a second language for Python.

11. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

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

18. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 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.

22. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

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

21. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 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.

50. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

Embarrassed? Me? On the internet? Lolno.

4. strikercho

Posts: 156; Member since: Mar 20, 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.

9. UglyFrank

Posts: 2193; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Hello brain, are you still in there?

15. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Who let the troll out?

27. tedkord

Posts: 17289; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

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

28. tedkord

Posts: 17289; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

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

25. tedkord

Posts: 17289; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

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

5. Skolar

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 18, 2014

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

23. jellmoo

Posts: 2562; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

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

13. cleat-glitch

Posts: 109; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

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

16. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 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.

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.

17. livyatan

Posts: 867; Member since: Jun 19, 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.

20. Cyberchum

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 24, 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.

26. tedkord

Posts: 17289; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

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

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