Flash storage to blame for sluggish smartphone performance says study

Flash storage to blame for sluggish smartphone performance says study
Thanks to the focus placed on specs like processor speed, RAM size, camera megapixels, the public has come to blame a smartphone's hardware for sluggish performance. According to a study done by the Georgia Institute of Technology, the type or brand of microSD card installed on the phone could be what is holding the unit back. Depending on the microSD card in your handset, performance of your phone could drop by 100% to 300%; in one case, the performance numbers dropped 2,000% as a result of a flash storage card.

The problem seems to be that the technology behind flash storage is not keeping up with the hardware of today's mobile devices, and can be traced back to the way that random I/O data is handled by the software. This is the theory espoused by Hyojun Kim, a doctoral student at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.

A solution, according to Kim, would be to use phase-change random access memory (PRAM) which could be better at managing random data writing. The research shows that microSD cards can have better performance by reorganizing its file subsystem and keeping storage space neat and tidy. Ironically, benchmarking tests showed that some lower grade microSD cards performed better than some higher grade cards. As for naming names, Kim writes that Kingston's microSD card performs so badly that its results need to be removed from test data to get realistic averages. Transcend performs the best for random writes by as much as a factor of 100 compared to the competition.

Check the sourcelink for the dry as dust report. The bottom line is that the brand of microSD card you use in your device does make a difference in how fast it runs. Kim checked the launch time for eight popular apps including Angry Birds, Twitter and YouTube and found that Kingston's microSD cards offered up the slowest times for most of the apps. But there is hope based on the four suggestions listed in the report. First is that mobile devices need better storage media. Secondly, Firmware and device driver should be better at utilizing existing and upcoming storage devices. The mobile OS needs to be enhanced to prevent the bottlenecks from storage and offer new functionality. Finally, there should be changes made at the Application-level to use the supplied storage interface.

What is interesting is that some of the latest Android devices are not launching with a microSD slot which means that Kim might have to revisit this study using some of those devices. And for those who complain about how sluggish their Android model is, a change in the microSD card brand you use could make the difference.

source: Usenix via Phandroid



1. theBankRobber

Posts: 682; Member since: Sep 22, 2011

Something is off with these numbers, what class cards were they using for this study? I have a 16gb Sandisk class 4 card and on my photon, Angry Birds loaded the game rather quickly then it suggested in the study.

2. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

lol i have that same card. sucks because the class requirements change between manufacturers. so they only matter when comparing the same brand. but im happy with the class 4 from sandisk.

3. Cwebb

Posts: 501; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Still rocking the 8GB that HTC game me when I got my Evo and I'm sure its not effecting performance much

11. ghost__uwi

Posts: 175; Member since: Nov 28, 2011

Trust me it does. I swapped out my card for a 16gig (the fastest sd card available at the time) and really good performance increase. 720p videos were coming out less choppy

16. Cwebb

Posts: 501; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I've been meaning to buy a new 32 GB card, but I just don't think its worth the money. I've been able to save space to make it reasonable. Maybe if they release a NFC enabled SD card with good speed and a lot of space

4. bvalde09

Posts: 191; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

I will have to agree with it. I have an S2 i9100 and I used to have an Micro SD cars installed in order to save some space sometimes the apps didnt load correct I have to take out so it would recognize the apps. My girlfriend has an infuse and has the same problem. I guess you could use them to save music or docs but in my experience not suit for apps

5. p0rkguy

Posts: 685; Member since: Nov 23, 2010

Agree, My Evo that came with an Samsung 8gb C2 often messes up from time to time when I restart my phone, forcing a restart. But it's probably because I've filled up my entire card with apps and it would try to boot them all at once on start ups. I should really clean up my phone considering it has 4 pages filled of games but I'm just too lazy and awaiting GS3.

6. mercorp

Posts: 1045; Member since: Jan 28, 2012

that is why microsoft and apple dont allow you to insert memory cards.

8. blazee

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

I dont think this is the reason why apple doesn't allow you to add your own memory stick lol they make millions more by forcing customers to buy extra built in storage every time they get a new apple product

20. illiad

Posts: 132; Member since: Feb 07, 2012

No it is purely a money thing.. to change a basic design, it takes 1000's to change the tools, add is a decent card slot and the contacts, holder etc required.. and the you have problems with a suitable cover, and all the support issues arising from this... Apple have shown already that their engineering skills are not up to much, otherwise they would have known about the problems with RF antennas at the design stage!!! so NO, they do not want extra problems from their idiot users, who are happy enough just to buy another phone.. The way it is sold, and the way it is bought, is not just a phone, more a 'fashion accessory', upgraded every year ....

9. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

No this is certainly not why apple doesnt put a micro sd card in three iphone,apples reason is for money where they try to get as much wool from their sheep as possible,after all you can get a decent 32gb micro sd card online for about 30 bucks but apple charge up to 100 bucks extra for a 32gb iphone compared to a 16gb model. Using that ratio apple would charge 200 bucks for 32gb memory while a good old sandisk 32gb card is 30 bucks


Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

You truely are brainwashed if you actually believe thats why....

18. quakan

Posts: 1418; Member since: Mar 02, 2011

part of it might be due to performance but you have to also think about money too. Do you think Apple would be able to sell many 32 gig iPhones if you could just get the 16 gig and add a 32 gig card?

7. jagon91

Posts: 13; Member since: Aug 03, 2010

I don't see any lack in performance when I use the 16gb provided with my dell streak in an xperia x10a or in my new galaxy s2. All of them loaded anything I stored to them almost instantaneously.

10. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

Ive used both a class 4 32 gb micro sd card in my phones and also a class 10 32gb card and i found any difference in speed to be minimal between the two or even between the phone with a card inserted or without a card,the phone was blazingly fast either way. Dont think this study in the article holds any real value and was time wasted

13. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

is this for apps that are loaded on the external SD? I see where he has an internal set as well as ram. How does he get the device to load ram only and not from the internal? Since the internal is pretty much just an SD card in most phones, that cant really be a category on its own since it would differ from phone to phone. Also, where are samsung micros? thats a pretty major brand to miss. Also, Im shocked at kingston.. they are normally a really good brand.

19. thelegend6657 unregistered

Internal memory is not an SD card . More of an SSD . Example try playing a game on a thumb drive on your pc , isnt it slower ? Lesson : store music , docs , photos but keep apps , HD vids off your SD card

22. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

thats not always true. Sometimes its just an SD card. There was a windows phone.. actually i think it was the HD7, that u could take apart and literally switch out the 8gig internal SD for a 16 gig SD and reformat it to WP7 and use it. I dont know if all windows phones are like that, but obviously some phones are.

14. Evil_SaNz

Posts: 259; Member since: Oct 20, 2011

Just pure logic tells me to not store apps on a removable microSD, it's like installing windows on a usb pen. I see this research as a new style of propaganda, an indirect justification of a product lackage. I'm starting to feel paranoic lol...but all seem to fit in the mosaic I call "brainwashing of the 21st century". I'm curious to see soon a research telling us that using itunes improves life quality.

15. dreammixer

Posts: 81; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

This is why Apple doesn't use sd cards and android makers are now following their lead along with windows.

17. LoneShaolin

Posts: 307; Member since: Jan 14, 2012

someone didn't read Mercorp's comment.

21. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

I wish they would have put class ratings on these cards. I recently bumped from a class 4 to a class 10, and it's astonishing just how much faster it is. Not much difference between a class 6 and a class 10, but it's silly they didn't include that in the graph

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