The power of the 1% over mobile devices (expandable memory and removable batteries)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The power of the 1% over mobile devices (expandable memory and removable batteries)
If there is anything that we try to do consistently, it is to point out that personal opinion does not equal one side of a right/wrong argument. There is a growing trend of manufacturers not including SD card slots or removable batteries in new devices, and there are quite a few people in our community who are taking this trend personally. We simply want to remind you that this isn't personal, it's business. And, the sad truth is that while we here in our tech elite community may have the most passion and a loud voice considering our size, we are effectively the 1% in this equation. We are the power users, and the ones that follow this world every day, but we are the vast minority in the system. Unfortunately, the people with the most clout are the 99% that buy mobile devices to take pictures, browse Facebook or Twitter, or maybe play some Angry Birds or Draw Something. The casual users will get what they want (or what manufacturers think they want) because their sheer numbers translates into big dollars. 

This is a tough pill to swallow, but swallow it we must. Yes, we have a huge amount of influence that manufacturers still don't fully understand. We are often the ones that friends and family come to for advice on what to buy, and for help when they don't understand something, or if something breaks. But, we don't control how our friends and family use their devices. You can go on all night about the benefits of a removable battery or expandable memory, or why Angry Birds is actually a boring game compared to something like 9mm, Machinarium, or GTA III. But, if a casual user can get by without those things, they will. If casual games make more money (which they do), that will make up a big part of the market. And, if casual users don't really need certain features, manufacturers won't keep building them in on all devices. 

Read that last sentence again: those features won't be on all devices, but those feature will still be on quite a few devices. What we're calling a "growing trend" or some calling an "epidemic" right now amounts to a handful of devices in an ecosystem of hundreds of smartphones. Just like with games, there may be a lot of casual games, but there are still pretty solid games for those who want them. This is something that seems to get lost on the tech elite crowd: the popularity of one thing doesn't kill alternative options. We've pointed this out before in regards to how some seem to think that Apple's popularity is going to kill everything that isn't an Apple-clone, which is not only false, but is the complete opposite of what we've seen in the rise of Android. 

The influence of the 1%

We ran a poll a few days ago about the supposed "trend" of high end devices being released without expandable memory slots, and the vast majority of you came down in support of expandable memory slots. Almost 70% of you said that you would preferred (or would only buy) devices with expandable memory, either because you need the storage space, or you don't trust the cloud. We think this is a backwards way to look at the issue. The cloud is the future, there isn't really much we can do to stop that, but we need to learn when and where our influence counts the most.

As we pointed out, casual users are wielding more and more power over the smartphone market, but that is because the smartphone market has matured to the point where popular opinion matters quite a lot. As power users, tech elite, early adopters, and generally passionate fans of technology, we have more power on burgeoning technologies. We are the reason Android developed the way it did, and why removable batteries and expandable memory won't ever be completely eradicated from the ecosystem. Similarly, we can help shape how the cloud works, because we are the ones to get in early and dictate trends. This is a phenomenon we see all over, but in which we never quite accept our role. Even though Twitter is one of the best sources for real-time news, it still has a reputation for being a place where people do nothing but talk about mundane things. Android has a reputation of not being very user-friendly, despite the strides made both by Google and by various manufacturer UIs to fix those issues. 

Not using the cloud in favor of expandable memory will do nothing except remove you as a voice that companies hear about how the cloud should work. It's the same idea as expecting that you can effect political change by not voting. 

Expandable memory and removable batteries

Way back in November of last year, we talked about expandable memory and specifically why Google was trying to lessen its prevalence in the Android ecosystem. The essential idea is as follows: SD cards were a stop-gap measure to allow Android phones to be made cheaper at first. Once Android gained traction in the market, SD cards were more of a problem than an answer, and larger internal storage was a better option. Also, Google wanted to push its cloud services, just like all other companies. The same remains true today. 

With the expansion of internal storage in smartphones, the only reason for an SD card would be if you want to carry huge amounts of media with you at all times, and the number of people who want to do this and don't want to use the cloud are fewer and fewer. There are very few reasons why you would ever need more than a few hours of video on a mobile device, and internal storage can handle that. For music and photos, internal storage is large enough to handle thousands of each. The idea that you have to have your entire music collection physically on your device at all times has become an incredibly low priority option. We can fully understand not wanting to store personal data in the cloud for privacy reasons, but what is the harm in storing your music in the cloud? It frees up quite a large amount of space on your device, and it doesn't preclude the option of a local backup if you're worried about losing your data. 

Similarly, removable batteries are less and less necessary. As we've learned, not having to build in the mechanisms to allow for a removable battery means that you can fit a larger battery in a device. And, this is where HTC has failed with the HTC One series. Taking away the option for a removable battery means you need to offer something to users in return, but HTC has stuck with a fairly average 1800 mAh battery in the One X. Of course, this failure doesn't mean that the idea is wrong, just poorly executed. 

Only the most hardcore of power users really need a removable battery. Sure, it can be nice to be able to just swap out a battery when needed, but most people don't want to have to deal with multiple batteries and remembering to charge both. Extra batteries are also an expense that many don't want to pay. An extra battery alone can be anywhere from $50 to $100, and a dock to be able to easily charge both at once will run you an extra $20 or more. On the other side of the equation, your phone comes with a charging cable, and most people are rarely that far from a socket or USB port. And, few people are on the move so much that they can't plug in their device while doing other tasks. 

Beyond that, we're also learning that leaving your device on a charger all night after the battery has hit 100% can be quite bad for the lifetime health of your battery. The extra heat from being left on a charger after the battery is full can cause irreparable damage to your battery, and depending on how hot the battery gets, you could lose more than 35% of your battery's capacity over the course of a year. So, it may be better overall to charge your phone more frequently, but not to full capacity each time. 


Expandable memory, removable batteries, hardcore games, and everything else that we love aren't going anywhere. They may not always be the most popular option in the market, but that's because the users who want/demand those things are not the majority. Not even close. We in the tech elite get in early and we get to shape the early days of a new technology the way we like, but eventually everything becomes pop. And, once something moves into the realm of pop culture, we lose the control we once had, because the majority generates far more money than we do. 

Still, just because the popular majority takes over doesn't mean that our favorite options disappear completely. There will still be plenty of devices available with removable batteries and expandable memory, but in the meantime, we should get ready to shift at least some of our data to the cloud, whether we want to or not. Not all data is created equal, so not all data needs the same amount of protection. For personal data, we need to be vocal with companies to make sure cloud storage options are secure and have easy ways to get out the data we put in. But, for everything else, the cloud is the future and we can't fight the future. 



1. AjayV

Posts: 4; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

First!!! :D anyways.. this post is true.. but i experienced the need for an expandable battery only once (and i BELIEVE that I belong to the 1%). and im sure 1800 mAh is enough coz 500 mhz is all that you will be running on mostly in the one x and samsung galaxy nexus has 1650 mAh.. so not bad.. it was properly executed. but a little more could have been better. thats all.. otherwise.. 1800 is perfect.. :)

6. Habib

Posts: 114; Member since: Feb 26, 2011

samsung galaxy nexus has 1850 mAh battery :D! with verizon..


Posts: 535; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Really nice, liked your article, and your writing style micheal. every-one has coverd what few thing's i was about to say! Well let's wait and see what future brings.... shall it follow Apple's path.....!

59. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

1750 for HSPA version, 1850 for LTE version

79. AjayV

Posts: 4; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

I just don't understand.. everyone here keeps putting a negative to every comment!! why don't they just admit the facts!?? but still.. rarely does anyone cross the requirement for any memory more than say 10 gb? ok at max what 16gb?? its not worth it man.. and companies mean business and their business comes from the 99% and not 1%. we say what we want.. they say what they want.. so majority wins.. our wants are overruled.. no choice.. accept truth fellas..

115. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 969; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

I don't mind the "non-removable" battery in my iphone 4 (although I can replace it in under 2 minutes), and if I had a choice, I'd have a class 10 micro SD instead of internal storage only. Removable memory is easier to access and transfer, whereas with Cloud storage, you have to download it to your multiple locations. The big Plus with Cloud storage now is it's becoming more and more automated, which is easier to work with, but with data limits/caps on smartphones and a limitation on free Cloud storage [before having to pay for more cloud storage], having removable memory is still a very viable option. Companies not including memory cards is not exactly harmful, because seriously, what percentage of people use more than the common 16gb of internal memory? 16gb is a lot of storage. I understand this, but it's still nice to not have to purchase a card seperately.

2. Asasindude26

Posts: 33; Member since: Mar 25, 2012

I agree the cloud is the future

46. jlscott777

Posts: 45; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Not mine, do not need it, do not want it.

48. parkwaydr

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 07, 2011

I will always prefer SD cards, they are just safer.

53. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

So I have to stream my music anytime I want it? No thanks. Give me 32GB and I'll be happy without the sd if and only if it give me high speeds. As it is, I never remove it since I can get to it via usb just fine.

69. frydaexiii

Posts: 1476; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

Yeah, lets see you get access to your files and media when you're in a place with no access to the internet on the go...

3. nnaatthhaannx2

Posts: 820; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

I think Michael is the best Phone Arena writer. Compare his articles to anyone elses, and you'll see why. I read this article, and, without looking, I knew Michael wrote it!

10. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

He has a writing style unique from the others.

11. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

totally agree.

54. matrix_neo

Posts: 334; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

I agree also. Each article he wrote, you learned something. It keeps you reading until the last sentence. Keep up the good work Michael, we're just here always reading your articles.

4. danny_a2005

Posts: 365; Member since: Oct 06, 2011

I don't know what's the big deal with this... If you want a phone with all those features go and get it, there's some people like me that don't care about the battery or the sdcard, in fact most of people don't (iphone).. listen to 1%??? who would do that?? if you listen to 1% you will lose 99% of your costumers.. 99% of their customers don't care about that stuff, and we will buy this flagship, cause we asked for it, they've listened and here it is..

38. jabberwocky

Posts: 89; Member since: Feb 21, 2012

I think I understand where you are coming from, but I would point out that you can buy an iPhone with 64GB of storage, and they have featured the longest battery life of all phones until only recently. I think that is the point of the expandable storage and replaceable battery; more room for my stuff and a phone that lasts through an entire day (at least!).

61. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

I dont know why you got so many dislikes, I get your point. And also why is it a big deal to have a removable battery...not many phones even have extended battery option. Just carry a charger (Its just a wire...) And i really couldn't care if my phone had a micro sd card slot or not, as long as it has enough memory im good. I only have a TOTAL of 8.5GB in my Desire and i still have space left over after music pictures and even roms.

68. phoenixpr

Posts: 167; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Hence you are the 99% fool "F"in it up for the 1%, LOL! You just don't care is my point with all these fools buying crap and happy as can be, LOL!

112. Mario1017

Posts: 336; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

I do care. I wouldnt buy a phone with just 8gb and no sd card slot with a 1400mAh battery. If the battery is big enough...then what is the use of having a removable one. If it has enough storage without a card slot..then what are you losing out on? the card would just sit in your phone the entire time anyways, when you connect it to your computer most likley you plug your phone in and not take the card out. Android is better without card slots, it wouldnt take as long to load the data on the memory. and if you want more memory, you have dropbox (if you are with HTC) and soon you will also have Google Drive

118. WKlingbeil

Posts: 215; Member since: Dec 26, 2008

I'll tell you one reason EVERYBODY needs a removable battery: phones freeze up. Unless you know the key combinations to reset the iPhone you'll have to fumble around the internet looking for it (but what if you don't have internet access other than your phone?). I don't need multiple batteries, but there's nothing simpler than removing the battery when my phone freezes up (though fortunately it's been months since I've had to do that).

88. SGSatlantis

Posts: 227; Member since: Jul 20, 2011

My God, I just don't know why are you here, I mean not caring for SDslot or removable battery. Seem you only care about the logo on your phone... 1. "If you want a phone with all those features go and get it" yeah right, wanted the galaxy nexus with 32GB: never made it! So 16GB and no slot... 2. " there's some people like me that don't care about the battery or the sdcard, in fact most of people don't (iphone)." Most of the people I know care. If your budget was limited you would care too... 3. "listen to 1%??? who would do that?? if you listen to 1% you will lose 99% of your costumers.." well this is just wrong, manufacturers do listen to 1% and this is a fact, unlocking bootroms, bugfixes, updates... And if you include an SDslot and removable battery you won't lose a single sale. I don't hear anyone saying "dude i WILL not buy a phone with removable battery, I might lose it!" 4. "and we will buy this flagship, cause we asked for it, they've listened and here it is.. " I'm lost here... what flagship and who asked for it? Was there a petition? Who listened? So to sum up, according to you, 99% think like this: "I hate the SGS II, 16GB AAANND a SDcard slot? They nuts? Just give me 16GB and I'll pay for unlimited data and cloud services. Removable battery? The battery cover is so big and bulky makes the whole phone ugly" I apologise for all the cinism and critics, no offense to the people that i have cited.

5. Outrager

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 26, 2012

I feel that if Android phones are going to lose the MicroSD slot they need to give you the option of different SKUs with more internal memory like the iPhone. The One X getting half the storage between the HSPA+ and LTE version is just so weird to me. Some people might be fine with 16GB while others want at least 32GB. With the cameras getting better and taking larger pictures and also 1080p video recording it would be nice to have the extra internal memory to store all that. Also a lot of games and apps will start utilizing larger textures and other assets to look better on the newer 720p screens. As for the cloud argument, some people live in areas with slow speeds and some people just aren't willing to pay extra for a higher data limit. If only carriers had affordable unlimited plans.

7. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Nice read Michael! What you said really is true about the power we have and ultimately lose when the new technology becomes the norm, so we should do more to influence that tech in its infancy and while we have the only voice OEMs are listening to. I don't think we fully realize how much beta tester-like status can shape the future of technology. Thanks for the new perspective!

8. flopjoke

Posts: 42; Member since: Jan 05, 2012

This post actually makes sense. We're not exactly "1%", it's growing.. but yeah, we are the minority who follow the tech news on a regular basis. But, it's not what they'll use, since if you create a phone with no expansions like iPhone, they'll buy it anyway. But there is a significant group of "casual users" who want a device with everything in it. So they'll go quad-core, 5.3" screen, SD card slot, hologram, time-machine.. just because it's the "latest". They won't really use those features, but the real trend set right now is that the bigger, the better. Be it camera, processor or screen size.. people just want EVERYTHING in one. So basically, manufacturers do what they want and you can only accept it or whine.. eventually, you'll either wait for your dream phone which will never arrive, or you'll end up buying one of the "trends".

9. GuiltyBystander

Posts: 199; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

The cloud is nice but the problem is data caps..

12. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

So true. With everything moving to the cloud and online storage, data caps get in the way of constantly streaming and uploading. I'm sure in the future the cloud will include video storage as well, if not steaming services like Netflix hulu and crackle will be, as they currently are, the best alternative to movies taking up internal storage. using these services run through data packages faster than anything else. 2gb can be used in 8 hours. Cloud storage and moving away from sd doesn't bother me at all, but the prospect of fearing overage charges just by accessing that data is maddening.

39. jabberwocky

Posts: 89; Member since: Feb 21, 2012

I would add coverage to this. We do not have ubiquitous coverage, making local storage a necessity depending on where you are.

13. ph00ny

Posts: 2052; Member since: May 26, 2011

Expandable memory? Yes Replaceable Battery? f**k no If you use your phone for business, replacement battery is a nice thing to have. Everyone in the office with company assigned iphone ended up with a battery case and android users ended up with extended batteries.

15. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Luckily, data cables, iPhone/pod/pad chargers are really cheap on I charge my phone while using it sometimes, and charging while driving or working at my computer is a big help. And at a buck per cable, it doesn't cost much at all.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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