It's 2018. Can we leave the microSD card in the past now?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
It's 2018. Can we leave the microSD card in the past now?
Pictured above is the microSD card my girlfriend was using in her phone until recently. The card – a genuine, 64GB Samsung EVO series – served her well for about a couple of years and had never shown symptoms of failing. Yet one day, all her pictures and videos vanished – without warning and without trace. Using the card now results in errors, and my Windows 10 PC is unable to format it. Fortunately, all the data had been backed up, so its disappearance from the card wasn't that big of a deal, but will I ever recommend anyone use a microSD card in their phone? I doubt it. 

And what happened got me thinking: perhaps it is time to leave the microSD card in the past. Perhaps if we want not only better smartphones, but a truly better smartphone experience, we need to demand and choose phones with on-board capacity that truly matches our needs instead of clinging onto removable storage for good ol' times' sake.


Now, before you reach for the pitchforks, let me say that I'm fully aware of a microSD card's advantages. I know how cheap they are. I know that there's a $100 price gap between the 64GB and the 128GB Google Pixel 2, but if the phone had a slot for expandable storage, I could have added the extra 64GB for just another $30. But cheaper isn't necessarily better.

The point I'm trying to make is that we don't only need more storage. We need better, more reliable storage for our ever-evolving phones, and microSD cards aren't a universal solution for a number of reasons.

#1 The reliability of microSD cards is questionable


Theoretically, microSD cards should last for many, many years unless stressed excessively. That's why it is not uncommon for a new microSD card to come with a 5- or 10-year warranty from the manufacturer. Some go as far as to offer lifetime warranty for their removable cards.


But in practice, over the past couple of years, my girlfriend is the third person I know to have experienced loss of data due to a microSD card in their phone failing. One of them had two different cards fail in two different phones. Cards of all varieties have also failed us around the office on multiple occasions. Making matters worse, a microSD card's warranty won't cover data recovery, and even if you let a professional handle the task, there's no guarantee that you'll get anything back.

Of course, our experience has none of the weight a proper scientific study on the reliability of removable storage would, but it's enough for us to say that a microSD card isn't the recommended medium for data you can't afford to lose.

#2 microSD cards are slower than built-in storage


When we talk about storage speeds, we're usually concerned with how fast data is being read, as well as how fast is it being written. A modern high-end smartphone would use UFS storage technology, which is capable of read and write speeds well into the hundreds of megabytes per second – enough for anything from playing Minecraft to capturing high-resolution video at high framerates. 


Meanwhile, the peak performance of a high-grade microSD card stands at around 90 megabytes per second for both read and write operations, and there's a big "up to" in front of that figure. In reality, read/write speeds can drop way below the advertised rate, depending on the operation. 

Can using a microSD card slow down you phone? That depends on a number of factors, including the card's quality and speed ratings, as well as on how the card is set up and used. But slowdowns are indeed possible, and in any case, removable cards can only be seen as an inferior extension to on-board storage, not as an equally capable solution.

#3 microSD cards have limited use


Right now the most practical application of microSD cards is to store your music, photos, and videos on it. Any smartphone would allow you to record media directly onto removable storage, although in some situations – when shooting video in 4K, for example – a higher-grade card would be necessary. But again, the questionable reliability of microSD cards should be considered.

While some apps do let you move their data to a microSD card, access to this data could be hurdled by the card's lower read/write speeds, leading to potential performance issues.

How about Adoptable Storage – the Android feature that lets you use removable storage as if it were native? Well, very few phones actually support it, and many popular ones, including top models by Samsung and LG, do not. 

#4 Fake microSD cards are still easy to come by


Back in 2016 I wrote and article on fake microSD cards – cheap generic cards that are advertised as brand-name ones and/or cards that have much less storage than advertised. These cards will not only slow down your phone due to their abysmal performance, but they may also cause you to lose data that you think you've stored on them. 

Sadly, eBay is still loaded with these, and so might be your local corner shop. An experienced smartphone user surely can't be fooled, but I wonder how many unassuming shoppers have been suckered in by the temptation to buy a "512GB" card for 36 bucks.

#5 microSD cards are not secure


Have you ever lost a phone? Many of us have. Fortunately, every modern smartphone offers some sort of protection, be it a fingerprint scanner, a face recognition system, or even a basic PIN code, preventing prying eyes from browsing through your stuff. A microSD card, however, is removable, and popping it in a computer or another phone may expose all the data on it.

And do you really, really need a microSD card in 2018?


Indeed, there was a time when a microSD card was more than just nice having in your phone. It was a necessity when on-board storage was limited and expensive – a top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S II, for example, had 16 gigs built in, and even back in 2011, these did get filled up pretty quickly. Many phones at the time had only 8GB built in.

Today, most flagship phones offer at least 64GB natively, and that kind of storage would be plentiful for all but the heaviest of users (and hoarders). We don't necessarily need to rely on cheap, potentially unreliable microSD cards for our storage needs. Not anymore. 

But are we ready to ditch the microSD card completely? We're surely getting to a point in time where the microSD slot on our phones will be obsolete, much like floppy and CD drives on laptops. But we're not quite there yet. For that to happen, we'll need a three-digit figure to be the norm for base on-board storage, with higher-capacity options available for power users. Either that, or a 5G network revolution that enables super-fast access to affordable cloud storage. In any case, I believe it is only a matter of time until the microSD card slot disappears from most smartphones. It will be a better, brighter future that can't come soon enough.

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136 Comments

1. fyah_king unregistered

Must be an iOS dude.lol.never had any problems with my sd card.

5. PryvateiDz

Posts: 443; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

Same. Let's not start this sentiment (to the author of the article). MicroSD cards are very useful, and convenient. They may not be as far as onboard storage, but you can get some that are definitely not a slug to handle all intense uses, like 4K video recording. You just have to do your research on speed sets, and labeling. My micro SD cards have 100MB/s read and write speeds. Pretty reasonable.

83. PryvateiDz

Posts: 443; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

And I meant, they may not be "As fast." I know many iPhone users, who have run into "storage low, must delete", can't use apps, and what not. I have not seen such a message, not once in YEARS. I love both fast on-board storage like UFS 2.1 and UFS 3.0 (upcoming), and fast microSD cards. They are also convenient to put right into my laptop's SD card slot to transfer files to and from my smartphone.

137. yann

Posts: 612; Member since: Jul 15, 2010

This guy - the so called author is hilarious. Nikolay, stop writing and get a job that you can do. It is obvious that you can't write. I'm using 5 years one and the same SD card, moved on so many phones and it never fail me. Like other people here writing the same. It is so obvious that you're i$heep, that trying hard to defend absence of SD card slot in Apple phones. Get a life out of writing business. You $uck dude...

11. buccob

Posts: 2956; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Agree, I've never had any card fail on me... I still use my Xperia with additionally 128GB SanDisk microSD card... and currently it sits at 70% full of content... I not only use it to transfer large recordings of personal video or older photos... but also to keep my music collection, and some movies that allows me to NOT rely on streaming all the time. I do worry sometimes about how unsecured these are... it is a legitimate concern, however when I backup my content on my External Drive I usually erase the personal data from the card, and start over... One major benefit is to simply swap the card to a new phone when upgrading.... I most likely will get another device that still support them.

18. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Reliable or not people shouldn't be too stupid to leave their important data (without back it up regularly) on their phone internal memory let alone microsd.

34. Skimshaddy

Posts: 126; Member since: Feb 23, 2016

I am using the same card from the last 3 phones. Never have problems. Maybe this writer got a copy cat from China. There are tons on eBay for that if you're not careful where you buying from.

77. Anonymous.

Posts: 423; Member since: Jun 15, 2016

Me too, never had major issues with SD cards. This article doesn't mean much of anything .

64. ebilcake

Posts: 1221; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

I've lost 6-8 over the years, they just randomly stopped working. I given a few a way as well, not sure about them.

84. ph00ny

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 26, 2011

I've had a several bad batch of Sandisk cards that were replaced under warranty. It looked like i wasn't the only one based on the comment section in amazon. I typically go fo for brand names with great reviews and they've all been solid

90. MySchizoBuddy

Posts: 159; Member since: Aug 23, 2011

iOS is an operating system and iPhone doesn't use sd cards. Intelligence is rare in android fanboys

123. cheetah2k

Posts: 2198; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

We need a new article - "can we leave iOS in the past already".. This OS needs a total revamp. its a bucket. made for simpletons and 4 year olds to navigate... The fact of the matter is that MicroSD cards are cheaper than the internal storage Apple provides to its users. When Apple cuts its storage costs, then maybe I'll say yes, so 256gb users can rejoice and not get raped over a barrel and then some.. This whole article is just click bait. Hope its trolled to the moon

130. Trex95

Posts: 2376; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Slow performance and overheating there’s no problem lol.

2. alvinashcraft

Posts: 14; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

I've never had problems with an SD card in an Android device. I used to see issues all the time in Windows Phones. As long as manufacturers are charging $100 or more for upping the internal storage, I'd rather have an SD card option.

15. Sam_K

Posts: 32; Member since: Feb 03, 2011

Agreed. Companies like Apple charge $150 more to get the model with 192gb more of internal storage (256gb vs 64gb) when it probably costs them 1/10th that amount to put in 256gb instead of 64gb in the higher storage model. Meanwhile I can regularly get 256gb microsd cards for less than $50.

30. UglyFrank

Posts: 2191; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I could understand if the article mentioned moving to UFS cards but nope, they just want us to pay more for our phones

124. cheetah2k

Posts: 2198; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

the author and the contents have been funded by Apple. pure and simple

3. darkkjedii

Posts: 30900; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Uhhh...no, and why would we need to?

4. nikhil23

Posts: 420; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

Is this a joke? Micro SD is an absolute must for me.

6. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Well, I can live without an SD Cards now thanks to unlimited photo storage on Google Photos and my relatively fast data connection with a 40Mbps (5MB/s) upload speeds. Now, I'm aware that Google compresses the images but I, for the life of me, can't distinguish between originals and compressed ones! Old eyes to blame here, eh? But if you can't live with compressed pictures or perhaps concerned about privacy then there is one little thing called 'Home Cloud'. A good 10TB setup will cost you a LOT, anywhere from $300 to $500 but it'll allow you store your data locally in your home at blazing fast speeds and every gadget with a Wifi can use it! SD Cards are definitely un-reliable for priceless snaps. G'Day!

7. nikhil23

Posts: 420; Member since: Dec 07, 2016

#1 I still don't mind spending $100 for every 5-10 years than spend $200 every time I upgrade my phone #2 Yes they are. But if I can record my 4k video without any issues, I'm satisfied. I never had my phone slowdown because of Micro SD #3 Limited but very useful. All my Apps and games are on my internal storage and Music cache, photos and videos on my Micro SD. I'm super satisfied with my 64GB internal storage + 128 GB Micro SD #4 I can easily find a fake mobile phones too. Doesn't mean I should stop buying phones altogether #5 Ever heard about encryption ?

8. tokuzumi

Posts: 1844; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Companies are still offering devices with 32GB of storage, which is quickly becoming insufficient. I store all my pictures on my SD card, so it doesn't take up any of the device's storage, which will always be used for the OS and apps. I back up my photos to Google Photos, so if my SD card dies, there is no concern about lost data. Plus it's a great place to store downloaded files and movies/music if you don't want to use up your onboard storage.

9. chaosnightmare

Posts: 182; Member since: May 20, 2010

Even in 2018 mobile data is very expensive in many countries, and there’s no unlimited data plans for phones where I live, so cloud storage is not as helpfull when I’m outside home.

10. dirtydarko

Posts: 12; Member since: Nov 03, 2014

This article should have been its 2018 can we get rid of micro USB finally!

12. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Micro SD is pretty useful. You take just few seconds to transfer many files to new phone. With its adapter you can insert it on computer. Their speed is not on pair with even emmc 5.1, flagships use the UFS 2.1 way faster. But without micro sd price of phones would increase.

13. droidnator

Posts: 93; Member since: Mar 10, 2011

No, we need them for easy transfer of large files between devices, for instance. Why would we leave something so useful behind?

14. haikallp

Posts: 319; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Hell no. It's incredibly useful. Cheap storage.

97. blingblingthing

Posts: 919; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

It's incredible how much Apple can influence their customers and the public. It's usually better when Customer's have choices. The same SD cards gave customers an extra 64 GB of storage when phones came with 16/32 gbs. Now because Apple started doing 128 and 256 Gbs, we should hope other OEMs folow and we pony up $900+ for this? How about no. I don't NEED beyond 64 GBs natively. i will however OPTION-UP beyond it due to the low prices of SD cards. Another example, look at your ISPs internet speed packages. You won't buy a package beyond what it takes to avoid buffering, but it would be nice to be even faster tho.

16. ChrisHartcom

Posts: 23; Member since: Jul 08, 2015

NOOO!!! Expandability is fine. I have used cards for years and never had one fail - in constant daily use, water, heat, etc.

17. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 715; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

So many people thinking that having a microSD card is already suffice. Little did they know. It's already 2018! And android smartphones should start offering 64GB as the budget storage and 256GB for bigger storage! It's about time for android smartphones to move on!

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

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