There was a time when you could remove the back cover of your phone and easily swap in a new battery and a new microSD card. Beyond feeling like a double agent in a spy movie, this added flexibility gave Android phone fans some welcome ammunition to praise their Apple rivals. However, things have changed.
Today’s phones are slimmer, sleeker, and more powerful than ever, but we’re also losing more and more features as the years go by. Replaceable batteries are a distant memory, and even the powerful and seemingly immortal headphone jack is nearly extinct from modern flagships.
The latest feature in the sights of the evolution of smartphones? Expandable storage.
That’s right: the microSD slot, loved by power users and media hoarders alike, is in danger of joining the smartphone feature graveyard. While expandable storage options have become less common in recent years, it’s the latest version of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series that could signal the beginning of the end.
It’s reasonable to say that many see Samsung as the ‘Apple’ of the Android world. Their phones are considered to offer one of the most premium smartphone experiences, both in terms of hardware and functionality, as well as price. Not only that, but the South Korean tech giant also tends to join the trends created by Apple.
Yes, we know, that’s blasphemy in the holy corridors of the Android Temple, but it’s true.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that expandable storage is disappearing as an option on smartphones,” says Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight.
“Apple has always taken this approach, forcing customers to buy larger, more expensive memory variants rather than a low-cost memory card on the aftermarket. With market leader Samsung ditching expandable memory in its latest S21 smartphones, it looks like this option will follow the 3.5mm headphone jack into oblivion. “
Ah, the sorely missing headphone jack. Remember when Apple killed him? Samsung launched video ads mocking Apple, only to later pull them down when it ditched the port of its own Galaxy flagship line.
The exact same thing happened when it came to removing the previously included Galaxy S21 charging plug as well. While the company has shown it can reverse decisions (it removed the microSD slot on the Galaxy S6 and brought it back to the Galaxy S7 in 2016), we can’t really see it restart the expandable storage franchise ever again.
We are focusing on Samsung specifically because the company is a pretty reliable benchmark for trends in the Android world. Although we cannot guarantee that other manufacturers will follow suit, it is quite likely, especially when looking at the trend of eliminating the headphone jack.
At the time of writing this article, top flagship phones with microSD slots include last year’s Galaxy S20 and Note 20 Ultra, Sony Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II, LG V60 ThinQ, and Xiaomi Mi 10i, to name. a few important examples.
Reaction or acceptance?
Humans are fickle, and it could be argued that thanks to the barrage of 24/7 memes, mind-spoiling TikTok videos, and constant news cycles, our memories have never been shorter.
Remember when the idea of removing the headphone jack seemed ridiculous? Ask the average person on the street about that today, and they most likely barely record the Before Times, happily jogging with their AirPods or AirPods clones firmly attached to their ears. The most cynical among us might believe that the death of the headphone jack is primarily motivated by the sale of wireless headphones, but that’s another story.
“It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out over the long term,” says Bill Nagy, independent consultant and analyst at TMT.
Apple faced backlash from consumers for removing the headphone jack, but it had no immediate effect on iPhone sales in the two years after the move. However, Android-based phones are known for their flexibility, a feature well-regarded by Android users. The increasing elimination of the option to use microSD cards, especially replacing it with cloud storage, is likely to lead to a surge in Android consumers.
“Other Android makers would do well to assess the market’s reaction to Samsung’s decision to report its future development cycles.”
So hardcore Android users – the kind of people who delve into the world of unlockable bootstraps, custom ROMS, and frequent Android forums – are likely to choose to boycott microSD-less Samsung phones, but they make up a small percentage of those. sales .
Not only that, but OnePlus (a company widely regarded by Android enthusiasts), has never It offered expandable storage and still seems to have a positive following. That is still true for the new OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro.
Do you even need expandable storage?
Today, you could argue quite convincingly that most people don’t need expandable storage. Thanks to the wide availability of cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive and Photos, you can easily store your files and media online, saving space on your phone for applications and any media files you want to have immediate access to (such as episodes of your favorite program). to binge-watch on a long flight).
Beyond that, there’s also the fact that despite advances in technology, microSD transfer speeds are still much slower than your phone’s built-in NVMe storage, which provides much more streamlined and fluid performance. Yes, that’s a bit of a geek and won’t really interest the casual user, but it’s a point worth mentioning.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that we are seeing things like 8K video recording become more common on new phones. If you’re an avid videographer, you’ll be chowing down on onboard storage in no time. Also, services like Google Drive and Google Photos are no longer completely free; you have to fork out a monthly fee once you exceed your 15GB free storage limit.
You could argue (convincingly) that eliminating expandable storage options is a way for companies to push their own cloud storage solutions in the future, such as Samsung and OnePlus cloud services, to list a few examples. If you haven’t seen it yet, this could result in the wireless headphone / headphone jack upsell situation again.
On a much less subtle level, this also allows companies to follow Apple’s method of pushing higher-capacity devices at higher prices.
“Ultimately, it means that if you want a smartphone with a large capacity, you should go for a more expensive model rather than increasing memory at a later date with a memory card,” says Wood.
Of course, this is all conjecture. Maybe Samsung is bringing back expandable storage along with the headphone jack in a nostalgia-laden retro product throwback.
Perhaps manufacturers will make phones a bit thicker to give us bigger batteries, which can also be changed again. Heck, we might even see phones with removable covers just like the good old Nokia days.