MicroSD isn't a benefit on 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4, with less than 10GB for apps

MicroSD isn't a benefit on 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4, with less than 10GB for apps

Summary: The microSD card slot and removable battery are the two main arguments people make for the Galaxy S4 over the HTC One. However, only the 16GB S4 is currently available in the US and it has less than 10GB for apps.


I have to uninstall large games (they can run from 1GB to 1.5GB each in size) from my Galaxy Note II due to internal memory limits and the inability of Android to move or install apps to microSD without rooting. This same issue is starting to appear as new Galaxy S IV owners are discovering that their 16GB model only has just under 10GB available to them for apps.

microSD isn't much of a benefit on the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 with less than 10GB for apps
(Image: Samsung)

In today's smartphone world, Android manufacturers shouldn't release high-end devices with less than 32GB, and the microSD argument for the S4 over the HTC One may not be as big of an issue as many make it seem.

Out of the box, you can only install apps on Android devices to the internal storage, and with high-end games and more advanced apps consuming so much memory, I think it's a problem when you have to make app usage choices based on memory limitations. The microSD expansion is good for those who store movies, music, and photos on their devices, but with cloud and streaming solutions becoming more prevalent, the need for large external storage is reduced.

I have a 64GB microSD card in my Note II, because I thought I would use as much as possible. In reality, I only have a couple of GB on it, since I tend to rent movies on Google Play (temporary storage need) and stream my music using Songza, Slacker Radio, or other services. Thus, I really do not have huge memory needs, and that is coming from a person who uses their mobile phones quite a bit.

The HTC One comes in 32GB and 64GB (AT&T and unlocked Developer Edition), and that is the size of internal storage that all Android devices should support. There can be lower-cost 16GB models, but no flagship should launch with just 16GB of internal storage capacity. This is especially true when much of that 16GB is used up for system software and included apps that can't be removed.

I don't think the external storage argument holds much water in today's smartphone world, especially when you look at the limitations of external storage. Apple has never had external storage support on the iPhone, high-end Windows Phone devices do not have external storage support, and the Nexus line doesn't support external storage.

I prefer to select my smartphone based on design, functionality, and actual real-world usefulness, rather than just looking at specs like external storage that really don't mean much in actual use.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, HTC, Samsung

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  • Totally bizarre title

    Even by your measure you have 10Gb for apps and an SD slot for everything else, which as the HTC One doesn't have an SD slot it cannot be done. That too chews up some of the 16Gb.

    In other words, obviously there's still an advantage to having an SD slot in a phone.
    • The flip side of the coin

      I tend to have more need for local storage (MP3s, Offline cached music, locally stored films) than playing large games. 10Gb is plenty when my biggest app is 30Mb (Facebook).

      I'm not paying for movies to just watch on such a small device (compared to a TV), especially when I buy blu-rays already.

      p.s - You can get a 32Gb Galaxy S4 too, granted it's hard to get hold of.
      • SD Card matters..

        I usually don't comment here, since things can get pretty rude and the middle ground gets squeezed out pretty fast too.. But this time, I think having an SD slot is always a plus.. not just for the better to have an option argument..

        Even if, as the author says the 16GB S4 has only 10GB of memory available for apps, i think that's more than sufficient for most people, else they would take an informed choice based on their preference to have a 32GB model. And please read, when i say sufficient, i mean just for the apps you install and the critical files which are better off in phone memory.. From my experience, the stuff which usually hog the memory are stuff which can be stored anywhere, like media files or music collection in my case. Yeah, i know i can stream the music, but its not a practical way to go in most places of the globe. So, an external memory does make sense for all the data you can carry around, especially when you are traveling. So, it makes sense for people to buy a 16GB S4 and pop in an 32GB card, it just makes sense for most people.

        And, the second argument would a simpler one, the customer wants it.. Even if it makes sense for the customer to an SD card slot or not, if the customer feels that it would do him good to have a phone with the expandable option, just give it to him. (Please don't give example of iPhone here, its just a different playing field, the customer relation between apple and its customers, for good or bad). You don't want to make an awesome phone and then handicap it with something which wouldn't matter much. HTC should just wake up and give customers what they want, whether they believe its right or not. I personally have seen people buying S3 instead of HTC One X/X+ just because they feel comfortable with spending money on a phone where they feel they won't hit a ceiling with the memory capacity.

        Discalimer: I love the phones made by HTC, especially HTC OneX, when it came out. And SD card was a deal breaker for me, since it did not make sense for me either to buy a 16Gb one and have the space run out OR to buy a 32GB one which didn't make sense in cost/benefit equation in comparison to the S3 with respect to my needs.
    • External storage is a pathetic band-aid.

      Using a microSD card is a pathetic way to add storage. Nobody supports their external memory slots the same way they support internal storage. There are always gotchas, limitations, and restrictions on what can be used from the microSD. I don't want to waste my time segregating various things to manually spread them between two locations. I want my storage to work exactly the same, no matter what I'm storing. In fact, I shouldn't need to be aware of my storage at all. I'd never buy a device which depends on external storage to make up for poor internal capacity. Apple understood this from the start and I hope their recent move to 128GB in iPads spreads to iPhones in the next iteration. My music collection alone is over 64GB, so I'll be thrilled to get the space.

      Hey manufacturers, give me 128-256GB of internal storage on my phone and feel free to shove your microSD cards into a camera or something.
      • actually

        on both Android and WP, you don''t really have to worry where it stores music or photo's. It's a one time setting and that's it.

        Maybe you have plenty of money to spare, but just to give you an indication, the difference between a 16 GB Iphone and a 32 GB iphone is a whopping 100 USD, same as the difference between a 64 GB iphone and the 32 GB model. That''s big money. Your run of the mill 32 GB memory card will set you back 30 USD.
      • no limitation on what you can put on the SD card with Android.

        Bill you don't know sh17.
        You can store ANYTHING you want on the SD card, even the OS itself!
        I have a development Android phone that I boot and run completely from the SD card so I can test different versions of Android by just swapping the SD card.
        You don't have to work out where you store your media files either, the movie/music app finds them all and sorts it.
        There is simply NO disadvantage to having the option of SD card storage. NONE.
        • Sure, you can store anything on the SD card

          but that doesn't mean that it will work!

          I bought a 7" Android tablet with "straight" ICS. I moved a simple Solitaire app to the SD card and tried to run it. It cut a swath through everything else on the SD card and the OS. The only way to fix the problem was a complete reset of the device.

          Sure, someone is getting to tell me that is the fault of the app - and in so doing they will completely miss the point! The app ran perfectly from the storage on the device. The problem arose from trying to run it from the SD card. It is no use advertising what you can put onto and SD card when you can't actually effectively use it!

          So, there is every DISadvantage to having an SD card. EVERY!
          • You named one

            Not putting apps on the external.

            Where are the rest of these EVERY reasons you seem to think there are?

            Mole hill > mountain. Iphones don't have it so it's pointless. Hmm, the same old arguments every time.
            Little Old Man
          • What?

            You think that having the entire SD corrupted and the OS screwed-up is not enough reason? You think that having the entire contents of the SD card corrupted and the OS completed screed-up is a minor issue (making a mountain out of a mole hill)? Wow! Next you will be trying to convince me that it is a feature!

            Congratulations, you are now officially the owner of what is, arguably, the dumbest comment that I have ever read on ZDNet.
          • You should re-read some of yours then

            Right so you screwed something up and managed to corrupt the OS because of you didn't know what you were doing? From that you reach the dumbest conclusion ever seen on zdnet - sd cards are evil and are the tools of the devil.
            I liken your situation to a housewife putting petrol in a diesel car - don't blame the petrol, blame the idiot with the low IQ. Funny how moving apps to SD doesn't break the OS for anyone else - just one fool.
            Little Old Man
          • SD card mount points

            it's a simple mount point issue.
            root the device and swap the mount point in /system/etc/vold.fstab

            internal EMMC will then be sdcard-ext and external SD will become sdcard and moving apps to SD will work better.

            There are apps that can do this for you if you don't want to edit the mount points.
          • Thankyou for the advice


            Thankyou for the advice. If I have time I may give that a try.
          • "root the device and"

            You shouldn't have to root the device.

            It should just work.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • says zealot

            who doesn't understand.
            rooting the device gives superuser permission so you can change the default mount points in system files to swap the storage.
            There are a lot of things that you need rooting to achieve.
            Anything involving reconfiguring system files will need root access. It's a trivial matter and nothing like jail breaking where your iPhone becomes a non-iphone in the Apple ecosystem.
            To say that it should just work is just fanboy ignorance.
          • Would cetainly appreciate some pointers..

            I am an old times who was perfectly happy with my 3 year old standard telephony and SMS capable $20/= Nokia. Some 6 months back I dipped my feet in the first Android costing $140/= sporting Giongerbread 2.3 with very limited storage. Used adb.exe and pm.exe in sdktools to make installing applications to external storage and move them using Apps2Sd. This was possible WITHOUT rooting the device as it was still under warranty. I started resorting to installing and uninstalling application based on need of the moment to keep internal storage as free as possible. Access to this card was easy as it was external.

            Last week I purchased Samsung's latest offering, Galaxy Grand Duos. This is advertised as sporting 1 gb ram and 4 GB storage. This in a way is misleading. The 4 gb storage is partitioned as 1 gb for applications storage + 3 gb as sd ram. So external sd card may be available for use as storage for video files / pictures or the like. Unfortunately it is very difficult to access since it is internal. The back cover is a b***h to remove and battery too has to be removed to access it. Samsung's Kies software sucks big time. It installed Kies Air on my device and it simply locked up in the sense that I could no longer update / install new applications. It started throwing up error message of "insufficient storage memory". I had to do factory reset on day 2 ! I installed it to get the drivers installed and then just removed the application leaving drivers in place. Now I use windows own drag and drop to transfer video files to the device by connecting through data cable.

            Now I would certainly like to know if it is at all possible to change mount point without rooting the device which is 1 week old and under warranty.

            BTW next time I purchase absolutely ANY android device I am going to get full technical information for any of these purposely introduced shortcomings / restrictions. In ant case Samsung will most certainly not be my next device nor will I EVER recommend it to anyone.
        • How?

          I have a GS4 AT&T, how do I install apps to an SD card? I am very wary of accepting your comment at face value.
      • Micro Sd is fine for me.......

        However you need to rationalize your irrational viewpoints on external storage. I bought my GS3 because it had no limitations....and Bill.....I haven't run into any the problems you pointed out 8 months into owning my phone. Not to mention MOST of the time when we grab those one day or one week deals we don't even have the option of getting the higher capacity internal storage version. So 8 GB of internal.....32 GB Sd card.....I'm happy. If I need more room I'll hook up my phone to my computer with the USB cable and dump some photos and music files. YES...I said it....I'M NOT USING THE CLOUD. Eating up data usage to ACCESS MY OWN FILES is non intuitive ans just a reason to get people to use more data and rationalize paying for a higher data plan.
        Joe Tolisano
      • Obviously a clueless sheep

        Yes but I already have 128gb on my phone, in the form of two 64gb cards. Total cost? $90. Not to mention privacy issues with internal non removable memory. I mean when you sell that phone two years from now, there are creeps out there just begging to see what you had on it that you deleted. Credit card numbers, pictures, videos, emails. So given the fact that none of the new phones come without internal memory, I have to be careful what goes on it. I usually just keep the apps. I have set my camera to store pictures on the sd card. That way when I sell the phone, I don't sell the memory with it. I just reuse the memory on the new phone. I actually still own my first 16gb card with pictures from 2009 on it. Phone, Droid 1 with no internal memory, is long gone on Ebay. I have bought iPhones and restored files that were deleted on it. Its not as hard as Apple would like you to believe.
    • I agree, and also:

      Having a USB SSD of around 500GB or more makes the phone look a little on the stupid side, so I can see why they didn't give someone that option.
      Richard Estes
  • Good luck when your battery runs out too

    With the Galaxy range I can stick a new battery in. There's one "real world use" for you.