Yesterday, after writing about the memory expansion capability in Helio's revolutionary Ocean phone (and iPhone competitor), at least one of ZDNet's readers was quick to quick to spank me for making a big deal out an ability that at best (today) match the lesser expensive iPhone's built-in 4GB of storage. The reader notes that the Helio Ocean only has 200 megs of memory built. Similarly, another phone that is often discussed as an iPhone alternative -- Nokia's N95 -- comes with a paltry 160 megs of memory built in.
Like Helio's Ocean, the N95 has a microSD slot for memory expansion. But, relative to the iPhone, memory expansion capabilities in smartphones are of little consolation if the phone's starting point memory-wise is measure in megabytes and not gigabytes. Both phones may offer microSD expansion. But even with those expansion capabilities and even if they support the high capacity version of microSD (microSDHC, which the N95 apparently supports, but I'm not sure about the Ocean), phones with a low starting point for storage can at best end up on par with the $499 4GB iPhone since the largest capacity microSDHC card (I can't seem to find one to buy) is currently 4GB.
Notwithstanding how microSDHC support will (hopefully) one day make a device expandable to 32GB, is that all there is to removable storage? Is it just a capacity issue?
There are other important benefits to removable storage. For example, if you have a collection of content that can't fit into a 4 or 8GB device, you can spread that collection across multiple storage cards (particularly handy if storage-intensive video is involved). Or, let's say you want to keep music on one card, video on another, and still images on a third.
More importantly, given how so many phones are also cameras (particularly the N95 with its memory intensive 5MP camera), being able to drop an empty memory card into the microSD card slot can come in really handy if there are pictures you want to take, but the existing storage in the phone is fully consumed by other content. As many digital camera owners know, the last decision you want to be making when there's that one picture that you want to take is what other picture needs to be deleted in order to make room for the new one. Have I uploaded all my pictures to my PC already? I don't know. As I page through the pictures looking for some hi-res photo that has outlived it's usefulness, will the picture perfect moment sour on me?
OK, so maybe now you get the picture. Or not.