Person holding an Android phone

Choosing storage for your Android device

Android mascot

Android is the leading mobile operating system with millions of apps in the Google Play store. One of the appeals of owning an Android device (i.e. phone, tablet, drone, dashcam, mobile gaming console) is the ability to add storage. The ability to add storage is so easy that even the most non-technical amongst us can manage it: simply insert a microSD card or USB flash drive into the device’s appropriate slot, and voilà, there’s more space than you imagined possible. Users need additional space for apps, videos, photos, movies and documents to easily store and move files between devices without needing any type of internet connection.

If you have used SD or microSD cards previously, you know that the selection is far-ranging with different capacities, classifications and applications. So how do you know which one to buy? Before we get into specifics, let’s talk about some general information.

A gamer playing a game on an Android device

Look for a Class A1 or Class A2 marking on the card. These indicate that the card is designed for the use and storage of apps. They are designations used in the relatively new Application Performance Class Specification. This was designed by the SD Association specifically for SD and microSD cards being used in application-intensive situations such as Android devices. These cards are speed appropriate for use in a mobile device for both media storage and running apps.

You might be wondering what the difference is between storing videos, audio and photos and running apps. Storage is performed at sustained sequential write speeds. Data is received at a constant rapid speed and stored in a straight, orderly fashion. When running apps, bits of data are written randomly and placed wherever space is available. Hence, it’s referred to as random read/write.

Both Class A1 and A2 are suitable for Android users as they feature random speeds appropriate for app usage while offering a sustained sequential write speed of at least 10MB/s.

The first thing to do when selecting a microSD memory card for an Android device is to make sure the card has either a Class A1 or Class A2 rating. If it doesn’t, you don’t want it for this situation.

MicroSD cards

As for capacity, microSD cards can hold up to 512GB of storage. In this instance, however, bigger is not necessarily better. If you lose it or it breaks, you just lost more than half a terabyte of files, documents and other important data! A rather steep price just for the convenience of everything being on one card.

There are two types within the microSD card family with the difference being their capacity ranges: Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC). SDHC has a storage capacity range from 2GB to 32GB, SDXCs from 32GB to 512TB. A 32GB card can hold over 5,300 18-MP photos or nearly 3 hours of 720p 30fps video as points of reference.

microSD cards (and standard SD) offer a range of speeds, with most cards listing several classifications. Your choice, naturally, depends on what you intend to do with the extra storage. U1 or U3-listed cards work very well for general, everyday matters as well as storing app data. However, if you are into shooting 4K videos, moving up to U3/V30, V60 or even V90 will suit you better.

While most opt for a microSD card, another option for storage is the well-known USB flash drive. Most Android devices have a microUSB or USB-C® port. When purchasing a flash drive, you want to make sure it has the correct male connector on it. If you only want to connect the flash drive to your smartphone then only one connector is needed. However, there are some flash drives that have a dual connector with a USB-A on the other end to easily connect the flash drive to your laptop or PC.

Kingston DT Max & DT Duo USB-C flash drives

microSD cards are compact and easy to use. You insert the card into your device and forget about it. USB flash drives are external devices that are entirely separate from your device so if you damage or lose your device, your data is still safely backed up.

External storage is one of the biggest perks of having an Android device (and an Android user will almost always let you know!). But no matter which storage device you decide on purchasing, it is essential you first check and be sure your Android device can support it.


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