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The case for bigger smartphone and tablet storage

microSD

Kids today are becoming exposed to the world of gadgets at an early age. Digital Natives, they’re called by marketers, advertisers and producers of content. After all, they’re born into a world that is increasingly becoming oriented toward mobile devices — smartphones, tablets, touch-screen devices, wearable tech, and the like.

My kids are no strangers to this phenomenon. In fact, they are more used to manipulating on-screen elements through touchscreens rather than user interfaces like keyboards and mice. When they need to research something for school, Google is their friend. In fact, the teachers now encourage elementary-aged children to do research online. I feel so old having to deal with CD-ROM encyclopedias and actual library research in my day.

Storage not enough

There is one thing that gets me bothered when it comes to kids and devices, and it’s storage space. Storage — or the finite aspect of it — seems to be a concept alien to kids at a certain age. For example, I gave my old Samsung Galaxy S3 to my 9-year old and she can’t seem to stop taking videos, photos, screenshots and screen recordings, to the extent that multimedia would fill up the internal storage in less than a day.

This makes one thankful that most Android devices in the market support external storage through microSD. But not all devices support storage expansion, however. This makes me wonder why Apple has chosen not to offer storage expansion on iOS devices since the start. On Android, even Google flagship devices like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 don’t even have storage expansion.

Does the lack of microSD slot on some devices mean that the manufacturer intends to encourage buyers to go for the more expensive model with the bigger capacity? Is the $40 difference between a 16GB Nexus 7 and a 32GB model justified? I could buy an extra 16GB microSD card for just a fraction of that price! It’s great news that some brands are now planning to upgrade their flagship models with expandable storage where there used to be none, like this UK-bound HTC One.

Cloud vs. local storage

Flash-based storage is cheap these days, at less than $1 per gigabyte, with the trend is going downward — and that’s for SSDs. Mobile phone storage is likely to be cheaper. One might think that smartphones and tablets should have as much storage necessary, and this would only be limited by the physical space available on a mobile device. Why aren’t manufacturers giving us more? If 64GB can fit into a microSD, why shouldn’t this be the minimum for smartphones and tablets?

With the popularity of cloud-based storage, device makers are perhaps banking on users leaving it up to services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Amazon CloudDrive. There’s even a new service called SurDoc that offers up to 100GB cloud storage. But we’re forgetting something. Even if we can store all our data on the cloud, we would have to consider the data consumption that will be required every time you backup or access data, which can take a toll on your data plan or allocation. And it’s not just about data allocations. How about markets where mobile broadband — or wired broadband, for that matter — is not fast enough to allow seamless file transfers?

Multimedia file sizes are becoming bigger and bigger, with the improving quality of smartphone and tablet cameras. We’re installing more and more games and apps on our devices. Recent data says smartphone users have an average of 25 apps. It seems, however, that local device storage is not catching up. If it were up to me, I would want my devices to have at least 128GB storage out of the box, plus expansion capability via microSD. Is this not a reasonable request?