Would you choose cloud storage over a microSD card?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: February 5, 2013

Last year, Taylor Martin outlined what he thinks HTC can do to make a comeback in 2013. As he always does, he made some great points, especially when he put the microscope on smartphone memory. Martin pointed out that our phones need more of it, especially when we’re living in an age where the microSD card support isn’t as much of a standard as we’d (probably all) like it to be. That isn’t to say that the majority of manufacturers are creating phones that don’t have that particular feature function, but we’re looking at a growing number of them that choose to opt-out, rather than providing that little extra boost of memory.

We know that Apple doesn’t much care about providing additional physical memory. The iPhone, ever since 2007, hasn’t seen the addition of a microSD card slot, and it doesn’t look like any new versions of the phone will receive one, either. Though, we can’t completely ignore the fact that there have been plenty of rumors over the years, suggesting Apple had finally considered giving in in that particular department.

No such luck.

HTC? HTC is certainly going back-and-forth on the subject, aren’t they? At least they were, until the start of 2012, and the launch of the One X. Since then, the company has been letting the microSD card support drop off the map. They shove 16GB of built-in storage, but for some people that’s just not enough.

Samsung, on the other hand, seems to like the idea of giving customers memory options. The company’s high-end devices, like the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II, both offer the owner an option of sticking a 64GB microSD card into their device, just to maximize on the memory already available.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone, before this latest iteration, didn’t support microSD card support. It does now, thanks to Windows Phone 8, but there’s a catch: none of the high-end devices currently available in the United States on any of the major wireless carriers offer a device that supports it. That’s right: the Windows Phone 8X by HTC and Nokia’s Lumia 920 doesn’t offer a microSD card slot. The Lumia 820 does, though. And so does the Windows Phone 8S.

So, based on those results, it would seem that Nokia and HTC both believe that microSD card support isn’t something for a high-end device, but should be relegated to a device just slightly below that top tier. I’m not saying that the Windows Phone 8S or the Lumia 820 are bad phones, because they aren’t. They just aren’t the high-end options that should also have microSD card support.

So why are companies choosing to drop the extra storage space? Is it just a design decision, one that designers don’t want to have to make? Or, does it have more to do with the fact that cloud storage is continuing its invasion of the consumer’s needs? My guess it has more to do with the latter. Sure, not including the microSD card slot saves some design space, but I doubt that plays a huge role in the final moments.

We’ve watched as Apple and Microsoft put a huge focus on cloud storage. Both companies offer up tiered options for those who want to use the omnipresent storage closet, and we’re seeing companies like BlackBerry use third-party services such as Evernote to make cloud availability even easier, right out of the gate. Cloud storage isn’t just a “maybe” feature anymore. Google, HTC, and others are all using it in one way or another, all in the hopes that it makes it easier for you in the end.

Here’s my very direct question, though: why does it apparently have to be one or the other? Why does the consumer need to choose a phone that has a microSD card slot, and a phone that opts for a focus on cloud storage? This would be the time where I would point out that the Windows Phone 8S has just as big of a focus on cloud storage –exactly the same as the Windows Phone 8X, in fact—and yet it offers up a microSD card slot. The Lumia 820? Yep, same deal. Same focus on cloud storage as the Lumia 920, but you know the difference there.

Is it because the devices with the microSD card support are smaller in size? Because both are. I’m just tossing out ideas here.

In any event, I can’t help but feel like the customer should be able to choose whether or not they want one, the other, or both, and be able to do it on a regular basis. HTC seems to be phasing out microSD card support for its high-end devices. Apple already does it. Microsoft’s hardware partners seem to think it’s okay to skimp on the feature, even if Windows Phone 8 now supports it.

It’s strange that we have to choose, when both options would make life so much easier for people hindered by tiered data allowances with their wireless carrier, and can’t necessarily access as much cloud storage as they’d like while on the go. Offer both, and you’re already one up on the competition (and that strategy seems to be working for Samsung, so far).

What do you think? Should manufacturers start including high-end handsets with microSD card slots? Should Apple look at expandable memory? Or should 32GB just become the new standard, instead of what’s apparently been filled by 16GB? Do you choose phones that have a microSD card slot? Or do you not care? Let me know.