Does Samsung’s Galaxy S21 sound the death knell for Android phones with microSD?

Time was, you can peel off the again cowl of your telephone and simply swap in a contemporary new battery and microSD card. Past feeling like a double agent in a spy flick, this additional flexibility gave Android telephone followers some welcome ammunition to laud over their Apple rivals. Issues although, have modified.

Telephones at this time are slimmer, sleeker and extra highly effective than ever, however we’re additionally dropping increasingly options because the years go by. Replaceable batteries are a distant reminiscence, and even the mighty, seemingly immortal headphone jack is all however extinct from fashionable flagships. 

The most recent function within the crosshairs of smartphone evolution? Expandable storage.

That’s proper — the microSD slot, beloved by energy customers and media hoarders alike, is in jeopardy of becoming a member of the smartphone function graveyard. Whereas expandable storage choices have change into much less frequent previously few years, it’s the most recent launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S21 collection that would sign the start of the tip.


It’s cheap to say that Samsung is seen by many to be the ‘Apple’ of the Android world. Its handsets are broadly regarded to supply one of the premium smartphone experiences round, each when it comes to hardware and performance, in addition to worth. Not solely that, however the South Korean tech big additionally tends to leap on board tendencies which might be created by Apple. 

Sure, we all know, that’s blasphemy within the hallowed halls of the Android Temple, nevertheless it’s true.

Samsung Galaxy S21

The Samsung Galaxy S21 (Picture credit score: TechRadar)

“It’s more and more evident that expandable storage is disappearing as an choice on smartphones,” says Ben Wooden, chief analyst, CCS Perception. 

“Apple has at all times taken this strategy, obliging clients to purchase costlier, giant reminiscence variants somewhat than a low-cost after-market reminiscence card. With market chief Samsung abandoning expandable reminiscence on its newest S21 smartphones, it appears to be like like this feature will comply with the three.5mm headset jack into oblivion.”

Ah, the sorely-missed headphone jack. Bear in mind when Apple killed it off? Samsung launched video adverts making enjoyable of Apple for it, solely to tug them later when ditching the port from its personal Galaxy flagship line. 

The very same factor occurred when it got here to the elimination of the previously-included Galaxy S21 charging plug too. Whereas the corporate has proven it might reverse choices — it eliminated the microSD slot within the Galaxy S6 and introduced it again within the Galaxy S7 in 2016 — we will’t actually see it rebooting the expandable storage franchise ever once more.

We’re specializing in Samsung particularly as the corporate is a reasonably dependable bellwether for tendencies within the Android world. Although we will’t assure that different producers will comply with go well with, it’s fairly doubtless, particularly when trying on the headphone jack elimination pattern. 

On the time of writing, the primary flagship-level telephones with microSD slots embrace final 12 months’s Galaxy S20, and Notice 20 Extremely, the Sony Xperia 1 II and Xperia 5 II, the LG V60 ThinQ, and the Xiaomi Mi 10i, to call a couple of main examples.

Backlash or acceptance? 

Human beings are fickle, and it might be argued that because of the bombardment of 24/7 memes, mind-rotting TikTok movies, and fixed information cycles, our recollections have by no means been shorter. 

Bear in mind when the concept of eradicating the headphone jack appeared ludicrous? Ask the typical particular person on the road about that at this time, they usually’ll greater than doubtless barely register the Earlier than Instances, trotting on fortunately with their AirPods or AirPods-esque clones firmly plugged into their ears. The extra cynical amongst us would possibly imagine that the dying of the headphone jack is primarily motivated by promoting wi-fi earbuds, however that’s a complete different story.

“Will probably be attention-grabbing to see how this pattern develops in the long run”, says Invoice Nagy, impartial TMT analyst and marketing consultant. 

“Apple confronted shopper backlash for eradicating the headphone jack, nevertheless it didn’t have a direct impact on iPhone gross sales over the 2 years following the transfer. Nevertheless, Android-based telephones are recognized for his or her flexibility, a function that’s properly regarded by Android customers. Growing elimination of the choice to make use of microSD playing cards, particularly by changing it with cloud storage, is prone to garner an increase out of Android customers. 

“Different Android producers could be sensible to evaluate the market response to Samsung’s transfer to tell their future growth cycles.”

It’s doubtless, then that hardcore Android customers — the type of people that delve into the world of unlockable bootstraps, customized ROMS, and frequent numerous Android boards — could select to boycott microSD-less Samsung telephones, however they make up a tiny share of gross sales. 

Not solely that, however OnePlus (an organization broadly regarded to be catering to Android lovers), has by no means supplied expandable storage, and nonetheless appears to have a optimistic following. That is still true for the model new OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Professional.

Do you even want expandable storage? 

Google Drive

(Picture credit score: Shutterstock)

At the moment, you can fairly convincingly argue that most individuals don’t want expandable storage. Because of the large availability of cloud storage options like Google Drive and Images, you may simply retailer your recordsdata and media on-line, saving the house in your telephone for apps and any media recordsdata you need instant entry to (reminiscent of episodes of your favourite present to binge-watch on an extended flight).

Past that, there’s additionally the truth that regardless of advances in know-how, microSD switch speeds stay a lot slower than your telephone’s in-built NVMe storage, which gives a lot snappier, smoother efficiency. Sure, that’s a little bit geeky, and received’t actually curiosity the informal person, nevertheless it’s some extent value mentioning. 

The issue, nevertheless, lies in the truth that we’re seeing issues like 8K video recording change into extra frequent in new handsets. When you’re a eager videographer, you’ll be chewing by means of on-board storage very quickly. As well as, companies like Google Drive and Google Images are now not utterly free — you have to fork out a month-to-month price when you go previous your free 15GB storage restrict.

You might (convincingly) argue that eradicating expandable storage choices is a means for firms to push their very own cloud storage options in future, just like the likes of the Samsung and OnePlus cloud companies, to listing a couple of examples. When you haven’t already noticed it, this might end result within the headphone jack/wi-fi headphone upselling state of affairs another time. 

On a far much less refined degree, this additionally permits firms to comply with the Apple methodology of pushing larger capability units at larger worth factors. 

“In the end it implies that if you would like a smartphone with a big capability you have to go for a costlier mannequin somewhat than rising the reminiscence at a later date with a reminiscence card,” Wooden states.

That is all conjecture in fact. Perhaps Samsung will carry again expandable storage together with the headphone jack in a nostalgia-laden retro product throwback.

Maybe producers will make telephones a little bit thicker to offer us larger batteries, that will also be swapped out once more. Hell, we’d even see telephones with detachable covers like the great previous Nokia days.