Nov 13 AT 12:34 PM Nick Gray 45 Comments

Building the perfect Nexus phone: storage


Today’s continuation of our Building the perfect Nexus phone series focuses on a topic which not many of us can agree on. One of the main issues among Android enthusiasts is the debate over storage options. We live in a world where more of our data lives in the cloud and it can easily be accessed over WiFi and cellular networks for consumption on the go. The cloud can technically host all the content we own, but there are times where’s it’s simply more convenient to have data stored locally. For that, there are a few options – integrated storage, expandable storage or a combination of both.

On a technical level, Android devices perform better with integrated storage, but the limitations and price gouging are hard to put up with when Google’s promise for Android is an open ecosystem intended to give consumers choices. Most Nexus phones and tablets have not included expandable storage slots and that may have something to do with Google’s agenda to have the worlds information all stored in the cloud.

While the cost of NAND flash memory has dramatically dropped over the past few years, the savings haven’t really been passed on to consumers. Most high end smartphones these days come with 16GB of internal storage, but the jump to 32GB typically costs an additional $50. Yes, $50 may not seem like much, but it’s an outrageous markup considering that consumers could purchase a 64GB microSDXC class 10 card from Amazon for the same price. HTC has increased the value proposition of the HTC One by making 32GB of internal storage the standard for its base model, but there’s still an additional $100 hurdle for those who opt for the 64GB HTC One.

Expandable storage comes with a lot of advantages. Today’s microSD cards are dirt cheap (and they keep getting cheaper by the day) and they are easily swappable. Unfortunately, the inclusion of expandable storage slots in mobile devices is on a decline. By removing the slot, manufacturers are able to design and build devices in a different manner, but as we saw above, it also gives them a lot more control over the device’s cost and the ability to exponentially increase their profit margins.

You know the facts, but we want to know your opinion. We have two questions for you:

Be sure to leave a comment if you feel the need to express your thoughts on the matter.

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Clark Wimberly

    The last few phones I’ve had have been 32GB, but since I started with cloud music services I’ve had trouble even filling half of my phone’s local storage. I guess I’m privileged because I’m in an area with good mobile coverage, but I just stream everything.


      Unlimited data plan?

    • prashant

      wow, doesnt all that streaming just drain your battery faster?

      • prashant

        i mean, think of all the extra battery life u can have by not having to stream everything unnecessarily. i still think streaming music we actually own and can save on an sdcard is a fancy feature.

      • Fulaman

        That’s why the Nexus 5 Battery should have been 3000 mah. There is no reason why the LG optimus F3 and the LG optimus F6 have larger batteries than the Nexus 5. Those are not even premium phones.

    • Guess

      You must have unlimited data. The overwhelming majority of users don’t & that makes constant streaming impossible. On Verizon & AT&T, you can pay over $100 for only 1-2 go if data. That’s a lot.

      • Nicholas Vettese

        I have unlimited on T-mobile, and I stream everything from Play music to Tune-In Radio. I never stop streaming.

  • mvndaai

    Now that I have Google Music for all my music, and I backup my pictures/videos automatically with dropbox, there is no need for huge storage on my phone.

    The only people who need lots of SD card storage are those that illegally download movies and watch them on their phone. Since that group is usually high school boys, the need isn’t too high.

    • dsim91

      That is about the weakest generalization I have heard for needing expanded storage, just because you see no need for SD cards does not mean others only need it because they are pirating kids .

    • David Mack

      Thats not true.i travel alot and when im not in a coverage area I can always rely on my old fashioned sd card.

    • Matt

      you’re an idiot.

    • TruFactz

      Oh….were sorry, your gaming must be streamed as well. Clown.

    • TruFactz

      Oh, we’re sorry, you must have genkai on your phone, or steam, or on live cause those are getting bigger too……clown

  • pekosROB

    I think 32 GB should be the smallest amount of storage on a phone if there is no way to expand it. Not many people are on unlimited data plans anymore, and those that are might still get throttled, so they may not want to use up their bandwidth streaming music all the time. The main reason I want SD cards in a phone or tablet is for media storage (primarily photo and video taken with the device). It would be nice if my phone got smashed but my SD card was still intact and I could salvage the photos or just pop it into a new device.

    Also, is the second paragraph supposed to say “price gouging” not gauging?

    • pekosROB

      As far as salvaging goes, I suppose you could use cloud back ups (and I do) but that takes up bandwidth either at your home/work or mobile. With camera sensors getting better and better on phones leading up to larger file sizes, this could pose a problem with the back up solution. Hell, even my home internet has a 250 GB monthly cap, which is ridiculous.

  • Brooks Barnard

    Ever since I converted over to Nexus devices I haven’t really missed not having a microSD card slot. The convenience of having all my videos in music in the cloud makes a very seamless experience for the user AS LONG as you are in an area with a good data connection. I live out in the sticks, so I need to plan ahead if I want to listen to music while I travel around and download music to my device.

    Also, the other issue with cloud is that you end up paying for it with data use. I definitely need to pay for a larger or unlimited data plan due to my cloud usage.

  • Luis

    I get googles agenda but choice should be given to the consumer…some folks don’t have great coverage or wifi. Sd cards are still immensely valuable. The nexus phone line is my preference. Nothing beats stock android. Google hopefully will add a 64 gig version for numero 6.

    • SGB101

      CM beats stock

    • zee112

      You do have a choice. Get a Galaxy S4.

  • GrendelJapan

    I used to be hung up on this issue, but perhaps some rationale behind both the Nexus concept and the Nexus device pricing scheme factors in the intentional lack of SD storage. That is, storage is intentionally limited in order to, for example, drive traffic to various ecosystem services (e.g., streaming a song rather than playing a local copy). This trade-off could be important to the existence and pricing of the product line. That’s sort of where I am now and the lack of SD storage isn’t something I see as some glaring omission or even a major problem anymore.

  • Fulaman

    Previously a lot of my internal storage went to Music and Videos. Now that a good portion of my music is backed up on Google Play music, and since I’m in a great metropolitan area, I see no need to store music internally anymore. I no longer watch videos on my phone and just my tablet now. In all honesty, MicroSD expansion slots used to be mandatory for me, but not so much these days. If a phone has it, then great that’s awesome. But I can manage with 32gb just fine

  • Sourav Pandey

    Internal storage:-64GB
    External storage up to:-128GB
    it’s good for next generation smartphones.

  • Mike

    I purchased an external card reader from Meenova and have used it with the Nexus Media Importer app to backup files and carry extra music around.

  • Iris

    I presume you meant – “price gOuging”, and “Affect your smartphone purchasing decision” in the poll. (Note capital letters.)

    There are still times when you need local storage. Try streaming a radio station on a long rod trip and tell me that it isn’t interrupted by signal being unavailable.

    • SGB101

      I like having an sd to keeps roms and back ups on.

  • Victor

    I live in Brazil, here the mobile data is so bad, that we can’t even think about cloud storage, I’m talking about 50kbps mobile speed, just unusable.

  • Mike C.

    Onboard storage is important as the cloud is not always available or too expensive to access.

    I just came back from Brazil. My wifes Nexus 4 was useless there as it only has 16GB and thus no room for anything. However before leaving I dusted off my old Motorola Xoom (rooted as Motorola gave up on it long time ago) and put a 64GB SD card in. It had room for 80 movies … enough for watching on the plane and when the kid cought a nasty stomach flu.

    I want onboard storage and lots of it. Google could help by building a better sync facility into Android.

  • Jesse Harris

    If you include support for SD cards, you need to allocate space on the board and find a way to make it accessible without compromising durability. The current trend away from butons/ports for aesthetic reasons may also drive these decisions. As much as I would like a slot for an SD card, I can understand why manufacturers choose not to do it.

  • J.B.Patry

    SD cards are constantly getting smaller and faster. Why not 256 GB or more? These devices capture hi-res pictures and HD vidoeo and I expect 3D will be available soon. The answer to both questions are obvious and evidenced by how the service providers are capturing the wasteful upgrade stream and options to get additional charges for any change in the hardware limits. The Moto X and Nexus should be able to provide maximum hardware configuration flexibility independent of the Wireless companies. I believe the hardware manufacturers sell some of these configuration limits in order to be accepted and endorsed by the wireless providers.

    As to the discussions above that try to state an opinion of whether or not “I” need a certain amount of storage in “My” device or should use the cloud seems just a bit provincial or even downright pejorative. The fact that everyone carries some sort of smart phone should NOT evolve into a condition where we all must accept the lowest common denominator of device capabilities.

  • John Hartley

    The key to all of this is that Android requires most apps to be installed on the internal memory, not the expandable micro SD card. So, if you’re like me, you may have a 32gb micro SD card, but you can’t even update most of your apps because the 8gb of internal memory is almost full and the majority of that is taken up by a bunch of useless pre-installed apps that cannot be uninstalled. (I have a T-mobile MyTouch Q)

  • Bill Goss

    Until I can be always connected (not the case in rural Australia) and have an unlimited data plan (2 GB/month is the common plan), I will always want local storage.
    And I want the option to decide how much local storage I have – unless my phone, like my PC, comes with more storage than I’ll ever use.

  • Paul Atreides

    At this point I have no patience for depending on the cloud, it’s still inconvenient. I need my base at 32GB and I prefer expandable storage.

  • Jimmy_Jo

    This poll is interesting but, for me, the first question is impossible to answer honestly. The inclusion of an expandable storage slot will only effect my smartphone purchasing decision, if there is enough storage for a reasonable price. Paying $50-100 for double the memory when a microSD card would have done it for $20-50 is unfair. it shouldn’t cost $50 for every 16GB of storage. Nor should the device start out at a premium price because they give you “so much storage” my 2010 HTC EVO 4G had a 32GB SD card. we know they can handle it

  • Shane

    I hate the idea of cloud storage only, and on board device storage only. I have a nexus 7 32GB, and while that is big enough for me, I would just like to have an external flash. I haven’t even put all of my music on it yet, and it would be nice to have my photos sync, but I don’t want to take up all that space. I run audio for a big organization, and I need larger, higher quality music files, I also can’t wait for our slower internet connection with over 500 devices on it to load the music. I don’t have a smart phone right now (use to have the OG Incredible…such a great phone), and I loved having a microSD card.

  • Rezi

    I believe the word in your poll is Affect not Effect. I hate hearing the cloud Bs. You have to have a data connection to use that. Most people these days do not have unlimited data and are charged overages. And you’re not always on wifi. You might want to stream music in the car and can’t or have kids watch video. It’s not the same. Plus I’m not sure if you have apps on an SD card, they’d transfer easily. Problem I’ve had with these Androids without a SD is I transfer phones and lose all my app history. I lost all my apps & games including unlocked and completed levels, high scores, power up. It ducked to spend a year and then re-download apps & have to start from scratch. I’ve read memory doesn’t cost manufacturers a lot so would be nice if larger memory was avail at lower prices. Apple charges $100 so 50 for xtra sounds cheap

  • Mix

    I had a 16bg Nexus 4 and when I wiped it clean to move to my 32gn Nexus 5 I think I had like 8 gigs of space left; however, 16gb is a tad small 32gb is my safety zone as I put movies and music on for trips and such and not worry about not having enough content.

  • GE918

    SD card for me!

  • jamal adam

    I personally don’t have preference when it comes to a smartphone having an sd card or not however, I will say that the Nexus should come with both a 32 and 64GB storage option and maybe even a 128GB for those that still want/need the largest storage.

  • donger

    More storage space.

  • rhy o’drinnan

    Ludicrous how willing the slaves are. The cloud is slavery! Wake up! SD cards are liberation. What morons 40% are.

  • TruFactz

    Its not even just about music videos and pictures anymore, I hear people complain because they phones cant hold games, and with those getting bigger every generation of processors that come out, you’re gonna need the space. Remember, thats what started APPS2SD

  • tojan job

    I don’t own a nexus phone because I had made a firm decision of not buying a phone without micro SD card slot and dual sim.

  • John Patrick

    By itself the issue of lack of storage expansion is not a deal breaker as long as a 32GB version is available. My last Nexus was a 32GB GNex. For me though an absolute ‘No Sale’ is the combination of non-expandable storage AND a non-replaceable battery. I could go on at great length as to the many ways the people who hatched that mental abortion should prevented from having offspring…but I won’t. Let’s just put it this way: every single battery ever made has a finite number of recharge cycles. I usually keep my devices about a year to 18 months. At the end of that time they either become my back-up phone, are given to a family member or are sold. If the phone only accepts about a 50% charge and the battery can’t be replaced it’s worthless to me. I don’t want to deal with family members I can’t contact because their battery is dead half the time nor do I feel it’s fair to sell a problem to somebody else. I won’t even use it as a backup if the thing has to live on a charger in order to use it. That’s why no more Nexus phones for for now.
    BTW, anecdotal evidence is already being reported on various websites about poor Nexus 5 battery life…

  • thymeless

    My experience is that the Cloud is still vaporware. Oh, you can put stuff in the cloud and retrieve it on a wired network. But the data rates of most US plans punish the concept of cellular cloud services. Further, the coverage for high speed data is still pretty minuscule really. In 5 minutes of driving, I can be out of range of all the cellular services. And I’m in a major metropolitan area with good 4G LTE reception.

    Most of my recreation has me out of range of cell services as well. So the Cloud concept has a long way to go really. uSD storage is critical as well as on board storage. Major issue for me in buying a phone or tablet. Streamed DRM content is a similarly dead concept in this environment.

    Adding to the issue is privacy and security. The Cloud services seem to be a popular target for government data plundering. Or if you drop out of coverage, your DRMed movie stops working/playing.

    My own local content including maps for GPS work is the only way to go.

  • Ahmad

    this debate is interesting , as a matter of fact there is other people out there in the world other than US whom which doesn’t have even a Wired internet connection , I hardly can manage to live on a 4GB data plan monthly , there is no unlimited data plan .. and i dont wana spend 140$ for a 25 GB of data , this is insane ..

    i dont know whats the problem between Google and SD , cloud computing meant for businesses , not for individuals .. expandable memory or give 128GB of Storage or more ..

    other parts of the world is not same as USA ..