If you are one of the Android smartphone users who have been experiencing lack of phone storage has been the worry from day to day onward. Despite that, another problem is that whether your phone does come with expandable storage has been the debate for years.
It is not weird that we may have noticed that Samsung’s flagship phone for every year does come with the absence or availability of the expandable microSD card slots which is a difficult prediction feature to speculate. You may have noticed the Android company, who hold strong their Google’s pixel line phones which never came with the expandable microSD card support, yet still having their own wide population of Pixel’s phone lovers.
On the opposite, if your smartphone does come with an expandable microSD card, and you probably might wonder, “What is the highest capability microSD card that my phone can support?”.
That is an absolutely great question to ask, however the answer to that may not be as simple is it looks. To answer that, we may need to breakdown more specifically to differentiate types of microSD standards that the different file system supported by operating system of Android, Windows & OSX.
The Basic Introduction of microSD Cards:
To begin with the fundamental intro, the standards for SD cards and microSD cards is actually being specified by the SD Association. SD Association was in fact being brought in by the 3 leaders in 2000 by Panasonic, SanDisk and Toshiba to help improve and upgrade the memory card storage standards.
Fundamentally, the SD Association works to ensure that all SD related technology such as card reader, slots & etc are compatible across the board. The latest standards that defines the capacity of SD and microSD cards are as shown below:
Types of SD Card’s Format
|Max Supported Capacity||File System Type||
SD, SDHC, SDXC
As per derived from the table above, the original SD (secure digital) card standard can support max capacity cards up to 2GB. Follow up is the SDHC (high capacity) which expands the max supported capacity up to 32GB. While the current type of standard is SDXC (extended capacity) which is capable of supporting up to capacity of 2TB (2000GB). As per to use the type of standards on newer compatibility was possible, where the backward compatibility of SDXC device can support use of all the three types of SD card, yet for devices with SDHC standard support can only read SDHC and SD card only, however could not read SDXC.
Take note that when it comes to the smartphone, you may have to be aware that there are some OEMs which will indicate the “expandable storage via microSD card up to 32GB which is pretty clearly based on the above table that tells you the device was a SDHC compatible card reader.
Basically for any Android device that supports SDXC card type, could indeed be able to promote in a way saying the “expandable storage via microSD card up to 2TB.” However as a matter of time, size with 2TB microSD cards doesn’t exist yet, therefore what most OEMs will do is just stating the “expandable storage via microSD card up to 128GB” or probably higher than 128GB in future, there are phone also showing a different capacity depending also on when that specific device was released and also depend on what is the highest current microSD card capacity which was commercially available. Simply put, the phone that can support the SDXC card and indeed allowing it expandable up to 2TB size.
Have you noticed some other unfamiliar symbols found on your microSD card and wonder what that means?
As earlier we have discussed the format and maximum capacity of SD cards ranging from SD, SDHC and SDHX, there are more details and meanings you can derive from the symbols found on the front of the SD card. There are symbols on the SD card informing you about its Capacity, Format, Speed Class, Video Speed Class, Bus Interface, Max Read Speed and UHS Class Speed. To check out more about the meanings of symbols stated on your SD card, click here to find out more.
File System Type of the SD Card:
Though the main focus was to look into the physical characteristics of the memory cards, the SD Association would highlight how data is stored on memory cards too. To easily understand how data will be stored, just think of an SD card as a block of space storing, where when the device needs to read the files from the block, it will need to know where the file begins and ends on the block. To locate the data, the need to find the filename or file path’s name) and also required to know the file’s permission and way more to go. There are few ways on how files were organized on a storage device, which usually controlled by a file system ranging from various systems. Commonly we are using file system of NTFS on Windows, while OS X is with HFS+, whereas on Linux system mostly using ext4.
brought back to the year 1970s, where even Microsoft produced its first version of a file system named as File Allocation Table(FAT). This file system was originally produced as the default file system till Windows XP for use on storage of floppy disks, which eventually moved on to hard disk drive (HDD), DVDs, USB flash drives and SD cards.
You may have noticed that there are in fact different variations of FAT which are primarily based on the size of the table elements in the allocation table, that can also mean with number of bits which are able to be stored in each table location. The beginning of FAT file system was using the 8 bit entries, which eventually name it as todays what we are so familiar with, FAT8, followed by FAT12, that followed FAT 16 from the hard disk of IBM PC AT and from the Windows 95 OSR2 Microsoft that produced the variation of FAT32.
Based on the table shown, the FAT32 was the required file system for memory card type SD and SDHC. Due to the limitation faced by FAT32 at the maximum file size of 4GB. Ever since the high quality video recording can easily sum up to size of 4G, which leads to storage size insufficient issues. In order to cater this limitation, the new developed file system was found, which was named exFAT.
This file system, exFAT, known as Extended File Allocation Table file system which is another Microsoft design was firstly introduced in 2006 as a portion of Windows CE 6.0. Thanks to that it allows for files size greater than 4GB which then was acquired by SD Card Association making it as default a file system for the high capacity memory, SDXC cards. As per many have tested once they brought a microSD card from any brands, where by default it was formatted using exFAT.
It is undeniable that the file system of FAT32 and exFAT belongs to Microsoft, which is what lucratively allows Microsoft to make billions of dollars from Android. Even if an OEM desires to use FAT32 or exFAT, they are required to pay a license fee to Microsoft to use it.
What would happen if my device couldn’t read the large capacity SDXC card?
Fundamentally, it seems exFAT may not support or work well on some devices. Technically, for a device that supports large SDXC cards it must be able to read and write to exFAT formatted cards. If you have found several devices of yours that do not support exFAT and so don’t officially support SDXC cards over 32GB. But, there are solutions to this, for every device that couldn’t access the 128GB card with exFAT, you can use your Windows PC to reformat the card as FAT32 and it worked well, even works well for phones running the Android version 4.4 KitKat.
To recap that, if you discover the microSD card slot in your phone which probably will work with large capacity SDXC cards (greater than 32GB), however if it doesn’t work with it, then you can easily perform a quick reformat on the card to file system from exFAT into FAT32 which probably could solve your problems, even supporting up to 2TB cards.