In Xiaomi’s flagship line up including the Mi 4, Mi 4i and Mi Note, the lack of a microSD slot seems to be a pain point for users. In an interview with Engadget, its VP for Global, Hugo Barra explained that the decision is made for the sake of user experience.
He emphasised that microSD cards are incredibly prone to failure and the availability of cheap and unreliable cards had made the situation worse. In most cases, inferior cards cause performance issues, instability and crashes which will eventually frustrate their users. As a result, most people would blame it on the device for a terrible experience without considering that the root of the problem lies on the expandable storage.
Xiaomi isn’t the only one having the stand against microSD. Even Google has offered no microSD slots on its Nexus devices, except for its first model, the Nexus One which was made by HTC. Google’s Martias Duarte once said while microSD cards are ideal for users, they are actually confusing for users. For example when saving photos, videos and documents, users have to decide where does it go. Later on, they might not know if it is stored on the phone or on the card. He concluded that the overall experience to deal with microSD cards for the normal user is just too complicated. Despite that, the Android OS itself still supports microSD storage and it depends on manufacturers to offer it.
If you look at the current flagship options, there are many that have started ditching the microSD card with Samsung being the latest candidate on the Galaxy S6. For Samsung, their reason is on aesthetics as well as performance. Their new flagship utilises a faster UFS 2.0 storage which is almost 3X faster than standard eMMC 5.0 storage and having a microSD card might be a bottleneck for its performance. Other players that opt-out from having a microSD slot on their flagship include Motorola, OnePlus and even Meizu. For those who insists on having an expandable storage, you still have LG, Sony Xperia, Huawei and HTC that supports it.
Interestingly Xiaomi does offer microSD expansion on their Redmi series but that’s obviously due to its tiny 8GB of storage which simply isn’t enough. However the usage of microSD for the Redmi was severely limited at first and eventually they allowed you to save photos, videos and music directly onto the microSD instead of its internal storage.
The reason of simplifying the user experience seems sound and this somewhat affirms Apple’s tradition of having no expandable storage since day one of its iPhone. However if that’s the case, Xiaomi should really consider raising the minimum storage of their flagship models to at least 32GB. 16GB is simply not enough these days as the base operating system and native apps would have take up nearly 6GB on a fresh device. They do have larger 64GB version of their Mi 3, Mi 4 and even the Mi Pad but Xiaomi has hardly offered them outside of China. In the case for OnePlus, at least they did better by offering their 64GB storage model when they launched in Malaysia.
While cloud storage seems to be the future, mobile internet connectivity isn’t exactly seamless for this to work especially in developing markets that Xiaomi is in. If you’re stuck with just 16GB of storage and with no microSD slot, your only option left is to get one of those micro USB OTG flash drives. What do you think? Is the microSD slot a critical factor in a flagship smart phone?
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