Google have for a long time been waging war on those who use microSD cards in their devices. In defense of Google this is for good reason – SD cards are relatively unreliable, and their read and write speeds are very poor in comparison to a phone’s internal storage. This has culminated in a series of changes in Android 4.4 KitKat, and we’re seeing the first fallout surround the recent updates for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3.
Users are reporting that they are unable to move files onto their SD cards, and can only delete files and folders. Many apps that previously had access to the external storage have now broken, and this is due to a new change introduced into Android 4.4 KitKat.
“The WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission must only grant write access to the primary external storage on a device. Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions”
Tod Liebeck, the developer of FX File Explorer, has translated what the change means to users in plain English:
“If your device has user-accessible internal flash storage, your SD Card is a “secondary external storage device”.
What this means is that with KitKat, applications will no longer be able create, modify, or remove files and folders on your external SD card. As a for-instance, you can no longer use a file manager to copy files from your computer to the SD card over a network. This ability, which has existed since the beginning of Android, has been taken away.”
This is a major problem for Samsung. One of the main reasons to go for a Samsung Galaxy S4 or Note 3 over say, a HTC One or iPhone 5s is the possibility of cheaply and easily adding extra storage. With this update, those microSD cards are effectively useless, and one of Samsung’s main selling points is null and void.
Samsung must know that this is the future for Android, and it’ll be interesting to see tomorrow whether or not the S5 features the same microSD slot. It’s possible that Samsung has a workaround for this – when Google removed the ability of Android to move apps to the SD card, the Korean technology giant made some tweaks to enable the feature. However, given Samsung’s recent agreement to follow Google’s guidelines more closely, I’d be surprised to see a workaround for this issue.
What’s also interesting is that Samsung must have known that this would be a problem in advance, and chose to push out the update anyway.
Whether or not this is an issue that will get resolved or not, we just don’t know. But I’m calling it right now – RIP microSD cards.
If you’ve been affected, let us know your thoughts!