Why the Nexus S doesn’t have an SD card slot (and why that’s a good thing)

Googles just-announced Nexus S smartphone does not have an SD card expansion slot, like most other Android phones have. Which is a good thing.

Like I wrote just a few weeks ago, Android has a serious issue with app data storage, which can currently only be stored on internal storage. App data storage means your email, your calendar appointments, thumbnails from your gallery app, cached tweets, browser cache. That adds up. The problem presents itself when the internal storage has been filled up, and you can no longer receive email until you “resolve the situation”. This is especially a problem when you only have 512 mb internal storage, of which half is eaten by the system. Incidentally, that means the Nexus One and my HTC Desire.

By removing the SD Card option and making the internal storage on the Nexus S 16 gb, Google pretty much solves the problem the way Apple has done it: everything is stored on the same space, and there’s no confusion. Sure, they could’ve gone the Galaxy S way and had 16 gb internal storage plus an optional SD card, but as a flag-ship device whose purpose is to raise the bar for other vendors, this sends a clear signal.

Besides, if Google gets their act together and launch Google Music, you’ll probably be wifi syncing & caching your music with no need for more space.

35 responses to “Why the Nexus S doesn’t have an SD card slot (and why that’s a good thing)”

  1. Ulf says:

    But is it really either / or? And do you think that other vendors should follow this example?

    • Joen says:


      There are a number of ways to go to solve the problems, and this, I believe, is the way to go NOW.

      With android you’ll always be able to hack. But for a flagship consumer device, the goal must be coherence and usability. For smartphones, that means abstracting the file system away and making you not think about ehere you are installing apps. Since there isn’t yet android software to do this for you, the logical way to go is to forcibly make things simple, as they have here.

    • nobody says:

      Just stupid.
      My Samsung player 5 has 8 G and 32 g in the cslot and they are both almost full. Hey it has to play star wars or it is not a computer (633MB). HTe samsung blends all the storage together if you are too lazy to hunt through the folders. Nice convenience.

      The only thing good or refence is the quad core.

      The thing should be 32 G in the box with two slots on the side with an led screen for power savings and a REMOVABLE BATTERY so I can rejuice on the road.
      Then talk to me a bout reference.

      Jobs and Bill were hacks they copied everything just ask Zerox Park.

      At least google could give us good hardware for all the spyingthey do on us.

      nuf s

  2. marco says:

    I really don’t understand why for u is a good thing.
    without sd card there’s no confusion? Confusion? what kind of confusion?

    Sd card is the first thing i search in a mobile device.

    • Joen says:


      Well, then clearly this isn’t the phone for you. Fortunately, you have lots of options.

      Clearly, you’re a tech superuser. You know what you’re doing. Jumping into “Manage Applications > Google Earth > Move to SD Card” isn’t a daunting task for you.

      But 80% of the phone market have never used a smartphone before. One day they’ll probably upgrade, and there’s a good chance they’ll go for usability, simplicity and ease of use. Right now, that still means the iPhone.

      Making choices _for_ users, is usability 101, and the choice of removing an SD card expansion slot in favor of 16 gb internal storage is a choice that rips the carpet away under the “serious issues” I described in my “Android has a bad motivator” post. It becomes a non issue.

      I grant that it would be cool if the phone had lots of internal storage, and that storage was expandable, but for that to work, as I mentioned to ULf, Android has to be able to handle that storage in an expanding fashion. Where your data resides must not matter, and must not require interaction from the user, and whenever you look in settings under “SD card and phone storage”, so long as there’s free space on internal or external storage, you should never ever get the “low storage” notification.

      If they can do that in software, I’m fine with SD card expansion. Until they can, no SD card is the way to go.

    • Drake says:

      Same here.

  3. Ulf says:

    But sadly, it looks like there the ghost of the SD-slot lingers:

    “Inside, the device boasts 16GB of storage, but weirdly no microSD slot. However, Android 2.3 creates a partition which replicates a mounted SD card, and the company has streamlined the process of copying apps to that space using a simple checkbox.”

  4. Tim says:

    Well I’ve been avoiding upgrading to an iPhone 4 because I don’t want my life to continue to be locked into the iOS ecosystem (I have an iPad, an iPod Touch and an iPhone 3GS). I have been looking to switch to Android for my phone, and the Nexus S looked like a perfect match … until this. I have over 60Gb of music, which I already have to trim down to 28Gb or so to fit on my 32Gb iPhone. I was looking forward to buying a big SD card or even a couple of smaller ones to swap in and out, and thereby have access to my full collection. There is no way on earth I am trimming down a further 50%.

    If you need a single memory location for app data, have a single memory location for app data. But still support media files on removable storage. This is a major differentiator from iOS.

  5. Vinny says:

    I was actually wanting a nexus s until I read this. Definitely a deal breaker for me. 16 gig is simply not enough for the music, photos and other things. I have a 16 gig sd on my MT3G and I am constantly having to remove things off of it because it is too full of music, video, apps and photos. Guess I will have to look for something else. Honestly I am somewhat puzzled at what both samsung has done with this phone, and Win Phone 7 has done with no sd cards. This is a big step backwards in my opinion, but time, and the market will tell.

  6. SS says:

    I cannot believe they limit the phone’s application storage space to 1 gb. This seems like an epic fail, in my book. The worst thing about my HTC Desire is the lack of internal storage for apps. BUMMER.

  7. Wat says:

    No sd slot is why I didn’t get the nexus s.there it’s no excuse or good reason.it’s incredibly annoying and a step backwards. The writer of this arrival only sounds like a google fanboy. “sending a clear message”what a joke…just like the nexus s

  8. marco says:


    You’re right about one thing, I do know what im doing.
    And I know enough to say your 80% # is very unrealistic .

    • Joen says:

      You’re right about one thing, I do know what im doing. And I know enough to say your 80% # is very unrealistic .

      I remain firmly in the stance that the omission of an SD card option, makes things easier for users, and is hence a bottomline usability benefit. Sure, I’m pulling that number out of my ass, but let me find an actual percentage for you:

      Study: 42 percent of U.S. uses a smartphone

      Okay. It’s 58%, not 80%. A big difference yes, but 58% is still a HUUUGE marketshare of dumphone users, ready for a userfriendly smartphone.

  9. TimMatrix says:

    Google, I will tell you why people complained about the lack of SD slot on this Nexus S. While 16Gb sounds lovely, it is for the apps alone, but NEVER for photos or music. Because what you are trying is to SQUEEZE both apps and music/photos into 16Gb internal memory. Think about this, the high resolution photo camera or video (720HD) would EAT up much of the internal memory. That’s a no brainer.
    MOST IMPORTANT OF THEM ALL: If someone takes beautiful holiday photos of their family on their new Nexus S. Then flies home, and find that it somehow crashed (Murphy’s Law, you cannot ignore that, do you), one has to do a HARD RESET. Oh my, those photos are gone forever. NOT CLEVER. If all photos, musics, videos are saved onto SD card, while APPS on internal memory, that’s a REAL WINNER. Cos, if it crashes, one can perform HARD RESET, and still be able to reinstall apps (they’re replaceable) and still have access to photos/video/music from the SD card, as you don’t do HARD RESET on external memory.

    Please Google, go back to the drawing board and take people’s comments with a big heart and make the best one, next time, with perhaps a dual-core processor to add as goodwill gesture (as long as the next one does have SD Slot!).

    Thank you for listening.

  10. marleyinoc says:

    I don’t get the no sd card slot either, especially since your photos go to a mountable partiton so there must still be some options/choice?… however, that usb partiton/area also keeps your photos, etc when you do a hard reset (just discovered this yesterday when working with friends nexus s) –there is a prompt whether you want to also erase that sector/area. Forget the term the phone uses. Going to look at it more today.

    • TimMatrix says:


      I don’t get the no sd card slot either, especially since your photos go to a mountable partiton so there must still be some options/choice?… however, that usb partiton/area also keeps your photos, etc when you do a hard reset (just discovered this yesterday when working with friends nexus s) –there is a prompt whether you want to also erase that sector/area. Forget the term the phone uses. Going to look at it more today.

      That may be the case here, but I certainly don;t want any HD videos/high resolution photos to “eat” up the internal memory space. I want them onto a SD card, so that there’s plenty of space for the apps on the INTERNAL memory. Know what I mean?

  11. vagvag says:

    Memory http://goo.gl/mLryr

    I aggree tha the bigest problem in android is the sorage 4 the apps
    but i feel confused with the specs of nexus s

    The Nexus S has 512 MB of dedicated RAM (Mobile DDR)[1] and 16 GB of iNAND memory, partitioned as 1 GB internal storage and 15 GB “USB storage”.

  12. vagvag says:


    the good thing would be 16gb only for apps

  13. Peter says:

    I just changed over to a Nexus S and not having a removable SD card is a royal PITA. This is the third Android phone I’ve had and my previous upgrade was a simple process of putting my old sd card in my new phone and then letting google restore the rest. Now I’m left hunting through various directories on my old SD card and manually copying data from apps over to the Nexus’ inbuilt card.

  14. Oscar says:

    Check this out:
    Seems like everything is moving to the cloud.
    This solves storage for your music and I’m pretty sure google docs and picasa can store your videos and photos.

  15. Timmatrix says:

    Yes, I know all about the Cloud computing, but it’s so darn slow to “load” pictures and most importantly of all is that you need to WATCH your network data download to ensure that you don’t exceed per month or they’ll charge you foe excess data download everytime you wanna show the SAME picture to more friends.

    SD storage eliminates download allowance and is QUICKER than streaming.

    Your views?

  16. Oscar says:

    I think they(Amazon, Google, Apple, etc.) are moving to a cached model. I don’t know the details on how it all works, but the other day I bought an album on Amazon. It stored the mp3’s in the cloud and when I first accessed it it downloaded to my android device. I don’t know if it will erase old songs to make room for new ones but that will save bandwidth, only having to download it once if its not on your device.
    There are pros and cons to both. What if you lost your sd card or your phone got stolen? How about if the card is damaged?

  17. faiz1964 says:


  18. Red Jenny says:

    I’ve heard that the reason for omitting an SD card slot is to make room for the prototype NFC equipment which I can’t see being terribly useful within the United States during the life-cycle of the Nexus S.

  19. Benakapoi says:

    Except for the fact im on the nexus s right now and internal storage and the 16 gigs are two seperate storage places and the phone recognizes them as that…not one big internal storage…making this whole article useless

  20. BillW says:

    As a long-time user of PDAs, it was a great feature to be able to remove the storage card from the old one and inserting it into the new (my HP iPaq had both SD and CF slots). Also, it was very easy to add things to the card via my computer using a separate card reader (or via synching). Maybe synching is possible via WiFI on the iPhone and cardless Android devices (I’m not interested in the “cloud” capabilities), but to me, selecting and sliding files (songs, documents, photos and so forth) onto a memory card and reinserting it into the PDA/smart phone was a breeze. I was highly disappointed to discover that the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have an expansion slot–even if it would have been under the battery cover as it is on my Samsung Omnia 2 (a Windows-based smart phone). I hope WiFi will be easier to use to move documents, etc., than I currently imagine.

  21. anonymous says:

    That explanation doesn’t even make sense. If I now have to store all my other crap on internal storage because there is no expandable, external storage available, it’s going to fill much faster than before. I don’t know what the real reason is but I’m fairly certain that’s not it, that’s just a lame attempt to put a positive spin on the removal of user choice. One of the reasons I never buy Apple gear is because it’s usually not expandable or repairable. If that’s where Google is going they’ll probably stop having replaceable batteries too. I like the other specs but I’m not going to buy a device which has that much built-in planned obsolescence.

  22. Kafiya says:


    I was just wondering how to make more storage on my Nexus S without deleting anything thats taking up storage?

    Please help

  23. mochazina says:

    years later, holding steady on a really good and still relevantly functional phone… the biggest problem i’ve encountered with the storage on the nexus s is that the carriers install non-removable (unless you root), non-movable bloatware on the “internal” storage. and when you install apps, even they will only move a portion of themselves to the “usb” card – leaving the user with a phone that eventually fills up and with no recourse but to limit the number of apps they install despite having plenty of space on the “usb” card.

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