08
Apr
dongle

We've become pretty wary of featuring Kickstarter projects here on Android Police - too many have overpromised, under-delivered, or just delayed themselves into oblivion. (I'm looking at you, Star Command.) But this one has too much potential to ignore. A pair of San Mateo engineers have created a MicroSD card reader that plugs right into a MicroUSB port, making it a perfect travel companion for phones or tablets with no expandable storage. The project has been successfully funded after just three days.

There's a lot to like about this Kickstarter. One, the hardware is incredibly simple, but well thought-out: the housing is a tiny dongle that hangs off of a device's USB port, just far enough to enclose the SD card itself. A blue LED indicator light shows that it's working. Once inserted, the card becomes accessible to Android as mounted storage, as if it the reader was part of the device itself. It works with standard cards up to 32GB, and SDXC cards with a theoretical limit of a whopping 2 terabytes. The reader has been tested on the major current hardware from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and a few others, with no problems. The design includes a handy keychain-mountable cap which would let you travel with the reader.

d31c4edded44725c2cf6f6489e6bf4ba_large

It's not perfect. Strangely, Nexus hardware (Galaxy Nexus, N7, N10) seems to have some difficulty, and third-party apps or root are necessary to get everything working. The Nexus 4, and other hardware that doesn't support USB-OTG, is just incompatible. The Kickstarter team is quite upfront with these limitations - see the link below for a full list of issues. There's also no definite timeframe for release, though the estimated times put it at about 3-4 months after the end of the Kickstarter project in early May.

On the other hand, the project initially asked for just $5000 - a tiny, frugal amount compared to some Kickstarter goals - and the $1 pledge is named "Thanks for all the fish." These guys are hoopy froods who know where their towels are.

Mini MicroSD Reader for Android Smartphones & Tablets

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Bakaouji

    Regarding the issues on Nexus 7/Nexus 10 - Stock Android doesn't have usb OTG support for external drives, which is why third party apps are needed.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      I did not know that. Seems like a huge omission on Google's part - is USB-OTG proprietary in some way that interferes with open source principles?

      • Bakaouji

        I doubt it, they probably just don't think most people want or need it.

        • derek amengual

          I've enabled OTG on my nexus 4 as well as nexus 7 3g (4.2.2 killed otg on n7) using a custom kernel and root but still running otherwise stock. This solution is readily available with a short Google search. Baka is likely right in thinking Google probably disabled it on smaller devices because average users would not need it.. The nexus 10 still supports OTG natively.

          • fixxmyhead

            tell me how. i have a nexus 4 and i want something like this micro sd reader. can u please give me the links?

        • saimin

          I disagree. The lack of OTG is a well known problem on Android devices that do not have built-in SD card slots. Common speculation is that manufacturers intentionally disabled OTG so they could jack up the profit margin on devices with more memory. Why does a 32GB device cost $50 more than a 16GB device when a 16GB memory card costs only $10?

          As far as I know, the only way to enable OTG on these devices is with 3rd party apps that require root access, which is a big hassle for casual users to install.

    • QwietStorm

      So does that mean I can get this running on a Nexus 4?

  • Sven L.

    Wow, that is actually a great idea. But not as useful for phones as it is for tablets.

    • http://twitter.com/b0nes Douglas Harry

      Not if you have a phone with fixed storage, like the Galaxy Nexus, HTC One and others.

      • Sven L.

        I know that it is great for them, and there are also tablets out there with SD slots, but I would be careful running around with my phone that has the MicroSd Reader attached to it.

  • gladgura

    This is a nice universal solution. What about a MicroSD reader case design like they do for a battery phone case?

    • Adrian

      This. I'm sure the hardware for a SD reader would be tiny and could easily be incorporated into a slimline case. Add USB passthrough (so you could still use the port for charging etc) and it'd make a killing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tac1000 Tom Campbell

    I'd like 42 please

  • http://www.facebook.com/rmkattan Rami Kattan

    Seems interesting, but I already have an OTG cable for my Galaxy S3 which I can use to access MicroSD cards, normal usb thumb drives, and connect other USB devices... so no thanks for now...

    • Matthew Fry

      the great thing about this is that (except for the risk of snapping it off in your microusb port) it doesn't dangle from your tablet/phone, it's attached.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

        Honestly, that's not really that big of a difference. The cable's only about 1-1½" long.

        • QwietStorm

          But this just looks cool. I'd feel like I'm watching 24 when I plugged it in.

  • http://mavi222.deviantart.com/gallery/ Mavi

    You know what would be also awesome? MICROSD CARD SLOT IN A DAMN PHONE. Tell me one good reason not to have one. Stupid manufacturers..

    • Magnus100

      That is why you should go for Samsung

      • bobbutts

        Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung Nexus 10 don't have it.

        • http://twitter.com/revoked87 Nate

          NEXUS

        • TheFirstUniverseKing

          Those are Google's devices, Samsung just manufacturers them.

      • Mohibb

        He mentioned some problems with his Note 2.. Thats Samsung :)

    • sssgadget

      Well to start with the phone manufacturers have less "profits" when they include sd slot as they don't earn royalties on the cards sold. If a manufacturer has a 16 gb and 32 gb both without sd slot , and say you are looking for more space in your phone,you will go with 32 gb. So that's $100 profit for phone manufacturer instead of $20 for sd card manufacturer.

      Also some argue space constraints.

      Agreed that Samsung makes huge profits but that is another side of the argument.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

        I'm not going to say that phone manufacturers don't earn more of a profit when selling a phone with more space, but to claim it's all profit is just naive. Storage is not free.

        I'm sure this is not a reason a phone manufacturer would leave out an sdcard slot.

    • Ashish

      Because SD cards are prone to all kinds of weird corruption issues that can affect the functionality of the entire OS. Just last year I purchased a Razr Maxx from Craigslist. Soon after buying the device I did a factory data reset. Upon bootup I noticed the phone was insanely slow and would end up random rebooting at least once a day. After doing another factory reset to no success I decided to pull the SD card. Immediately after doing that the phone seemed to have a 100 fold increase in speed and the random reboots stopped completely. My Note 2 has its own weird SD card issues. I can save to the SD card and apps can read from the card, but when I view the SD card from a file manager the card looks completely empty (no folders or anything). The format option from the settings menu can't format the card either. These types of issues would force people to RMA the device and in the end its out of the manufactures pocket.

      • Pyrotek85

        I understand why, and I agree with Google wanting to be rid of them as shown by their Nexus line. The problem is that they should be offering models with increased storage then, especially for a phone like the Nexus 4 that is so powerful.

        • Ashish

          Completely valid point, but from Google's point of view they are trying to get Android into every hand. In order to succeed in that mission they are going with unmatched pricing. No one in going to buy a Nexus (pinnancle of Android in most people's mind) with subpar hardware. For $300 you got a 720 IPS screen, you got a S4 pro processor, and you got the infamous "premium" build. Absolutely, unfathomable components when you really think about it. After stuffing these components in a $300 phone something needs to be held back so that the other OEM's don't get pissed. Storage and LTE became the victims. A strategy that makes money, gives people a fantastic phone at fraction of the price, and gives OEM's comfort that Google is not trying to eat into their sales. Storage is only going to get cheaper so sooner rather than later we'll start seeing larger entry variants. It has already happened with the Nexus 7 and currently happening with the HTC One.

          • Pyrotek85

            That's true, and I don't really know how much 16gb costs vs 32gb. People like to compare it to SD card prices, but I don't think it's as simple as that, the internal memory is probably a lot more expensive. I'm still happy with my Nexus 4 too, as you said it's fantastic for what we pay for it so I can't complain too much.

          • Haedocynic

            In fact, it is quite cheap: in 2012, it was $ 10 for 16 GB in the Iphone 5, then up proportionally ($ 20 for 32 GB, $ 40 for 64 GB). And it only gets cheaper. And manufacturers probably get discounts.
            http://www.isuppli.com/Teardowns/News/pages/iPhone5-Carries-$199-BOM-Virtual-Teardown-Reveals.aspx

      • Christopher Robert

        This all has to do with how the SD card is formatted. If you are having these issues check out eh XDA forum on SD Card Formatting. If you reformat the SD the correct way it will fix all of these issue. From my own personal experience my old Motorola Atrix HD does a much better job formatting SD cards than my Galaxy Note 2

      • Wam31

        That's not why Google doesn't want to use SD slots anymore.
        Amongst other things, the FAT filesystem is slower and doesn't cut it for security reasons.
        Basically, in Android, apps security rely on the underlying UNIX user/group mechanism, and each app has a unique user ID which allows it to access its own data only.
        With an SD Card, as long as an app has the "read/write SD" permission, it can access every data on it and is not really the way to go.

        That being said, I hate MHL (I don't use Windows, except @ work) and I want the SD back ! :-)

    • Matthew Fry

      Google claims the UX is the reason. I think it's more likely a developer thing. It's much easier to guarantee a consistent experience installing/running/debugging/uninstalling when there's no extra hardware you aren't responsible for. If that's the reason, it's not a reason for excluding it. It's a reason to say, possibly in big red letters, "When developing, don't use the SD card" on the developer portal.

      • http://www.facebook.com/duckofdeath Hans Pedersen

        The license fee is the main reason. Google tries to avoid things that costs license fees. Which is a bit valiant I guess, but when it comes to omitting a really useful feature like expandable storage they're taking it a bit too far.

  • aatifsumar

    It's great (albeit expensive, considering you can build the same for 2), except usb otg is so dam power hungry. Watching a twenty minute episode once nearly drained my Galaxy nexus battery.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      Turning my Galaxy Nexus on for twenty minutes is sufficient to nearly drain the battery.

      • aatifsumar

        d'oh.

      • Colton Walker

        My Galaxy Nexus just started exhibiting this behavior a few days ago. I'd also get multiple copies of the same text message every five minutes, and I couldn't send outgoing messages consistently. I did a factory reset and everything is working perfectly fine, now! Rock-solid battery life, considering that it's a Galaxy Nexus. I get a day of normal usage easily, with Pulse reading and some quick games thrown in.

    • http://twitter.com/Mancunian__Red Vasanth

      Nexus 7 with Cm 10.1 last 9 hours of Movies .

  • http://profiles.google.com/replaceracismwithjustice Brian T

    It doesn't cost that much, just put the damn things back in the phone and give people an option to expand storage. 13gb of usable storage is not enough. (Nexus 4)

  • Nick Schiwy

    I just don't see the appeal of this over using a normal otg dongle with a normal flash drive or some other similar arrangement. Good luck to the makers, though.

    • atlouiedog

      If that solution works for someone it's probably a better one. This is made to be small enough to fit on your keychain so you can easily carry it in your pocket.

      • Nick Schiwy

        That's true but at least for me, if this were a need of mine I feel like I would go for the cheaper option rather than the one that can hang on my key chain. I don't doubt that this product has a clientele but I feel like its more niche than the maker would like it to be.

  • squiddy20

    Even though I have a Galaxy Nexus with its unremovable/unexpandable storage, I'd rather just use an OTG cable. Pair it with a universal flash media reader and it can take everything from CF cards to Micro SD cards and everything in between (not to mention the ability to detach it and plug in a USB drive). Might be bulkier, but you get more versatility out of it.

    • Mark Braught

      And they do make ones that also have a charging port. I have one and it works great with my gs3

  • http://twitter.com/AthoraX athorax

    Is it not possible to allow for charging with a usb OTG cable?

  • bobbutts

    I've looked for this exact thing and couldn't find it. I can have the same function with otg and usb/microsd adapter, but this is a more attractive form. I'd order it for $1 from dealextreme no problem, but $8 to kickstarter, no thx.

  • atlouiedog

    I'd like to see an optional middle section between the reader and the cap that sits flush with the unit to adapt it to full size USB so you can plug it into a laptop or desktop.

  • Matthew Fry

    $1 - Thank you

    $8 - Early Bird Special - Get a reader

    $12 - Get a reader

    $2048 - Woah

    • http://www.facebook.com/duckofdeath Hans Pedersen

      Well, you get a lunch date with the future Bill Gates of the tech industry for that money......

  • David Dudovitz

    Does this work with DNA?

    • Jeff

      Yes. It works

  • dgarra

    Woo, now I can watch my GoPro 3 videos on my Nexus 7! Now if only my Nexus 7 were fast enough to play them! (Turns out 1080p/60 @ 40mbps is draining)

  • TheFirstUniverseKing

    I backed it with 12 bucks. This will be extra handy for me since I have an extra 32GB card at my disposal, which I can combine with my 16GB internal and 64GB external for a whopping 112GB of storage available for me to use on my Note II. Plus, it'll temporarily eliminate my desire for a 128GB microSD card.

  • HotInEER

    Looks promising. I signed up to use with my HTC One.

  • Adam Miah

    No N4 support FUUUU!!!

  • primalxconvoy

    "... a MicroUSB port, making it a perfect travel companion for phones or tablets with no expandable storage."

    Um, isn't a micro usb port able to connect to card readers anyway? I've got a micro usb-to-usb hub attached to my Galaxy Note 2, which is connected to a card reader in turn.

    How is this product any different? I've even seen dual usb/card readers already out that attach to the phone via micro usb and which are tiny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mrmshifan Mohamed Shifan
  • http://www.facebook.com/mrmshifan Mohamed Shifan