06
Apr
2014-04-05 14.00.38

"Because the history of computing has taught us is that data will not be contained. Data breaks free. It expands to new media, crashes through barriers; painfully, maybe even dangerously. But, uh, there it is… Data finds a way." - Jeff Goldblum as Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Gift Shop)

When we last left our favorite removable storage device, OEMs had begun adopting Google’s policy for restricting write access to SD cards. Given the nature of the Android community, it was probably safe to assume the story wouldn’t simply end with some people rooting to re-enable classic file system access and the rest passively accepting that the SD slot was just for decoration.

File managers and media players have been trickling out with changelogs claiming that they’ve added support for SD cards on unrooted KitKat devices. While a few of these have turned out to be a bit inaccurate, it became clear that some developers had actually cracked the code. After some digging, we came across a post from late 2012 on the Total Commander forums that sheds quite a bit of light on the situation. To explain how this works, we have to cover a little bit of background.

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Note: There is a little bit of programmer jargon in the following explanation. Sorry about that. I want to make this useful to developers that want to fix up their own apps, so a few words might not make sense to everybody. Don’t worry, everything should still be readable, just ignore the little bit of extra gibberish.

The Media Scanner

Long-time Android fans may remember the Media Scanner for being a fairly obnoxious, battery-gobbling service that could run amok at the drop of a hat. It’s still around, but these days it’s behaving much better. The purpose of the Media Scanner is to look through primary and secondary storage for audio, video, and image files which are then recorded in a database so other apps don’t have to repeatedly do their own scans.

While the Media Scanner may be oriented towards conventional multimedia, it still keeps track of every other file, as well. This is done to support a few other features, particularly MTP mode (used for file transfers over a USB cable) which pulls the file structure from the database instead of directly from the filesystem.

The Media Scanner normally does a full scan just after a reboot and anytime an SD card is mounted. Applications can also initiate a scan of an individual file by using the MediaScannerConnection class. This would generally be done by an app after it has downloaded something from the Internet, taken a picture, or recorded a video.

When apps want to get at this information, they will call out to the Media Store.

The Media Store

The secret to modifying files on the SD card is in the MediaStore class. It's a Content Provider with access to the database built by the Media Scanner. This is mostly useful to apps like the gallery and music players, but anything that wants to see locally stored images, audio, or video will probably use it.

We’re really interested in a child class called MediaStore.Files. Its job is to give links (URIs) to apps so they can query the database for files on a specific storage device. Through this mechanism, developers can get a specially crafted link that can be used to open a file with write access.

It seems that this method works because the links actually call on the Media Store to open and edit files. Since the Media Store runs with system privileges, it is free to make changes on external storage devices. In essence, apps are able to masquerade as a system service for the purpose of writing to the SD card.

The Current State Of Affairs

Unfortunately, making use of this technique isn’t very intuitive, it's prone to bugs, and there seems to be some unpredictable inconsistencies across devices from different OEMs. In other words, this is obviously not the way the Media Store was intended to be used. Among the devices we've been able to test, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has shown the least friction while the Google Play Edition LG G Pad 8.3 has been much more hit-and-miss. The HTC One M8 mounts the SD slot slightly differently than most devices, so the developers we've talked to are still looking into it.

We’re aware of a few apps that have already adopted this method in some way or another, but none of them are truly complete and flawless implementations.

The full set of functions would include:

  • creating new files/folders
  • copying files/folders
  • deleting files/folders
  • moving files/folders
  • renaming files/folders

Total Commander appears to be the first to have discovered and implemented this workaround. There are still a few known bugs and some devices, like the HTC One M8 with its /sdcard2 mount point, aren’t supported yet, but it’s almost completely working on the Note 3. While the code has been in Total Commander for quite some time, a recently posted beta cleaned up several bugs and makes it the best implementation we've seen.

ES File Explorer partially works with the Note 3 and One M8, but there are still limitations across all of the devices we've been able to experiment on. On the Note 3, ES File Explorer cannot rename, and on the One M8, it can't rename or write files but can delete them and create folders, for example. As I said, support is hit-and-miss across various devices.

Left: Total Commander can do everything on a Note 3. Right: ES File Explorer can copy, delete, and move files/folders, but cannot rename.

Not long ago, MX Player added support for deleting files, and File Expert recently reached out to let us know a beta release is coming soon with most of the standard functionality. FolderSync also supports copying files from primary storage to the SD card on the Note 3, but that's the only thing working, so far. There may be more apps to add to this list, but they haven't hit our radar.

Does This Mean We Get Our SD Cards Back?

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t count on this workaround being available in future versions of Android. Google left no room for interpretation, the documentation is very clear.

"Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions." -- Android Documentation

Using the Media Store to modify files on the SD card (outside of an app’s private folder) is clearly circumventing the rules. It’s safe to assume this loophole was unintended and there’s even a chance that it will be marked as a security risk. On the other hand, disabling this workaround will probably break a few apps that use the Media Store for the intended purposes. Google will probably have to add checks to ensure file permissions are respected by the Media Store when 3rd-party apps are making changes. We’ll have to wait to find out what happens here.

In the meantime, this does give app developers a way to continue treating the SD card as they always have. It may not last forever, but it’s a decent crutch until something better comes along. The code posted a year and a half ago by Total Commander’s developer Christian Ghisler surely isn’t up-to-date, but it’s a great starting point for anybody willing to take the time to work with it.

In reality, most users aren’t completely in the cold. Most OEM devices still ship with a stock file manager included. If it is a system app -and it should be- then it can still be used for basic tasks. Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem for numerous 3rd-party apps that should have write access to the SD card, nor does it help existing or future Google Play Edition devices that don’t ship with file managers.

Here’s to hoping for a better solution with the next version of Android.

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    I hope it will stay there for a long time... I hate Micro SD cards, but Samsung phone users demanded HTC include it in their phones and here i am with an M8 and 10GB internal storage and a useless newly purchased 16GB micro SD Card.

    • JP

      Yep. Not your fault. Samsung's fault.

    • puzzled

      I don't get that either, perhaps it was a very, very subtle joke?

    • JWolf_PDX

      Logic...Do you even speak it?

    • My1

      what's so bad about mSD cards???

  • Willie D

    Google needs to wake up and realize that apps take space. Space in 16 and 32 GB devices isnt cutting it, especially since the usable space is less than that. Mandate 64GB and 128GB devices standard or give us SD Card abilities back. Period.

    • WestFiasco

      I doubt they're going to bring it back to the way it was, not while Google drive is around i'm afraid. That's my opinion at this time.

    • Kathy William

      You can't expect them to change their "vision" for more ecosystem unity just to cater to the interests of one user group.

    • Kathy William

      You can't expect them to change their "vision" for more ecosystem unity just to cater to the interests of one user group.

    • senor_heisenberg

      The vast majority of people don't give a fuck about SD cards though, so as a consumer, just keep choosing the manufacturers that still include the slots. Google is neither in the right or wrong regarding this non issue.

      I do hope we get devices with 64gb as the base soon though.

      • My1

        well even if a device has the slot, it is pointless if you cannot write on it...

      • Paul

        "The vast majority of people..."
        Ok, post your market survey results to back up that statement, please.

        • Lars Von Panzerbjørn

          While I agree that it is a sweeping statement, the fact that most people seem entirely happy with his, and that I tend to get shouted at for not applauding the 'Google Way', seems to indicate to me that he is probably right.
          On the internet I see nothing but a few lone voices bemoaning this change and personally, I don't know of a single person who cares about this.
          Anecdotal of course, but I do suspect that senor_heisenberg is actually right...

      • Mista_Mr

        I have to disagree with you on that. There are still people out there that care about phones having SD cards. Especially people who want to save some bucks and buy a 16 gb version of a phone. They need to stop offering 16 gb and start at 32 and up.

        • James LaBarre

          > They need to stop offering 16 gb and start at 32 and up.

          And that may solve a lot of other problems, just not in a manner the manufacturers would like. Bumping up to 32GB right at the start will price the tablets out of a lot of people's price range, and fewer people will be buying smartphones and tablets. If that's their choice, they can go ahead and make it.

      • Mikkel Georgsen

        By far the VAST majority of people relies entirely on SD cards. Maybe not in your cozy small western market but there are literally billions of people who can't afford 64GB or 128GB phones and only get phones with 4GB internal memory. They need SD cards - Google needs to stop this idiocy.

      • Mikkel Georgsen

        By far the VAST majority of people relies entirely on SD cards. Maybe not in your cozy small western market but there are literally billions of people who can't afford 64GB or 128GB phones and only get phones with 4GB internal memory. They need SD cards - Google needs to stop this idiocy.

        • James LaBarre

          Seems if Google is so insistent on moving Android in a customer-hostile direction, it may be time to consider forking it. (Could call it "R-Daneel" instead of Android).

      • Lenny Delia

        I guess I'm the minority. I like the separation of movies and pics that the sd card gives me. I hate to say this but I feel now I have an Apple iPhone. Limited to what I can use the phone for.

    • John Smith

      I've seen games that download huge HD graphics files - data that went to the SDcard when possible... I can't imagine how unhappy it makes people that are now required to download to the main memory.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

        That's precisely the ability that hasn't been removed. Apps can write to their own private folders on SD cards. They don't even need permissions to do it. They just can't (officially) write to folders where other apps can get to the data.

        • John Smith

          Great! Thanks for clarifying that for me

        • TiTo

          explain that to NFS MW and FIFA 14, both downloaded files to internal storage and when I moved them by force using stock file explorer, they wanted to download that sh*t aggain...

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            The apps have to be updated to point to the correct directory, it's not automatic.

    • Muhammad musa’b junaid

      The assumption(?) would be that Googol wants no external SD support for its Android devices just to beef up its higher memory device sale. This might be strategy to boost business.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

    On a personal note, I really wanted to do my own experiments and maybe a sample app, but I didn't have a device to directly test with. I kinda want to revisit this if I can get my hands on something with an SD card in the near future.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    I was excited to see that SD card writes partially work using FolderSync in KitKat, and almost fully in Total Commander. If FolderSync dev implements the changes required for file writes when syncing something like Dropbox, I'll be ecstatic (as long as Google doesn't taketh away).

  • David Li

    google should make universal writing to sd card be a option under developer settings for those who want to enable it rather than just removing it for everybody

    • Alex Hernandez

      Best solution I have seen! Better yet, under security settings right underneath "unknown sources" since they are claiming it's a security issue. I hate where Google is heading these days, first flash player now sdcards. I hear the next nexus will be named the iNexus :-)

  • Nick Cannon

    Wish Google wouldn't limit my app/game purchases by restricting the SD card

    • The Motto

      Google isn't limiting your app/game purchases..
      "Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions."

      App developers are free to implement using the SD-card for storage..

      • Nick Cannon

        Can you give an example of a game I can install to SD?

      • James LaBarre

        And if the app developer is unwilling/unable/too incompetent to make the app use the SD card, what then? Oh, I see, Google is taking a page from the Apple playbook and saying "tough luck, sucker".

        • Someone_asdf

          Then play another app with another developer that doesn't suck balls.

          • James LaBarre

            When you're dealing with a kids tablet like the s**thole that is the Nabi2, the only way to implement what you suggest is to wipe the entire OS and install CyanogenMod. Because Fuhu certainly can't/won't do anything. Definitely Fuhu/Nabi products should be avoided as a waste of money.

  • supremekizzle

    I have a note 10.1-14 16GB and a GPad 8.3 16GB and a Nexus 4 8GB. I have NEVER wished I had more storage on any of these and I use them all heavily for productivity and entertainment. I have no idea how you people use so much space. If I have an app that's been sitting in my app drawer for more than a month unused, I delete that shit. No need to have 20 pages in your app drawer of shit you don't use.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      I'm about to completely speak for everybody else, because I rarely need more than what I have built-in; but I completely understand why people want more. There are a lot of people that can't afford high data caps or they live in areas with terrible data service. Hey, I live in an area that had pitiful data service until just a few months ago (and it's still just mediocre now), so I know what that's like. These people tend to rely on music or videos stored on a device if they want to use anything. There are also people that record more video than Martin Scorsese or take so many pictures that it becomes unmanageable on a phone. Throw in a copy of Bard's Tale and there's no hope for a 16 GB phone to make it without some help. Then, there's always just the arguments for moving large files around much more quickly than bluetooth and with more convenience than wifi.

      Not everybody needs an SD card in a phone/tablet, but some people actually have really great reasons for why they want one.

      • supremekizzle

        Periodically put your collection of pictures/videos on your PC/the cloud. And moving media quickly? USB cable is much faster than removing cover, taking out micro sd card, putting it in an adapter, putting it in a PC, and then copying it.

        • atlouiedog

          No it's not. It's takes all of 4 seconds for me to remove my microSD from my phone. I normally am not moving big files around and just do it over USB, but once in awhile I want to transfer 10+ GBs at once off the card and it's much faster to pull it out and stick it in the adapter which lives in my computer's SD slot.

          You sound like someone who doesn't have much familiarity with any of this and has no use for it. That's fine, but you don't need to question the use case of other people as somehow wrong.

          • primalxconvoy

            Exactly. Is it "Newb Tuesday" here or did YouTube get too full and we're taking their refugee trolls as a humanitarian service or something?

        • primalxconvoy

          Except that a usb cable doesn't always connect to many devices, due Google already removing the perfectly serviceable "usb storage device" option from android devices. I can't simply plug my Note 2 into my work PC anymore. Also, there are many files that I need or want to access from my phone. I can't access cloud or stemming options whilst on long daily commutes on the Tokyo underground, for example.

          • Ian

            You could install USB Mass Storage? Pretty painless, but it does need root

            https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mohammadag.samsungusbmassstorageenabler

          • Coollead

            Lies and bull. Every single Tokyo Metro and Toei subway line has full LTE service underground. Same for Nagoya and Osaka's subways.
            I agree with you to a point, but there are very few places in Japan where you can't get a signal.

          • Coollead

            Lies and bull. Every single Tokyo Metro and Toei subway line has full LTE service underground. Same for Nagoya and Osaka's subways.
            I agree with you to a point, but there are very few places in Japan where you can't get a signal.

      • atlouiedog

        That's me. It's not apps that are taking up space, it's data that apps use. There isn't a single app on my phone with a download size over 50 mb that I can think of and I've only got a few pages of them in my drawer.

        I subscribe to rdio and sync music to my phone because I do spend time in places where I can't stream. I sync the day's video content (hundreds of MB) from a website that I like to watch on the train rather than stream another 5+ GB a month which would seriously impact the cost of my plan. I like to play around with ROMs so I need space for backups and multiple images.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          I've got a Nexus 4 (16GB) that I do a ton of testing on. There are 3 nandroid images I flash between on a very regular basis, and because of that I have very little extra space to play with. I'm lucky that I have an excuse to keep a separate phone as a daily driver (though, it has been a guinea pig several times) and a Nexus 5 as another test device when I need it.

          Of course, now I have to find some money to pick up something with an SD card. I keep writing articles about this and it's getting harder and harder when I don't have a suitable device for testing. =/

          • lordmerovingian

            "Of course, now I have to find some money to pick up something with an SD card."

            What heresy be this talk. You write for AndroidPolice..surely your wages be mountains high and oceans deep...

          • http://twitter.com/anishbhalerao Anish Bhalerao

            "Nice try, Cody's brother."
            - Artem Russakovskii, with a comment on the "Meet ART (Part 3)" post, which applies here as well. :D

            Say Cody, speaking of Meet ART (Part 3) you'd mentioned "Part 4" would be out soon enough. Been 2 months, I'm eagerly waiting, yo! :D

      • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

        But how does this effect those users, given that apps can still freely read from the SD card? They can still store their music and videos on the SD card and play them whenever they like...

        • primalxconvoy

          Except when users create their own custom folder/s for content, like me. I use "folder view" and folders to organise and access music and video content because it's easy, cross platform compatible and won't go tits-up if a media scanner deletes all of my playlists.

          • My1

            exactly That.

            There should be a new permission or sth. like that.

            I am lazy when going with cables and usually simply draw everything via FTP from my PC and I am rather happy that I didnt Update my Note 3 to KK.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          Reading is fine if you are storing music and videos, and assuming that you're doing that from a computer. That other group that wants to record a lot of real life video is screwed. Being able to read from a 64GB SD card won't do them any good if they've only got 8GB of built-in storage (less than 7GB after the firmware and apps).

          Again, different situations for different people. After a couple of years reading these arguments, I assure you that there are hundreds of slightly different stories and situations. Some of the examples demonstrate perfectly valid and justified reasons for why those people need fully open and available expandable storage (in the form of an SD card). There are some examples that don't demonstrate a need, but they show why it's helpful or more convenient. There are also some obnoxious crybabies that simply demand it because...whatever, I don't usually care what they say.

          The point is, the current implementation works for some people, but certainly not everyone. Most people seem to agree that there's a good solution between a free-for-all and the strange form of partial lockout we have now. I'm not really taking sides, per se, but I tend to empathize with the group that has a reason to care about this stuff (because they actually use SD cards) before I side with the group that shouldn't care at all.

          • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

            Ah okay, you've explained it well, thanks. My main point of confusion was that I didn't realise apps couldn't read each other's data folders. That's... interesting.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            I'm sorry if I didn't explain it very well before. The devil is in the details on this topic and unfortunately the details can be very complicated to put into words and make it interesting... At least, it's tough to keep it under 5000 words ;)

          • Paul

            "I'm not really taking sides, per se, but I tend to empathize with the group that has a reason to care about this stuff (because they actually use SD cards) before I side with the group that shouldn't care at all."

            Why can't i up vote this a hundred times?

        • Joseph Olson

          Nick I carry over 15GB of music on my phone. Being unable to write the MP3's to my SD card means I have to get rid of half of my apps to have my music.

      • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

        Also, I must be misreading something because the wording here:

        "Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions."

        Seems to indicate that apps are allowed to write to the SD card, there are just rules about where they can write to - so I guess I'm just not sure what the big fuss here is?

        • David Hart

          I think that Google is indicating to these folders?: .Android Android/Data Android/Obb

        • WestFiasco

          Apps can read from anywhere but write only to their own folder, if the app needs to edit a media file or something that's not in it's folder. Problems arise.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

            Minor clarification (I'm sure you meant this, but it's an important distinction that can be confusing if it's not spelled out)

            Apps are only supposed to write to their private folder, and they can read from anywhere except the private folders of other apps. This means that apps have a hard time sharing files unless it's done through share intents, the storage access framework, or the files have to be written to the primary storage instead of an SD card.

            This impacts file managers that can no longer delete files, media players that can't modify metadata (think of mp3 tags and album art), and data syncing apps (like FolderSync and Dropbox) that can't keep updated versions of files available in a public location for other apps to access.

        • primalxconvoy

          Because file browsing and editing apps, like "ES File Explorer", etc don't have permission to access or edit ANY file or folder (which is its purpose).

          Google wants to " do evil " and kill the PC - like capabilities of Android and introduce a more "ios" feel to files, whereby joe public can access media that they have bought through official channels, but can't move content to our from their devices easily from external sources.

          This is all very well and good, until this impacts on people used to creating and organising content themselves, like power users, professionals (business, office, photographers, journalists), etc.

          • A2theC

            Perfect on the spot! I'd give you 1000++'s but I only have one! Or some feathercoins, but people don't really do that here. LOL
            This just pushes us power users to root with even more need to!

        • didibus

          They are allowed, but their package-specific directories are automatically deleted when the app is uninstalled. So this is not long lasting storage, like saving pictures, music, etc. wouldn't work, unless you don't mind losing it all when removing the app. Also, it can be annoying, that the user can not choose to save a picture in the folder he wishes to, probably where he puts all his other pictures in.

          Anyways, I see this as potentially a right move, I'm sure Google will address the issue and find a more secure system that devs will be free to use again.

      • Mikkel Georgsen

        Cool for you - what about the hundreds of million of Android users with 2 or 4GB memory before OS? Yea let's ignore them because you have more storage personally.

        Have fun playing with your bellybutton.

    • Michael Vieux

      I think everyone should drive a Toyota Rav4.
      I do, and It's all I need for my busy and productive driving life.
      After all who needs a larger engine, or more space it's the perfect car.
      I think anyone who doesn't own one is selfish, wrong and doesn't understand how to properly use a car.

      What are all those losers doing with those massive pickups and SUVs any way?
      All they have to do is throw away all their unless shit and what's left will fit just fine in the rav4 .

      • A2theC

        Can you fit a mini cooper in the back? Because I think I might need one.

    • MrMLK

      I have an LG Pad 8.3 and a Galaxy Note 3. have NEVER wished I had more screen size on any of these and I use them all heavily for productivity and entertainment. I have no idea how you people use such a big display on your 10.1.

      Should I argue that larger devices than I need are a waste of time, or should I recognize that different people have different needs, and that a restriction that impacts other people might be a real limitation, even if it doesn't impact me.

    • primalxconvoy

      What a thoroughly ignorant post, especially one on a tech blog. People fill up their devices for a number of reasons. Here's a few:

      - The device in question only has a low internal memory (with no other options to that customer in that region). Devices like the Fire TV and cheap android phones suffer from this.

      - Users might have need or desire to use large amounts of and/or large media files. For example, devices used as media players (possibly connected to TVs or monitors), or teachers who utilise music and video content in their lessons.

      - Office app users who store large amounts of documents, such as business workers or teachers (flashcards, etc).

      - Photographers or journalists, who store "raw" or HD pictures on their device (and who might need to either send those files online quickly or failing that, save to a removable storage device to send their data another way.

      - Those in areas with low connectivity or poor connectivity who favour downloading files instead of cloud or streaming access.

      - Gamers who play many games with large file sizes (ie: asphalt 8, etc).

      - etc.

      Anyway, silly comments aside, couldn't hardware makers just make an extra, almost hidden, internal micro-usb to micro-sd card slot, effectively fooling the system into believing that the apps were just writing to a USB device instead of an external sd card? I read somewhere that this new, castrated version of Android doesn't care about usb device storage or what apps do with them, right?

      • JWolf_PDX

        Couldn't have said it better myself. One size does not fit all. I like to keep my music collection local because connectivity when mobile is not always guaranteed. Not everywhere has free wifi either. Tried streaming an HD movie over a 3g connection? Good luck with that. The cloud is not some magical be all end all solution, far from it.

        Give me 64GB plus base memory as an option then I might consider not purchasing a device with a microsd card slot, until then that will guide my buying choices.

      • Robert Littler

        because all storage except for your internal memory is considered secondary storage, you can't write to USB drives either...

    • Christopher Mason

      I don't really need an sd card, but i can see where people are coming from. Games take up a lot of space, especially the console ports. There's also music, videos etc. And nandroid backups. Not everyone can use the cloud, especially those with horrible data or tablets.

    • Paul

      I got my 64 GB SD card almost completely filled with movies and music, the rest are apps and stuff.
      Yeah, i like to have my complete music collection with me at all times without the inconvenient need to rely on a data connection. And i like to have the latest movies on my phone so when i'm at friends, i can just stream them over DLNA in SD/HD.

    • MeanDroid

      "I have a note 10.1-14 16GB and a GPad 8.3 16GB and a Nexus 4 8GB."
      Good for you!

      But you really impose your views on others like a Rotten Apple fan boy!!!

      With your single minded mentality, you will fit perfectly in to the Steve stealing jobs cult of irrelevant cucos!

  • vgergo

    We should start a protest against Google's SD card policy. Why not rate all Google apps to 1 star in the play store until they change their stance on this? GMail, Maps, Translate, Goggles, G+, etc, etc. What other ways do we have for our voices to be heard?

    • Mike Reid

      Google is pretty much deaf to complaints like this.

      IMO, the only hope is to make it an issue that the mainstream media pick up on. And I can't imagine how to get the mainstream media to care about this.

      • A2theC

        Yeah, if anything it would just make Apple fanboys laugh and make non-techie people think there is "something wrong" with android devices that they already don't understand.

    • hhhh

      You would also be the first to complain when exploits occur because of the less restrictive SD policy

      • JWolf_PDX

        The SD card has been wide open until now. If it were to cause such an uproar, don't you think we'd have heard about it by now?

        • Andy Jenkinson

          Does anyone know HOW to complain to Google? Google has a long list of products you can report security issues on but Android is strangely missing from the list. If users cannot contact Google then Google can claim it has not received any complaints!

      • vgergo

        I consider myself a responsible/adult user, with a rooted, open device. I install well researched apps from the play store and keep *complete* backups of my stuff both using nandroid backup and Titanium to dropbox. Both of these techniques circumvent Google security restrictions, but without them I would feel much less safe. Because of the many Apple converts I don't think these options should be open by default, but the knowledgeable should not be stopped to used their devices to their full potentials.

        • Ricardo Ca

          I agree. Simply put a button anywhere, a selection box like the one for external apks, warning that allowing apps to ex sd card could be harmful. vgergo, i am doing what you suggested rating 1 star in every app from Google...

      • James LaBarre

        Format the SD card to EXT4, and abandon the mess that is FAT32. Then it can become part of the secured filesystem. But that would require people to get their heads out of Microsoft's A$$.

  • Stanley Chan

    Storage is never enougth thing. Why not have the option to more storage? Google just want to sale cloud storage and is obligatin us to do so.

    • Nick

      Yeah, it must be a conspiracy. It's much easier than acknowledging that things are done for good reason sometimes.
      Applications installed to fragmented storage locations are a recipe for user/system errors, and negative Play Store reviews. It confuses users when it doesn't work correctly; it confuses developers when they open up a user's error report/logcat, looking for the problem--only to find that apps on SD *is* the problem; and it confuses the OEMs, unsure if implementing this functionality on their devices is even worth the hassle.
      Streamlining...having some standards. It's actually good stuff.
      It's Google's online marketplace. You can't expect them to change their "vision" for more ecosystem unity just to cater to the interests of one user group.

      • Aborto

        It should probably be pointed out here that apps2SD basically does not exist anymore at all. On my SGS3 apps cannot be installed to the SD card.
        The only apps that write to the SD card are the few I told to write there, titanium backup for example.

        The SD card is in fact by far the most organized part of the filesystem on a modern phone. There are no apps dumping files to the root of the SD card, nothing in installed there. It is a tidy place storing only the files you opt to store there, unlike the internal storage which is an utter mess still.

        I don't buy that this is for performance or reliability at all.

      • GraveUypo

        wait, isn't that what they've been doing? cartering to the lowest denominator?

      • James LaBarre

        And if you have a device bought earlier ***THIS YEAR**** that is sorely deficient on storage (an educational tablet, if you must know), then locking users out of moving apps will render the tablet essentially ***USELESS***. I paid good money for this p.o.s., and I don't like seeing Fuhu and Google distating how I will use a device **I** paid for. Of course, the solution for the Fuhu/Nabi2 side of things is for no one to ever buy their products again, but even that won't solve the KitKat problems.

    • gosbiker

      But cloud storage isn't going to help with apps... You can't install and run an app from cloud but it was great being able to install/move it to sd card!.. Always put compatible apps to sd to keep phone storage clear!

  • smeddy

    The biggest failing in Android, in my book

    • Guest123

      removal of text reflow/wrapping in webview is right there with this nugget.

  • Hector

    I believe OEMs are the blame too. It sucks how flash storage can be so cheap to manufacture but they don't implement it. Games for example now take up 1 GB+ and it's a hassle to try to think of what to delete just for an app to fit. Having 64GB to START OFF with should now be a standard. 16GB just doesn't cut it in today's world anymore.

  • James

    Google intends to force it's users into using their cloud services but i think it will only push users towards other platforms. I think they have picked a very dangerous time to make such a move. Samsung make up the majority share or Android users and we all know that Samsung are just itching to release tizen os on the world. Imagine if for the s6 they were to release both android and tizen variants but the tizen device could use a micro sd. I'm not a Samsung guy but I'm sure if I were I'd be happier with the tizen device. Games are getting much much bigger and the cloud just isn't a solution for that

  • http://www.arcane.org Mystech

    This is a brutal squeeze play; manufacturers (even Google's vaunted Nexus line) dispensing internal storage, which should be cheap as dirt comparitively, with an eyedropper, increasing file sizes for apps and miserly bandwidth plans from, so-called "service" providers.

    The supposed gains of aggressively blocking external storage options are a crock compared to what I will have to give up. We Android users are lucky to find 32gb onboard on premium phones (even on many supposedly "productivity" tablets), while an iPhone can be had with 64gb?

    Look, cloud is great, very useful in many situations... but utter fail in others (low signal areas, conservation of bandwidth plans, sensitive data, etc). Quit shoving it down users throats and give us what many of us came to the Android table for... choice, options and flexibility to own the device that is right for each of us.

    • shonangreg

      Agreed. If this was being fine just for users' benefit, then:
      - apps might be installable to internal memory only just because removing the SD card causes problems then. I see this as a reasonable sacrifice simplifying the system and making life easier for developers.
      - those users who want to have full access to SD cards for media storage and manipulation (editing photos in the field and having them stored in the same folder as the original) should not be inhibited in any way. This is one of the major features of my android phones. It is the way we expect computers to work.

      The cloud is nice as an option, but it is not now and may never be satisfactory for most users. Most of us have limited data plans, and this is not going away. And even in the suburbs of Tokyo, I go to places that either have no cell coverage (mostly while hiking or biking) or are too congested for the network to be reliable (crowded morning commutes are bandwidth limited, while crowded beach excursions have no connection at all). I CANNOT play music from the cloud on a crowded beach. Large, removable storage is necessary.

      I like being able to choose third-party file managers. Ditto for third-party camera apps. The changes Google has baked into KitKat, though, are killing these options. Since Google could be doing this in ways that accomplishes their stated goals of cleaning up the OS and keeping their users empowered, it seems inescapable that what they are really doing is trying to force everyone to use Google cloud servers for everything. It is the same kind of bullying attitude that Microsoft engaged in.

      I'm not sure what my options are. Are alternate ROMs going to be pushed out one day by an ever-encroaching Google? Google is being evil here. This makes me much less likely to try a Chromebook or anything else Google. Someone there needs to step up and force the whole company to stop this insane push to everything cloud. It will not fly.

      • Someone_asdf

        Even with Kitkat, you are able to download and play music on the SD card.

        There is no restriction on this - the mediascanner will still pick up music and pictures everywhere. As you're not writing to them, it doesn't matter - just load 64GB of music, images and videos onto the device as you normally have. Apps that save music into their own folders (aTorrent program, for example) will still be visible exactly as before.

        3rd party photo programs will be largely similar - they'll save into their own folder, but your gallery app should be able to sort by date instead of folder name, for example, to hide this away.

  • Steve Freeman

    All I really care about is using an SD card for storing media (and even that is negligible, since most of my media consumption on my phone is via streaming). Which is weird, since I used to swear up and down that having my media local on my device was necessary...

  • Ricardo Ca

    With this idiocy (greed?) from Google there is no reason not to move to Apple. Now these two are equal (in the worst way possible). I have a Xperia z ultra and i am stuck in android 4.3. Will NEVER update my phone at least with these restrictions applying. Google made clear that this horrible thing comes to stay. The logical action is to move to another platform, or give up entirely on mobile computers. I hope the discontent people unite to react to this...

    • Nick

      Or simply root and change the setting to allow you to use your SD card as you always have. Stop being so dramatic.

      • GraveUypo

        apps will still have to be made to write to the primary partition, and most won't give you an alternative, which means more hacking to get things going where you want them. i agree with him, except the "moving to apple" part. android is getting worse by the time, but at end of the curve the worst it gets is as bad as iOS (and iphones).
        thing is, there is nowhere to run. wp sucks, ios sucks, and android is steadily heading there.

      • Ricardo Ca

        Ok. No more drama then. But that restriction doesn't irritate you, little bit at least ? It's just ok?

  • http://mwinter.in/ Yan Gabriel Minário

    But... but... what will happen to Camera, Music, Video, Apps - and sharing this media across devices? I mean, it's going to be a pain in the ass, imagine you sync your music then borrow your SD to a friend which uses a different player, he won't be able to play unless he uses the same player as you.
    I thought Google was going to remove the unnecessary mess while keeping it simple, instead it just looks like they are messing things up.

  • Mikkel Georgsen

    You guys are looking at this all wrong - Google doesn't give a damn about you guys storing pictures/movies/music on SD or big games - the war against SD cards has nothing to do with this at all, nothing at all.

    This is a war against sideloading in the big emerging markets such as India, China, Indonesia, Philippines etc. - in these markets you can buy games, apps, movies, books, music outside of the Play store without ever having internet on your phone.

  • Mikkel Georgsen

    You guys are looking at this all wrong - Google doesn't give a damn about you guys storing pictures/movies/music on SD or big games - the war against SD cards has nothing to do with this at all, nothing at all.

    This is a war against sideloading in the big emerging markets such as India, China, Indonesia, Philippines etc. - in these markets you can buy games, apps, movies, books, music outside of the Play store without ever having internet on your phone.

    • Cerberus_tm

      What does it have to do with side-loading? You don't need a card reader for that in any way.

      • Mikkel Georgsen

        Most people in emerging markets use 4GB SD cards - they swap these with the sideloaders to save time.

        • Cerberus_tm

          So what you mean is that they get most of their applications on physical cards rather than from the Internet? Is there a reason for that, is Internet access bad/slow? It seems a bit cumbersome.

          • Mikkel Georgsen

            Not applications - content (movies, tv, music etc.)

            And yes, in emerging markets you are happy if you get 16-32Kbit on 3G as an average speed. In most emerging markets the average 'call setup' time is ~17 seconds. Now compare that to where you are. From you press dial until it rings in the other end the average time is 17 seconds with 20% that are dropped without ever dialing.

            17 seconds might not seem like much but try waiting 17 seconds and imaging you were calling someone - you'd have hung up before 17 :)

          • Cerberus_tm

            Ah OK, so for content. I never get that from the Play Store either (if they have it?), never occurred to me. I don't often use that on my phone, but, when I do, I just USB it from my computer. You can also do it through a shared Wifi network.

            Either way, I understand now what you mean: you meant the general definition of "side-loading", whereas I was thinking you meant the Android-specific meaning:

            — "Sideloading is a term used in Internet culture, similar to "upload" and "download", but in reference to the process of transferring data between two local devices, in particular between a computer and a mobile device such as a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA, tablet, portable media player or e-reader.

            "Sideloading typically refers to media file transfer to a mobile device via USB, Bluetooth, WiFi or by writing to a memory card for insertion into the mobile device.

            "When referring to Android apps, "sideloading" typically means installing an application package in APK format onto an Android device. Such packages are usually downloaded from websites other than Google Play. Sideloading of apps is only possible if the user allowed "Unknown Sources" in their Security Settings."

            —Wikipedia

          • Andy Jenkinson

            How does not being able to delete a file on removable SD help? You can still READ data on SD and presumably the media is out on the cards from a PC. I don't follow your argument.

  • Robert Littler

    Who has ever heard of a computer that couldn't write to an external drive?
    This caused me to get rid of my android tablet and buy windows. Google will loose customers hand over fist if it keeps locking down android.
    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Ubuntu touch as a viable alternative.

  • Curious

    Between taking higher quality pictures and videos, storing movies for my daughter and a plethora of games (again for my daughter) I often find myself pushing the limits of my 16 GB of internal storage so I definitely see the need to use an SD card, especially seeing as how the premium for internal storage is so high when purchasing a new phone (often $100 for 16-32GB increases). I can see the need for enforcing file security on SD cards, however I cannot understand how they are able to achieve that security for internal storage but not SD cards. I believe I have read that it has to do with SD cards using the FAT file system for compatibility purposes; can any one confirm this? If so, wouldn't a better, simpler solution be to allow the SD card to be formatted with a file system that supports file permissions. I can see this might be an issue for users wanting to pull the sd card and throw it in their computer to transfer files, but I would think that is would be a better solution than just crippling the use of sd cards.

  • Ang Jinhang

    Google needs to understand that Android phones are affordable and cool choices for most people. Why it's affordable and cool? Let's check it out - 1. Android is open source, hence free to use. 2. Android phones have weaker hardware compared to iDevices. Tell me if you have a phone with 64GB internal storage and OpenGL 3.0 that runs Android. 3. Set's the phone free as it can do (almost) anything it wants with Android.

    Now here's the problem - external SD cards are limited now as Apps cannot directly write to the card to save internal storage. So what's the point of having an SD Card of 64GB even if your phone supports it? Do you really need to save so much photos? Are you sure that you need more than a thousand HQ MP3 files on your device? The answer: no for most users.

    If the phone only have 8GB of internal SD card, what happens if the user wants to download something really big (like HD movies)? Since they cannot save it to the external SD, the only choice is the internal SD. 8GB. Is that enough? Well, my friend even ran out of internal storage just because he captures photos with a 3rd party app!

    So I can only say that this is not a smart choice for the Android team. The new product is a mistake. Even if Google's Nexus phones doesn't uses SD Cards, other manufacturers do. Looks like they forgot that Android is for everyone, not for Nexus. I don't hope to see a more limited Android nor wants to see Android becoming another iOS. Android is free, smart, limitless and that's the way it should be, forever.

  • Ricardo Ca

    Someone in the android discussion forum https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!topic/android-platform/14VUiIgwUjY created a petition:

    http://www.fixkitkat.com/

    Please sign in

  • Miquel

    i not agree with this post,actually i using android 4.4.2 and for use sdcard (32Gb) for apps i use folder mount, ok if u not root ur device is impossible use some program for that , better is root or put CM Roms are rooted already

  • Andy Jenkinson

    Google has made my devices much less secure.
    If you lose your device or it is stolen any personal data on it is lost too. Electronic data is never safe if it is where someone is able to access it. That is why I move data from internal memory to external SD and REMOVE it from the device when out and about. The stock file manager only allows files to be moved one at a time which effectively stops me from continuing with this method.
    Why would Google introduce something which actively prevents someone from implementing better security? Why does it think internal memory is secure but external not? Could it be that Google is unable to STEAL our personal information if it is on a removable SD card?

  • zoidberg590

    If we wanted a dictatorship, we'd be apple users. We want space instead of a scam by Google to sell us cloud storage. FIrst youtubegate, now this. Scumbag Google, Don't be evil.

  • tmaddison

    Just fyi, I have an LG Optimus F3 (LG-P659) that I've rooted, and I was not able to get it to allow me to do the common suggestion of modifying the "platforms.xml" file. I could not get the system to allow me to write back to it, even though I was rooted - and I"m not enough of a linux guy to figure out why not... So I installed Total Commander on the phone, found the properties of the external drive, and changed them to allow full read/write access there.

    So far the problem appears to be solved, I can now read and write to the external using several apps (I've tried ES File Explorer, Doggcatcher, and F-Stop) and move their default storage locations there.

    Who knows if it won't "break" with some future update, but so far so good - and putting Total Commander on took seconds (after spending hours Googling and trying to figure out how to modify permissions in other ways...)

    Now I need to go donate to the guy behind Total Commander.... He saved me from having to buy a new phone with more internal memory, if this continues to work...