Over the last few years, few topics have been more hotly contested by Android users and developers than how SD cards are handled by the OS. Back in February, I discussed some of Google's changes during the transition from Android 2.3 to 4.0, and then how more recent policy changes ultimately led to 3rd-party applications losing most of their access to removable storage. By the time I/O came around, Google acknowledged that KitKat's newly added Storage Access Framework still didn't offer enough range for apps to get their work done.
Android 4.4 contained a number of interesting and very powerful features for developers, many of which went unused or misunderstood for quite a long time. Since it was introduced in KitKat, The Storage Access Framework (SAF) may be one of the best examples of an API that has been underutilized, despite offering a great method to provide cleaner and more informative interfaces. I even theorized that it may ultimately take the place of file system access.
"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.
Last month we posted an article examining some very significant changes to the way SD cards could be accessed and how Google's partner OEMs had begun enforcing these restrictions with Android 4.4. There can be no doubt, a lot of people were displeased to see their expandable storage crippled. While some have vowed to never update to KitKat, and others have turned to custom ROMs that don't enforce the same rules, there are still many people that still want to have the best of both worlds.
In recent years, Google hasn’t exactly been known as particularly hospitable toward SD cards with regard to its Android operating system. This theme is most often associated with the Nexus line of devices - the Nexus One was the only such handset to ever offer expandable storage. But despite arguments from Dan Morrill and Matias Duarte suggesting this stance is about keeping the Android interface simple and file picker-free, people still want more space.
Most of the file systems in use today were designed in an era when rotating discs ruled the world. Well, as things have shifted more toward NAND flash-based storage in mobile devices the problems with older file systems have been more visible. Samsung has just tackled the problem by designing a new file system called F2FS that's geared toward flash storage specifically. What's better, it is open source and has been submitted to the Linux kernel.