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Companies like Samsung and Apple don’t think there is any need for microSD card support in their newer smartphones. Credit: Shutterstock

Apple and Samsung don’t think phones need microSD cards – but is external storage still vital for users?

  • In the days of the cloud and growing internal storage, more new phones are being released without the option of external storage
  • But with videos in high 4K quality quickly causing 128GB to fill up, losing the additional SD card space has some worried

Samsung raised eyebrows in the tech scene earlier this year by cutting the microSD card slot from its new Galaxy S21 Ultra flagship smartphone.

While many smartphone users collectively shrugged, others were outraged. After all, the option to plug in an external SD (secure digital) is a vital feature for those who like taking lots of photos and downloading films.

But do you really need an external SD card in the days of the cloud and growing internal storage?

Companies like Samsung and Apple don’t think so. In fact, smartphone analysts predict future phones will be entirely portless, and Samsung’s decision to kill the microSD card port may just be another sign of a trend towards only internal storage on phones.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra does not have a microSD card slot. Photo: Samsung

Of course, most phones will still let you up your maximum storage with an additional memory card – for now.

In principle, however, experts tend to recommend using the inbuilt memory over an external microSD card. This is because apps often cannot be installed on the card and because internal memory is much faster and more reliable.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra first look: stunning 100x zoom, S-pen support

And yet foregoing the additional SD card space is still a tough sell in newer phones, where videos in high 4K quality can quickly cause 128GB to fill up.

That’s why experts say amateur photographers who take photos in high resolutions and shoot a lot of videos should go for more internal storage – 256GB if not 512GB of memory.

Then again, anyone paying the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft for cloud storage space will also be able to get by with as little as 64GB of storage space – provided you regularly delete photos you’ve backed up to the cloud.

A smartphone with open slots for SIM cards and microSD memory. Photo: Shutterstock

Anyone who listens to lots of music or watches lots of films should also consider going beyond 128GB of internal storage space, especially if you find yourself streaming songs and films when out and about.

An hour’s commute spent streaming Netflix and Spotify on a train every day can easily max out a 20GB contract. The rule of thumb for calculating your data needs: each song is usually around 6MB and a film needs between 500MB and 2GB, depending on the quality.

In most cases, you’ll find that falling prices of internal memory hardware means new phones will mostly have more than enough memory, and you can easily find models with 128GB of memory for less than US$200.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. Photo: Samsung

In contrast, you’ll often need to pay twice that for a phone with twice that memory size, i.e. 256GB. Only those who spend US$800 or more will be admitted to the storage heaven with no less than 1TB of space.

In any case, remember to prepare for a small disappointment when the phone arrives: a quick glance at the “memory” section of your settings will reveal that much of your memory is already used up by the operating system – often around 30GB. That’s even before you start installing apps.

In practice, a 128GB phone really only has a maximum of 109GB of free space, while a 256GB phone will show you only 220GB of free storage space directly after unboxing.