What is expandable memory?

For many phones, the storage onboard is what you get, and that’s it. A phone with expandable memory allows you to add storage if you find you need it in an easy and inexpensive way.

When you’re researching a new smartphone to purchase, you’ll frequently see a number in gigabytes listed after the phone model. So for example, it won’t just be described as an iPhone 7. Instead what you will be sold will be an iPhone 7 32GB, or similar. That number refers to the amount of core storage on the device. In effect it’s the hard drive for your smartphone. As we all take more photos and videos on our smartphones, we tend to fill up that available storage, at which point you’ve got to either offload some apps or data, or do without adding any more. A phone with expandable storage via microSD cards makes it easy to bump up the storage on your phone via the use of tiny microSD cards.

$19.99: 32GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card


$38.99: 64GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card


$108.99: 128GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card


What is a microSD card?

A microSD card is a tiny fingerprint sized storage device that can be inserted into a smartphone with expandable memory capabilities. Storage sizes can range from 2GB upwards. The current SDXC card format (which not every phone will support) calls for a maximum size of a whopping 2TB. You won’t find those in stores just yet though, with manufacturers still only demonstrating early samples of 1TB at the time of writing. In terms of commercial availability you can get 512GB microSD cards, but they’re seriously pricey prospects. Comparatively, a simple 32GB or 64GB card should only cost you in the region of $30-$100. falling_microsd_shutterstock_450

How do I put a microSD card in my phone?

Before you start (and, indeed, before you even purchase a card), the first thing to do is check that the handset you want to use actually supports expandable memory. The bad news if you’re a fan of Apple’s iPhone line is that none of them do. Apple has never supported microSD card expansion directly for any of its phone or tablet products. That includes the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus handsets. On the Android side of the fence the general rule is that microSD expansion will be supported by most phones. Samsung briefly dipped its toes into the fully sealed, no expansion space with the Samsung Galaxy S6, but it reversed that position with the Galaxy S7. Google’s older Nexus phones are fully sealed, so for example the Nexus 6P doesn’t support expandable data via microSD card. Still, most Android phones, whether budget offerings or premium superphones support memory expansion. It is also worth checking whether or not your phone of choice supports newer higher capacity microSD formats. The SDXC standard should be supported by most new phones, but older handsets may be limited to smaller capacity cards. There's no point in buying a higher capacity card if it won't work in your phone. Actual insertion of the microSD card will vary by phone model, with two primary approaches favoured. Many metal body phones offer a microSD card slot on the side of the phone, similar to the SIM card slot, and in some cases presented in the same carrying caddy. Insertion there is a simple matter of popping open the tray with a fingernail or a supplied SIM tool (or in a pinch, an unfolded paperclip or pin) and dropping the microSD card in. Phones with removable batteries often place the microSD card slot in with the SIM card slot, and may require removing the battery in order to change or add a microSD card slot. If that describes your phone, you are much better off properly shutting your phone down before yanking the battery out and adding your microSD card.

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Purchase the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium


My phone doesn’t support expandable memory. What can I do?

There are a couple of avenues worth exploring if you’ve got a handset with no microSD expansion capabilities. The first and most obvious is to take stock of what you’ve got on the phone, working out where you can save space by offloading content. If you’ve never backed up your photos to your computer, that can save considerable storage space, as well as being a good general backup precaution. If you’ve got heaps of applications that you rarely or never use, delete them. Most apps can be redownloaded from app stores if you need them again. Consider also offloading some content types to streaming or cloud services. So rather than having a large music library loaded on your phone, use a service such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music or Google Play Music to deliver your tunes. Be aware however that this means you’ll be using data for each song play, which can add up in cost terms if you’re not connecting via Wi-Fi. There are also some novel approaches that use external full drives to connect to Android and iPhone devices that can add a lot of storage accessible via specific apps. Wireless drives such as those made by Seagate and Western Digital can offer you terabytes of storage that you connect to via an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network for access, while external storage devices connect up via microUSB or Lightning ports to give more direct access, although typically with much less storage available.

Why don’t I have all the storage my phone says I should have?

One thing you’ll quickly work out is that a phone with 32GB of storage doesn’t actually give you 32GB of available space to store your files and apps on. That’s partially down to a quirk of the way that data is counted, but mostly because the quoted figure for a given smartphone relates to the entire amount of available storage on the device. That storage has to include the operating system as well, which eats up storage space all of its own, especially if you opt for a model with a lot of preinstalled applications.

Jeremy Cabral

Jeremy is a publisher for finder.com.au, he is also a personal finance all-rounder specialising in: Credit Cards, Savings Accounts, Personal Loans, Home Loans & Online Shopping.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Related Posts

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Disclaimer: At finder.com.au we provide factual information and general advice. Before you make any decision about a product read the Product Disclosure Statement and consider your own circumstances to decide whether it is appropriate for you.
Rates and fees mentioned in comments are correct at the time of publication.
By submitting this question you agree to the finder.com.au privacy policy, receive follow up emails related to finder.com.au and to create a user account where further replies to your questions will be sent.

58 Responses to What is expandable memory?

  1. Default Gravatar
    samsung | July 29, 2016

    i had purchase samsung galaxy j2 if my phone have 8 gb internal memory and 128 gb expanded so can I enter 64 gb memory in my mobile it is not harm for my device plz answer.

  2. Default Gravatar
    deron | July 19, 2016

    if my phone have 16gb internal storage can i put a 32 gb in it

    • Staff
      Brodie | July 20, 2016

      Hi Deron,

      May I ask what brand and model handset you’re using?


  3. Default Gravatar
    GNixon | July 10, 2016

    If I put an SD card in my phone, can I save apps (I only get free ones) on it so that they don’t take up so much of my phone’s existing storage space?

    I already save my photos and videos in a cloud storage site. I don’t download music. I am just a surfer, a texter, and make calls with my phone.

  4. Default Gravatar
    britney | July 4, 2016

    My new phone says it has a expandable memory of 2TBs but the biggest sd card made is a 512GBs. How do I utilize 2TBs if they don’t make a 2TBs card?

    • Staff
      Alex | July 6, 2016

      Hi Britney,

      Often manufacturers will make devices to a standard which specifies the range of available storage, whether or not that capacity is available at the time. This would be one such case; while you can’t get a 2TB microSD card (as yet), and they’ll at least initially be very expensive if and when they hit the market, in theory your device should be compatible with them when they do. Essentially it’s a bit of futureproofing (if accurate), and otherwise your top limit is indeed the limit of available storage cards today.



  5. Default Gravatar
    Vinayak | May 31, 2016

    My phone with expandable 64 gb
    If I put 64 gb sd card ,

    Then phone gets slow or not

    • Staff
      Alex | June 1, 2016

      Hi Vinayak,

      There’s no specific reason why adding an SD card to a phone should slow it down, although it’s feasible if you’re using an older, slower SD card that accessing files stored on it might take slightly longer than reading the same file directly from phone memory.



  6. Default Gravatar
    adreeta | March 17, 2016


    My phone had 2GB of internal memory. Then i bought a 16 GB MicroSD card . When i made my phone storage to SD card, even then the apps’ updates, etc was happening in my phone storage, and eventually ‘no sufficient space’ showed up all the time i wanted to update or download any app. That’s the problem. what do you think i should do ?

    • Default Gravatar
      Jude | March 24, 2016

      Well this all depends on what type of SD card you have in your phone. If it was brand is not well known, that could be a problem. It’s best to get a brand such as Toshiba, San disk and Samsung. I bought a 32GB San disk SD card for my Nokia Lumia 530 of eBay and it’s quite excellent in the way it operates. But the best part is that I bought it from a very good buyer for around $16.00 which was an astonishing deal. Hope this was of some help

    • Staff
      Brodie | March 22, 2016

      Hi Adreeta,

      2GB of internal memory is not a lot to work with. Your best option would be to move as many apps to the SD card as possible. To do this, go to Application Manager in Settings. From there, tap each app and select Move to SD card.


      Hope that helps,

  7. Default Gravatar
    Miriam | February 3, 2016

    I am using micromax a114.. It has internal storage of 4 GB and it can be expanded up to 32 GB. Which SD card should i buy.. 16 GB or 32 GB??

    • Staff
      Brodie | February 4, 2016

      Hi Miriam,

      You would purchase a 32GB MicroSD card.


  8. Default Gravatar
    Krishna | January 23, 2016

    Karbonn s201 its internal memory is 8 GB and expanded 32 GB. So i should buy 32 or 16 GB memory card

    • Staff
      Brodie | January 29, 2016

      Hi Krishna,

      You would purchase a 32GB MicroSD card.


  9. Default Gravatar
    jaskirat | January 14, 2016

    I have an intex aqua power hd . it has 16gb internal memory card … And expandable memory up to 32gb . can i insert a memory card of 32gb???..

    • Staff
      Alex | January 14, 2016

      Hi Jaskirat,

      Based on online specifications for the Intex Aqua Power HD it would appear to be able to take up to a 32GB microSD card, so you should be able to add a card that large to it alongside its internal 16GB of memory.



  10. Default Gravatar
    Kuruvilla | January 4, 2016

    I have a Xolo Play Tegra Note which already has 16 GB internal storage and it’s expandable up to 64 GB so what memory card should I buy.

    • Staff
      Brodie | January 29, 2016

      Hi Kuruvilla,

      You would purchase a 64GB MicroSD card.


Ask a question