What is expandable memory?

expandable-memory-SD-card

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

When you’re looking into purchasing a new smartphone, you’ll notice a number in gigabytes listed after the phone model. For example, an iPhone 7 is sold in three variants: 32GB, 128GB and 256GB. That amount of gigabytes (GB) listed refers to the amount of core storage on the device.

As we all take more photos and videos on our smartphones, we tend to fill up that available storage rather quickly, at which point you’ve got to either offload some apps or videos to free up some space.

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.

32GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card
DWI (Digital World International)

$34.00

64GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card
DWI (Digital World International)

$69.00

$75.64: 128GB Strontium Nitro MicroSD card
Kogan

$75.64

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) supports a maximum size of a whopping 2TB. Though 2TB are not commercially available yet, they might not be far off. Nintendo's latest console, the Nintendo Switch will support up to 2TB microSDXC.

You can currently purchase 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.

What phones have expandable memory in 2017

Now that Samsung has moved back to expandable memory with its Galaxy S7 range and Sony and HTC continue to support expandable memory with their flagship handsets, there's a decent range of smartphones that are compatible with microSD cards. Below are three picks from our best phones of 2017 list that allow for expandable memory.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

2016's Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge righted the  S6's wrong by reintroducing support for microSD cards with up to 256GB capacity.

For more information on the Samsung Galaxy S7, check out our review. If you're looking for something a little more edgy, check out what we had to say about the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

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    HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play

    HTC's U range supports up to 2TB of microSD storage. These glossy and glassy HTC U Ultra and HTC U Play retail for $1,199 and $799, respectively. The 5.7-inch HTC U Ultra features a unique second screen and sells on contract through Vodafone or outright via JB HI-FI, Harvey Norman or DWI.

    HTC U Ultra from DWI (Digital World International)

    DWI is stocking the HTC U Ultra. The U Ultra's unique second display allows for uninterrupted user interaction when receiving texts, emails and calls.

    View details

    Huawei Mate 9

    Huawei's big and beautiful Huawei Mate 9 launched to critical acclaim thanks to its valuable partnership with Leica cameras and some very impressive performance from its multi-core processor. Huawei's Mate 9 retails for $999 from Australian retailers like Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi but you can pick it up for $100 less online at DWI.

    Huawei Mate 9 from DWI (Digital World International)

    Huawei's Mate 9 is a gloriously massive phablet with a stunning dual camera and powerful processor.

    View details
    More smartphones that take a microSD card

    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

    On the Android side of the fence, Samsung briefly dipped its toes into the fully sealed, non-expandable space with the Samsung Galaxy S6, but it reversed that position with the Galaxy S7.

    Google’s older Nexus phones are fully sealed. The Nexus 6P doesn’t support expandable data via microSD card and Google's latest, the Google Pixel, has continued that trend.

    Most other 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 purchasing a higher capacity card if it won't work with your phone.

    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. In this case, inserting your microSD card 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

    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. 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.

    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 downloaded again from app stores if you need them again.

    Consider also offloading some content like photos, videos and music to streaming or cloud services. 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. For these people, we would recommend a high-usage mobile plan.

    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.

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    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.

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    60 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      samsungJuly 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.

      • Default Gravatar
        yeshwaNovember 20, 2016

        I have Samsung Galaxy J2, 6GB of 8GB internal and expandable size is about 16GB. Can I insert 32GB memory card into it? Will there be any problem?

      • Staff
        JasonNovember 20, 2016Staff

        Hi Yeshwa,

        Thank you for your enquiry.

        Checking on the specification of Samsung Galaxy J2, the maximum external memory support is up to 128GB. There should be no problem inserting a 32GB micro SD memory card to your Samsung Galaxy J2 if we’re going to follow the said specifications.
        You may also check out this link for a review of Samsung Galaxy J2.

        Cheers,
        Jason

    2. Default Gravatar
      deronJuly 19, 2016

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

      • Staff
        BrodieJuly 20, 2016Staff

        Hi Deron,

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

        Cheers,
        Brodie

    3. Default Gravatar
      GNixonJuly 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
      britneyJuly 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
        AlexJuly 6, 2016Staff

        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.

        Regards,

        Alex

    5. Default Gravatar
      VinayakMay 31, 2016

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

      Then phone gets slow or not

      • Staff
        AlexJune 1, 2016Staff

        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.

        Regards,

        Alex.

    6. Default Gravatar
      adreetaMarch 17, 2016

      Hello,

      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
        JudeMarch 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
        BrodieMarch 22, 2016Staff

        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.

        http://findercdn.com.au.s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/finder-au/wp-uploads/2016/03/Screenshot-2016-03-22-08.52.46.png

        Hope that helps,
        Brodie

    7. Default Gravatar
      MiriamFebruary 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
        BrodieFebruary 4, 2016Staff

        Hi Miriam,

        You would purchase a 32GB MicroSD card.

        Thanks,
        Brodie

    8. Default Gravatar
      KrishnaJanuary 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
        BrodieJanuary 29, 2016Staff

        Hi Krishna,

        You would purchase a 32GB MicroSD card.

        Thanks,
        Brodie

    9. Default Gravatar
      jaskiratJanuary 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
        AlexJanuary 14, 2016Staff

        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.

        Regards,

        Alex

    10. Default Gravatar
      KuruvillaJanuary 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
        BrodieJanuary 29, 2016Staff

        Hi Kuruvilla,

        You would purchase a 64GB MicroSD card.

        Cheers,
        Brodie

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