Diving into M: Android M lets you move apps to microSD thanks to “adoptable” storage

by: Bogdan PetrovanMay 29, 2015


Google is famously uninterested in giving proper support for microSD, but it looks like the Android team is having a slight change of heart.

One of the many new features that Google didn’t really advertise about Android M yesterday is Adoptable Storage Devices. Adoptable basically means that Android M can “adopt” an external storage device like a microSD card and format and encrypt it so it acts like the device’s internal storage. It looks like Google no longer sees microSD as for storing media only; with adoptable storage, you will be able to move apps and their data to microSD or other external storage devices. The caveat is you won’t be able to use an adopted card on other devices, because of the encryption. But that’s a small sacrifice given the benefits.

The ability to move apps between internal and external storage is a feature that many OEMs added to their devices years ago. Now Google is building it into stock Android, despite the fact that there are no Nexus devices with microSD ports. This is another Android M feature that has been popularized by OEMs and that Google now includes into stock Android, with fingerprint sensor support, themes, customizable quick settings tiles, being other examples. It remains to be seen whether this is a sign of something bigger (from the Nexus line, only the original Nexus One supported microSD) or just a fluke.

Besides adoptable storage, a related improvement is better support for OTG USB. Now when you connect a USB OTG flash drive, a popup will let you browse the contents immediately, without having to use a file explorer.

Want to dive even deeper? Check out our full “Diving into M” series.

  • Keith Taylor

    so I guess I can get a G4 after all and use it for more than just music and photos..cool

  • My Galaxy Prime

    So you can swap out SD cards but if you upgrade to a larger size, you won’t be able to transfer the data from the smaller card to the larger one because of the encryption. This is one reason why the lack of SD support in the S6 didn’t bother me. After lollipop, SD support in Android has become a pain.

    • Btort

      most people’s large files are almost always videos and pictures

      • My Galaxy Prime

        Yeah I know. I have a 64gb S6, I download movies constantly and take 4k video with my phone and still have 20 gb of free space. All the pictures and videos I don’t need on the regular get backed up on a free cloud account.

  • Mark Washington

    Thats great news !

  • Cláudio Lopes

    This is easily the best news I’ve heard about Google’s I/O 2015.

  • androidDude0923

    With the Adoptive Storage Device, does it mean that one can use the SD card as an internal storage completely? Even though OEMs have enabled this ability in the past, you can only move a small portion of the apps to the SD card.

    • Syukri Lajin

      i’m just guessing, Adoptive Storage Device might just mean that it will be reformatted to Linux’s native filesystem instead of fat32/exfat. and maybe encrypted to protect the data.

      • androidDude0923

        I see. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Kwadwo Boadu

    Will that mean that apps that at the moment cannot move from internal storage can now be moved onto the sd card? Also does it mean that when an app updates it will remain on the sd card instead of moving back onto the internal storage? I save all of the games I can on my sd card meaning it doesn’t matter too much that I have a 16gb device…. for now anyway.

  • Syukri Lajin

    this might not be about nexus. i think this is for Android One devices. low end, limited storage, external storage is a must have for Android One phones.

  • Rob

    This is a great idea, considering how many devices do not accept SD cards anymore…ROFL! My S6 is a perfect example.

    • Btort

      sucks to be you, bad battery and no sd slot. POS if you ask me, note 4 shits on the s6

      • My Galaxy Prime

        I’m guessing you don’t own an S6. You’re bashing something before trying it out. The battery lasts as long as the S5 and charges twice as fast. and theres really no need for an SD slot. Pictures you want to keep but don’t look at everyday can get stored on a cloud. Video as well. If you have movies, after watching them, delete them. How often do you need to upgrade your storage. Chances are, you’ve had the same size memory card in your phone without any issues. It’s the same as not having an SD slot.

      • Rob

        I never said I was missing the SD card slot, and there are lots of reasons I wouldn’t buy a Note. My point was that many phone makers, not just Samsung, are ditching the SD card slot. Welcome to post 2015. This move by Google works against that trend, which may or may not be a good thing. All I know is that manufacturers aren’t going to retro-fit SD card slots into existing phones to accommodate this.

        To be honest, of all the phones I had before that had SD Card slots, I found them not very useful. Sure, I could store stuff on it, but it was slow and most apps couldn’t be moved to it anyway. My 64Gb S6 still has ~49Gb left after putting all I wanted on it…leaving tons of room for data and other things. Chances are…if you need to fill more than 64Gb or even 32Gb on a phone, you’re likely carrying around a ton of stuff you don’t really need and/or are taking up way too much space.

        My last phone didn’t have a removable battery and I never missed it. This one isn’t great, but my $100 Moto G (1st Gen) battery was far better than any Samsung product I’ve seen, yet. The one thing going for this one is the fact that I can get from 40% to 65% in about 10 minutes charge. In a normal workday’s use, it lasts the entire time.

        • My Galaxy Prime

          The only reason why Google is supporting the SD card is because of the foreign market. Their devices come with minimal internal storage (8gb). I totally agree with you. I have the 64gb galaxy S6. I figured out how much storage I needed and got the right size. Honestly, the people complaining here have probably used the same size memory card for months, if not years and are complaining about having the same size internal memory.

    • Cheaper Android devices will definitely benefit with that feature.

  • Garfield DC

    This will help the Android One initiative. Currently all the A1 devices come with less internal storage and an option to expand storage via micro SD cards. But the fact that you cannot move apps and data to that expandable storage limits what or how many apps you can install.

  • V-Phuc

    Wonder what Samsung may be thinking now? They just ditch microSD and now Goggle, of all the people we suspect the least, makes a move to store data/apps on microSD!!! What. in. the. world? Any guess about SGS7 has a microSD…and a removable battery? That would be too funny!

    • Btort

      Hoping the s6 flops as bad as the s5, so they will return those features

      • Marc Perrusquia

        It’s selling incredibly well. Mainstream consumers are idiots.

        • RiTCHiE

          No it doesn’t sell incredibly well because today samsung release some numbers and sales went down again from 2014 by 1% so its still declining and not selling fool. know you fact before acting like this headless samsung fanboy.

      • RiTCHiE

        Yea i hope the s6 flops also because that phone is just retarded.

    • My Galaxy Prime

      You still can’t swap out your memory cards. If you have pictures and videos on ur sd, you can’t put them into ur pc and easily transfer them because of the encryption. Pretty much, that sd will only work on your phone. It’s the same as not having an sd slot. If u want to upgrade to higher storage (because I’m assuming that’s the reason you’re upset at Samsung for not adding an SD slot), you would have to transfer your files to your phone, pop in the new card, and transfer them back. If what u have on ur card takes up more space than what you have on your phone, you’re either s.o.l. or you’ll have to transfer what u can to the phone, swap cards, transfer the data to the new card, then swap cards again, transfer the rest of the content to the device, swap out the cards again, then transfer the rest to the card and god forbid if anything gets corrupt during the transfer. This isn’t better, it’s just annoying. It’s so much easier to calculate how much storage you need, then buy the size that supports your needs.

      • You have missed something, you’ll be able to connect the sdcard to your computer just as you can connect your phone to the computer. Since the sdcard is part of an “internal-external storage” you’ll be able to access that option when you plug in your phone.
        Besides, a upgrade option by a sdcard is way cheaper than paying for a bigger internal memory.
        It’s a way better option than those that are available now.

        • My Galaxy Prime

          For my 64gb galaxy S6 edge, I paid 400 dollars. The regular 64 gb S6 is 300. That’s too much?

          • That example makes absolutely no sense at all. They’re both 64GB, it’s just different models… We were talking memory, remember?

          • My Galaxy Prime

            You mentioned price. Depending on the model, the price differs. How does that not make sense? Need 32gb? The regular S6 will cost 200 and the S6 edge 32 gb will cost 300. And how often do you upgrade your memory? If you need 128 gb, that memory card will cost you over 100 dollars anyway. Plus you run the risk of a corrupted memory card. It’s easier to figure out how much memory you need and get the right size. How much data, that you never look at, do you keep on your phone? There’s free cloud data for that.

          • Yes the price difference between two memory options, eg the price difference of a 64 GB phone model compared to the 32GB model of THE SAME phone, not different models but with the same storage. That’s why your statement is completely irrelevant.
            The price difference between buying a 32 GB phone + a 32 GB microSD and buying a 64GB phone is huge.
            I can say that I easily use over 32 GB of data, such as offline music from Spotify, pictures and movies. So I have had the need to update my card twice to fit it all. Would’ve been a real mess if I didn’t have a sdcard option.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            How much is your data worth when your card corrupts and you lose everything?

          • How often does that happen? I mean if you have your sdcard in your phone all the time, the risk of it getting corrupted is the same as the risk of my phone getting corrupted. Your option would then be worthless too if you’re so scared of that. Plus clouds are more likely to lose or corrupt your data than a memory card if you use it right. I’ve had over 10 sdcard and which I never have had any corruption take place, the clouds however have made my data corrupt more than once. Hell, even one of my phones internal memory corrupted some images while the ones on the sdcard were safe.

            And if you backup your data, it’s never a worry no matter what option you use.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            So what you’re saying is that your card never corrupts? I’ve owned Android phones for years and I’ve used SD cards and had to make sure they’re backed up because they corrupt. You can download a bad app, do too much work between the phone and sd, you can basically do nothing and the sd will go bad. Box, Google photos, dropbox, and window’s cloud service don’t corrupt your data. You’re actually better off with cloud service. You seriously believe a BILLION dollar tech company could not protect your data better than a 20 dollar memory card? That’s fine. It’s your data not mine.

          • Then perhaps it’s you that haven’t gone for quality? And yes that’s what I’m saying since I’ve had this sdcard I have right now for 2+ years without any corruption.

            Anyway it’s not the company itself that corrupts the data but the user. If there is any irregularities during your upload or download for example, the data might go corrupt. And to be honest, just because it’s a billion dollar company doesn’t mean that it favors quality or such. But yes Google and others are very reliable.

            To get to the point though, why not just use a sdcard and cloud services to back one another up? The question here was never that cloud services are bad or more favorable than local storage options but the difference between a internal and external storage in terms of price. I use all three options and think that each have their own ups and downs.

            The real thing here was that you said, sdcard to pc won’t be possible, and I said it will and explained why. There have really been no reason at all for you to start this debate.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            Yeah….I’m drunk, high, and just had sex. Screw this convo. Jerk yourself off and whatever. I’m on a galaxy S6 bįtch. I’m out!

    • Karly Johnston

      Same thought here,looking at poor S6 sales it seems like they should.

      • My Galaxy Prime

        Samsung never released their sales figures. That 10 million sold that was reported, it was stated in the original article that they don’t know when the S6 reached the 10 million sold mark. No other report has come out since then. What are you basing your comment on?

        • Karly Johnston

          They released shipping figures, 10 million shipped in 39 days.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            the original report, the one everyone is basing their stories on, states they don’t know when the S6 reached 10 million. It’s actually quite sad. It was difficult to find the article because many sites didn’t include a link directly to the original article. Most likely because it will conflict with that 10 million in 1 month statement. However, I did find it and the link is here | http://m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20150519000715

          • Karly Johnston

            exactly as i said, 39 days to ship 10 million.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            How do you know it took 39 days when no one knows? The link i posted will take you to the original article that all other sites based their info on. It states Samsung never stated when they hit 10 million. News reports are even emerging that the CEO of Samsung claimed that story is false and today another high ranking official stated that both devices are selling very well and meeting internal expectations.

        • RiTCHiE

          Todat they released some numbers and sales went down by 1% from 2014 so sales are declining for 3 years in a row.

          • My Galaxy Prime

            Nevermind that this article is from may, No one released numbers. A company ANTICIPATED that Samsung’s shipments will decline by 1%. The story is discussing shipments not sales and it’s anticipated, meaning it hasn’t happened yet.

          • RiTCHiE

            And this info is from Wednesday , 10 / 14 / 2015

          • My Galaxy Prime

            “TrendForce therefore anticipates that the vendor will see its first ever decline of annual smartphone shipments in 2015, with a 1% year-on-year drop and around 323.5 million units shipped.” lol I guess you didn’t read where it says WILL SEE, ANTICIPATES and SHIPPED. Meaning it hasn’t happened and has nothing to do with sales. Thanks for the link. It backs up exactly what I said.
            Read more at http://press.trendforce.com/press/20151014-2094.html#bDTTHTDEulUyVche.99

    • RiTCHiE

      Well samsung is shooting it self in the foot and only way they listen is when nobody buys their crap and if i have to believe the latest numbers then the units sold went down again like few quaters in a arow now. They sold less phones then in 2014! So fuck you CrapSung.

  • 3223

    This is excellent news! Finally android phones with microsd slots can use the feature to the fullest!

    Before this, most phones come with support for up to 128gb, but very little use for it apart from media and some app data (depending on the manufacturer software).

    Fingers crossed! My M8 with stock gpe rom is aching to offload some app data from the phone to the mostly barren microsd card!!

  • McLaren F1P1

    This is the best part for me!!

  • This just shows that Google is really dedicated to Android One. I’m guess they’re the reason why this feature exists in the first place.

    • abqnm

      I think you are right. When the first A1 phones launched with 4gb of storage but requiring an SD card to pretty much do anything, this came up in conversation. I remember discussing an additional use of the (variant of) FUSE file system that Google uses now for the internal storage distribution, and how it could be used to extend the storage to SD cards, but they would essentially become paired with the device, making it a sort of semi-non-removable expandable storage. And now, here it is.

  • kozjegyzo

    M is giving back features taken away, silent mode, sd card support. Great that Google is not afraid to admit mistakes.

  • Nicolas Finn

    So, I have my own server running Plex Media Server, and the Plex app lets users sync the content from the server to your device ahead of time, instead of having to stream it real time (saves me carrier data and allows me to cache shows ahead of time and not worry about stream quality).

    I’m assuming that this could, potentially, be used so that I could have the Plex app stored on a flash drive and just plug in a USB OTG cable, open the app, and hit sync? If that’s the case, this is freakin’ awesome! I could have a LOT more content accessible that way!

  • Alan Campbell

    So if I buy a Samsung Galaxy S5 [or Note 4], it will support Android:M better than the latest S6?

  • Sandro Mancini

    If Google sells a 64Gb or 128Gb Nexus I will be tempted to buy one. If they add SD card support on top of that (very UNlikely, IMHO), I sell my Note 4 the very next day. :-p Just CRAVING for pure Android experience and fast upgrades…

  • Casey Robertson

    Does this mean next nexus has SD card slot?

  • Nicolas Nic Nac Chiaramonte

    So here is what I heard so far. The Galaxy S7 depending on the chip like Snapdragon 820 there are 2 versions 820-A and 820-B the B model is able to add Microsd support and because of the backlash that the S6 got for dropping the support for it. It is looking like it’s coming to the S7 but I’m not certain its speculation but I will say its a high probability but the funny thing that I’m still trying to understand is that they have been using there own Exynos chips for their phones so I’m not sure if they are planning on sticking with their chip which means they won’t have buy from another company but Qualcomm knows how to make cellphone chips so I’m hoping that the next Galaxy S will be using the Snapdragon 820-B because I think it will be more efficient than their own chips and considering that is a toss up because in the past the 810 were heating up which is why they didn’t use them in the S6 or S5 but the problem I think has been worked out for the overheating issue so Samsung might go with Qualcomm which I hope they do. Knowing Samsung though there going to be adding some special features to the next Galaxy S. But I doubt their going to return the removable battery. I heard that OEM says that majority of people don’t replace their battery that is more for power users so because its not a consistent consensus they won’t add that back as well don’t think it will ever return.

  • Nicolas Nic Nac Chiaramonte

    Also remember there are Microsd USB card readers that you can plug into your computer and plug into your MircoUsb devices and add microsd cards to it like this device.


  • RecklessRaggy

    I read that if the SD card is adopted, the ACTUAL internal memory no longer counts for anything. Is this true?

  • You still can’t move all apps though. Just some. I wish Google would give their apps sd card support, because there’s not reason their entire productivity suite needs to suck up my space, while Microsoft’s can be moved.