Matias Duarte explains Tablet UI in Jelly Bean and why Nexus devices have no SD card

by: Joe HindyOctober 30, 2012

NexusAt some point, we all wonder how Google makes the decisions they do. Especially regarding Android. While most of their efforts are widely liked by nearly everyone, there are some things we wish they’d explain in greater detail. Things like how they came up with the Tablet UI. Okay, what we really want to know is why no SD card love in the Nexus devices. Matias Duarte sat down to help explain things.

His explanation about Tablet UI is truly fascinating. Duarte explains that the Tablet UI in Jelly Bean was the result of market research done to see how people use devices. It was concluded that pretty much everyone uses their phone in portrait mode most of the time.

With tablets, though, it was found that people hold tablets in all sorts of ways. Upside down, right side up, and any other orientation. So the tablet UI design in Jelly Bean was done to help accommodate people who hold their tablets any which way.

Duarte goes on to explain that with the tablet UI, the three navigation buttons we’ve all come to know are always where you need them. It doesn’t matter which way you hold it. That helps bring uniformity to the platform and users don’t need to learn how to use their tablet a new way just because they’re holding it differently.

Cool stuff, so why no MicroSD cards in Nexus devices?

Not a lot of people are going to be happy with that answer. As Duarte explains, “We take a different approach. Your Nexus has a fixed amount of space and your apps just seamlessly use it for you without you ever having to worry about files or volumes or any of that techy nonsense left over from the paleolithic era of computing.”

Thus, Nexus devices don’t have MicroSD card slots. They are simply too old of a technology and apparently they confuse people. Many people probably wouldn’t mind this if there were better storage options.

While the Galaxy Nexus had 32GB of storage, the LG Nexus 4 has been reported as only having 8GB and 16GB offerings. It’s disappointing that Google believes everyone would be happy with only 8GB or 16GB of space with no room for expansion. Many people use much more than 16GB of space.

If you’d like to read a transcript of the answers Matias Duarte gave, you can find them over at Droid-Life. Is anyone satisfied with Matias Duarte’s answers? Or are they rather disappointing? Let us know your thoughts.

  • I’m actually okay with 16GB of storage with no room for expansion of a phone. That leaves enough space or apps, photos and a playlist of music, as I use an iPod Classic most of the time, but I’m shocked that that’s the reason they don’t put a microSD slot in.. because people find it too complicated? Sheesh!

    • RarestName

      E.g. Takes a photo, gets sent to the SD card. Saves an image, gets sent to the flash storage. And how do they show up? In their respective folders in the Gallery app where it doesn’t state where they are saved in.

      • photos are stored in the DCIM folder on the SD card whereas all downloads are stored in the internal storage under the Downloads folder.

        It’s understandable to a degree that people could see it as confusing (I sometimes don’t remember where Zedge hides the Wallpapers folder), but it’s not exactly rocket science, either.

        • raindog469

          Of course, the availability of all these different cloud options changes the situation from “is it on the internal flash or the SD card?” to “is it on G+, Google Drive, Picasa, Facebook, Flickr or Dropbox?”

          Let’s get real. The reason they stopped including SD card slots is not to alleviate confusion. It’s purely to drive users to their comparatively slow but revenue-generating cloud services.

          As for why they removed App2SD, for that I have no explanation. Having bought and downloaded an almost 4GB game on my tablet, I bought a 32GB SD card last week so I could move it. I was very confused and then extremely irritated to find out it’s only good for media consumption under ICS. I think it’s time for a new ROM. But someone who’s less technical wouldn’t bother with a new ROM, they’d just stop buying apps.

    • William

      I’d like to know who these people are, that actually believes that sd cards are complicated! I believe that’s a bogus statement. Currently SD cards are the most common memory cards out in the electronics world.

      • As raindog469 said it might be something to do with their cloud storage too. It’s a way for them to make money, so maybe their reasoning was just a way to cover up their real reason of “we can make more money if you don’t use an SD card and use our cloud storage instead.” But who knows?

  • DAngelo8

    We”ll see if the no SD card will be the kiss of death that it has been for other devices. Duarte’s explanation is frankly, a bit patronizing. Almost all of us have been using devices for years with smart cards without problems. So why now are they so problematic. Furthermore, no removable battery, and no LTE, I see these new Nexus devices only as a niche device for select Android purists.

  • Tets

    Well then you lose me as a customer. That is the easily the lamest answer I have ever heard. I don’t want to give up on android, but idiots like that have no tech sense whatsoever. He dodges the fact that he does not want you to load “your” content. These things can now play HD video and store tons of music if you choose to do so. I will now have to look at windows 8 tablets which I did not want to do.

    • Peterson Silva

      What if I told you the nexus tablets aren’t the only options with android?

      I know, I know, calm down… It’s hard to understand, I know… Shh, there there…

  • Because the HTC One X is doing so great with its lack of access to replace the battery or add additional storage. Way to take a step backwards Google! *DOH*

  • Abir

    this guy is a nut on the external storage front, according to him its old tech and the human brain isint able to process simple stuff and they get confused with 2 types of memory, only he is fit to think on behalf of humans. So where do u store those videos and movies that i could watch on that HD screen thats on your phone? where do i store the video and pics i could shoot with that 8mp HD cam? or even games which come in Gb’s these days? i should store em up your ass you dumb fuck? oh yeah on the cloud? my country has uber high 3g prices and the net experience is shitt all over so i am screwed thanks to you? confusing for users my ass just a play to suck out 50$ for 4$ worth of flash

    • KingKilla

      not only that you have burn date when you upload from your pc and when you streaming from your phone. uploading speed are still pretty slow

  • jay

    they do this so you use Google Drive.

  • What crapppppppppp….if its so confusing and outdated to have a micro-sd card slot…then put it in 32 and 64 gig byte version…dumb *****

    • agree why not bump up the memory to 128 GB just to remove any need whatsoever for the OLD TECHNOLOGY!

  • ray01000101010101

    Would been better if they released a 399 32GB version

    • Even if the 32GB version of the Nexus 10 was $449….I just find it very hard to justify a whole $100 price difference for $8 of storage. Even a $50 difference would be easier to swallow.

  • olbp


    Mr. Duarte:

    YOU are the software designer. If the SD interface is so confusing, it is YOUR FAULT! Design around the problem and make it simple enough even for you. Then, the rest of us, who don’t seem to have a problem with it, will be able to rest easily when you are working.

    By the way, my son, who is just now 6, doesn’t seem to have any problem with the SD interface, as it is. However, I must say, he didn’t understand it at first. I had to spend about 5 – 6 minutes showing it to him before he got it.

  • companyemails

    Here is a beter storage option, give me an option for 32gb of on board storage. I get it that google wants people to use more of their cloud services, but lets face it, with todays limited plans and expensive data caps, how exactly are people supposed to take full advantage of those services? Also, what happens when you are not in an area with good connectivity?

  • Prasan Chari

    are you kidding, No SD and SD a old technology, is’t phone a 100 year old technology and cell phone 15 – 20 year technology, why use it then.,

    • szy

      I think there is a different explanation for leaving out SD cards from Nexus devices:
      Microsoft holds patents for the FAT filesystem (including derivatives). So far nearly every Android maker had been forced to sign a licensing agreement with Microsoft which would guarantee a couple of dollars of royalty after each device sold.
      If a device has only internal memory, it can use any of the native filesystems of Linux free of charges. However, if the device has an SD card slot, it cannot avoid having to handle the FAT filesystem.
      So, by this move Google is just about to get rid of Microsoft, I suspect.

  • Prasan Chari

    Do you have a clue how much games take space on the phone, I have 4 games on the phone and it has already fill up 6 GB. SD card is not old technology, secondly Phone is a 100 year old technology and cell phone as such are 15 – 20 + year old technology, why produce cell phones or phones ? even internet is 30 year technology,

  • Nacos

    I would ask Matias what is “paleolithic” in wanting to have a second storage, not necessarily for increased capacity but rather for the piece of mind in keeping sensible information safe from accidental losses? What is “paleolithic” in trying to be independent from cloud storage for either the situation when online connectivity is not available or not desired? What is “paleolithic” in having the ability to simply exchange information by simply removing the SD card and inserting it wherever you wanted – of course in addition to all the other plethora of file sharing ways – which are ALL much more resource demanding than simply swapping the SD card? And finally what is “paleolithic” in having the ability to use the external SD card as UMS in order to transfer/synchronize large files – like Titanium or Nandroid Backups?

    This is nothing but calculated misinformation targeting less informed users and intended to turn people away from the convenience of using removable SD cards in the exclusive favor of cloud storage – seen by all large corporation as a form of residual income, otherwise a trap, a subversive way towards unnecessarily pushing people to use more and more data – not to mention the permanent loss of privacy. Whoever imagines that private information on the cloud stays private is either kidding themselves or they didn’t yet celebrated their 5th birthday. Why do you think the cloud storage expanded in an explosion of “free” offerings from every major player? Think and act properly!!

    • William

      Amen, and you said it quite well. :)

    • Tatsuya

      And you forgot the low cost of high density micro-sd card nowadays vs the cost of a Cloud subscription.
      Personally I have 13GB of Music on my external SD of which perhaps 1 or 2 albums are in the music store. I wouldn’t want to stream it anyway.

      • KingKilla

        streaming would drain battery as well, so if we had sd card we can use it like mp3 play without streaming. no idea wth he talking about. its all about moving us to cloud

    • saurabhaj

      Hats off,
      Android hate for microSD should not be reflected in next 5.0 android
      Key lime pie otherwise people will throw Android in stone age for sure,
      I will use cloud only when the internet becomes free like air,sunlight,rain,wind.

      • Imran Sarwar

        well said, i really enjoyed your comments.

  • During the two years of owning my S1 games and apps impoved enormously. Especially games. Two weeks ago I bought a Note 2. After one week I had downloaded all the games that I had always wanted to try but couldn’t on my old SI. I also saved two Spotify playlist to my internal memory. When I realised that I only had 2GB remaining I went to download apps2SD. To my surprise it was not available for my phone, so the newly purchased 32GB SD card is still empty and I have to stop buying games in the play store.
    Is this what Google and game developers want?!

  • Trying to BS instead of giving an honest answer always makes things worse. No SD slot was simply a compromise to reduce costs. Many would have paid a few dollars more to have the slot included but even so the Nexus 7 is a hell of a good deal. If a another device arrives with equal specs and has an SD slot at a slightly higher price I would buy it instead. If I wanted lack of choice and all my decisions made by the manufacturer I would have bought an iPad.

  • Vai

    theres no doubt google will bring out a 32gb version, they have to to compensate for the lack of expandable storage, just like they did with the n7 i just wish they had brought out a full line up. Begining with 16Gb base model then 32Gb and 64Gb models. The device is cheap enough customers wont mind paying extra for storage.

  • William

    I love Android, but it needs better standardization in both hardware and OS.

  • Bruce Gavin Ward

    that ‘answer’ is meaningless; Google has an alternate agenda winding somewhere around carriers, and manufacturers, and keeping control of their products (even though it is actually only ‘their’ OS). It may come back to bite them; that’s why i am heading for the samSung Galaxy Note II, not the Nexus 4 [but i own a ‘7’].

  • Wayne Steed

    So I go on holiday, I want to load about 8Gb of music, plus a season of 24 maybe, in HD, because I might want to watch it on a TV thru HDMI. So where am i suppose to store all of this on 16Gb. Plus the photos I might be taking. Come on, what a lame excuse. Either give us 32/64Gb internal like an Apple device or put a SD card slot in there. For pity sake.

  • Prasan Chari

    Daurte – I don’ t buy a phone without SD. Google will not get my business for the NEXUS 4 phones and also nexus pads due to lack of SD. SD is a must if you have unreliable data providers. If you want to sell these phones out of US specially in ASIA, you better have an SD, internet is so unreliable there,

  • mikkej2k

    If a storage card is old technology , then it’s probably cheap , widespread , familiar to most people and easy to use.

  • AndroidBrian

    If thats really the case let the customer choose if he/she wants to put a “confusing” micro sd card in there phone. That answer is truly insulting. I assume Google does it because you want to sell Cloud Storage and you want people to purchase media through the Play Store. Dont need storage if all your movies and music are stream-able at anytime.

    Im not angry at the truth, because the truth is why Google Tablets and the Nexus 4 are so cheap (wouldn’t shock me if Google lost money on every Nexus 4 sold at that price). These inexpensive products are Play Store pushers. Google like Apple Knows once your purchase a large amount of media from there apps store the more unlikely they are to switch platforms.

    Durate you are wrong ”not a lot of people” more like nobody will be happy with this answer.

  • mikkej2k

    Look at HTC vs, Samsung. If they each make a phone with the same quad core and 5 inch screen with the latest release of Android , how do you choose?

    Removable battery and SD card play a factor when everything else is fairly equal

  • Prasan Chari

    Google…. manufacture specs what customer want , not what Google employees want some google tech geek think SD cards is too complicated LOL. Customer drive your sales not your employees.

  • Doug Rector

    The chinese will win in the end if google leaves off the sd slot – check out the new Ainol – I have seen several of this brnd and the quality is very good

  • Somedude

    Stop treating people like fuckwitts a memory card is a basic necessity especially when loading up media for when u r not connected

  • Bullshit we need a sd slot and im not getting a nexus device for that reason.

  • leoingle

    This is the biggest load of crap ever! Not to already state the obvious of why that reason is total BS. But ppl buy Nexus phones for reasons showing they are technically savvy, thus null and voiding that reason.

  • Google is opposed to the sdcard slot for the same reason as Apple: so that they can charge an extra $100 for $12 worth of extra storage. The “user confusion” line is just an excuse to overcharge the customer.

  • xeridium

    What a flimsy excuse.

  • GottaBeKiddingMe

    You gotta be kidding me…
    Does he think he’s working for Apple or something? Anybody that gets confused with an sd likely wouldn’t even be buying a smartphone in the first place.

  • Kassim

    In truth, having no SD slot simplifies some things about data storage – e.g. no need to split your media collection between onboard and removale storage, all your apps will fit on the device itself, the transfer speed is faster etc etc.

    Now, if they could only get it into their thick corporate skulls that having 8GB of storage on a flagship is another “left over from the paleolithic era of computing” and stop releasing said devices, I would be a very happy bunny. A bare minimum should be the 16GB mark. But 32GB would be even better and should suit the overwhelming majority.

    If they ever did that, then I would have more reason to consider an SD slot as “redudant”. Otherwise, jog on Google and take your nonsense excuses with you…

  • SD card slot is not just about data storage is about giving the device more flexibility so that you don’t have to carry around a laptop that can read the SD cards. I like the SD card slot so I can take the pictures from my underwater camera or action cam and upload them without having to use a laptop.

  • Jeff Weatherup

    This decision is literally the only thing stopping me from buying this phone. For as much as I love Google and Android, I’m furious with this decision on their part. They’ve lost a sale from me, just because they want to take things from a “different approach” (which is bull crap). The real reason is that they want you to use Google Music and their cloud services, because they want to own your information. Guess what – I like having the music on my own device, not your servers, Google. (sigh)

  • jimbo

    What worries me is to decide a space limit for a device’s lifetime. SDcard was a Go-or-No-Go for me when I choosed my last phone. I think that the real reason is that many popular tablets don’t have SDCards.

  • V-Phuc

    Matias, are you listening? It seems like you are and will lose a lot of customers because your phones and tablets do NOT have the capability to expand storage via microSD card. Consumers have spoken loud and clear on this issue. Are you listening/reading?

  • Benedict Tan

    No device should be without secondary storage. Two is one, one is none. Writing off the utility of having an abundantly available, consumer scaleable solution is pun intended: small minded.

    The UX excuse is exactly that; an excuse. People who put SD cards on their phones do so already with an idea of how they want to use them. People who would be “confused” by SD cards wouldn’t have them.

    Sanity check; the “comfortized” phones and tablets from Google’s hardware partners tend to have SD card support and are aimed at a largely less “tech savvy” market demand. This would lead me to believe that users are more than capable if not willing to deal with it.

  • brad6632

    certainly disappointed. I’d like an N4, but It’s a no-go til i can store enough music offline and be able to physically store my pictures on removable hardware (SD card)

  • V-Phuc

    A slightly off-topic here: Has anyone felt bothered that with some most recent Android OS systems starting with ICS, the option to move apps to SD card has been removed? Is that another attempt to shove down the consumer’s throat the purchase of bigger storage tablets/smartphones, as well as the use of cloud storage (w/ fees obviously)? In that regard, Google just follows Apple footsteps, and I’m not sure that’s a winning path. Such a shame all these flimsy excuses and attempts to make consumers look like Neanderthals!

  • ilikepear

    Where is the choice???? Instead of removing it, provide it as a CHOICE, dummies will not use it, advance users will appreciate it.

    This is the most retarded reasoning ever, which cause the never ending cycle of rooting and bricking phones/tablets. Same goes for the sd slot.

  • David Monroe

    I have 12GB of legitimate, legally paid for music, if I bought it on CD it’s all OGG/Vorbis, if I bought it online it’s MP3.

    Google Play Music DOES NOT CUT IT. I work in a cold war era government building. If I want to listen to music while I work I can’t stream it because SURPRISE! Keeping radio waves from penetrating the building was part of the original design plan. Also, Wifi? If you know how paranoid normal companies are about bandwidth and streaming imagine government. Top it off with crappy mobile phone infrastructure in the US – needless to say I buy my phones based on the ability to support SD Cards. Preferably SDXC so I can get a bit more room. My EVO 4G LTE doesn’t have way too many apps installed, even with all of my music on my SD card it’s not enough space, some of those more advanced video games take up a bit of room.