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.