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Homo Ludditus

Less is more and nothing is good enough

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Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You


mate_storage

My experience with Android only dates from end-November 2011 (heck, I’m a Luddite, I resisted the temptation!). And it’s still mostly Gingerbread-based.

Therefore, I was surprised to read in several Android forum and websites that people were complaining for not being able to move apps to the SD card on Android 4.0 ICS and 4.1 JB devices ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]): I was used from Gingerbread that I could use the App2SD built-in mechanism (no need of an external app) to move apps to the SD!

Sure thing, apps wouldn’t move entirely on the SD, but in most cases at least 40-50% of the space that used to take from the internal storage would be taken from the SD, and in the happiest situations, up to 80-90% of the app would move out of the internal storage.

So, what’s the deal with Android ICS and newer? Is it a regression? Let’s try to explain the real situation.

Prior to Android 4.0 (up to and including Gingerbread 2.3, as 3.0 was for tablets), phones were typically having this storage layout:

  • “internal storage” (fast, eMMC), often limited to a meagre 150…160 MB, sometimes up to 1…2 GB or more. Apps would install here. Apps also create cache and data here.
  • “SD card” (optional, assumed to be external). People would add microSD cards to be able to store music, pictures, videos. Since Android 2.2 Froyo, there is a built-in “apps2sd” mechanism that allows moving apps partially to the SD card. Data created by apps as part of the initial installation (from APK) usually cannot be moved. Many apps that require downloading of extra data files post-install (not from Google Play), such as dictionaries, games, etc., usually know to save such data on the SD card, if present. If you check /system/etc/vold.conf (or vold.fstab), the card is mounted under /mnt/sdcard.

Now, not only that apps cannot be moved entirely on SD, but the built-in “apps2sd” mechanism also has a limit of how much it can keep outside the “internal storage”. I couldn’t find any documentation on that, but on a cheap LG phone, Quick System Info PRO reported a 236 MB limit:

A2SD storage: an annoying limitation

This issue can be workarounded, on rooted devices, by creating a supplementary ext2 partition on the SD card, then use Link2SD; to move apps on that extra partition. When using apps such as ROM Manager, this partition is limited to 512 MB — so in my case I could only get about 160 + 236 + 512 = a maximum of 908 MB for apps.

Obviously, those cheap Gingerbread phones are very limited, and Google makes them practically useless nowadays, as forced updates of Google Play, GMail, Maps, YouTube, Google Talk (now Hangouts), plus the addition of Google Play services take about 50 MB of “internal storage”. Unless the phone is rooted, these updates to system apps cannot be integrated into ROM by Titanium Backup.

Now, even under Gingerbread, there were phones with 8…16 GB of ROM.  After subtracting the memory taken by the firmware, was the available space entirely partitioned as a unique “internal storage”?

Typically, no. Because of the costs, eMMC chips are usually not larger than 4 GB, therefore the rest of the storage was a sort of an “internal SD” card. Some such phones (or tablets) don’t even support an additional SD card, but when they do, here’s what their storage layout:

  • “internal storage”, usually less than 2 GB. Apps would go here by default.
  • “internal SD” (oftentimes labeled “phone storage”), the rest up to the limit of the available storage space. Mounted as /mnt/sdcard. Apps can be moved here (some even install here by default). Of course, this is the place where your photos and media files would go.
  • “external SD”, if the device supports SD cards, and if one is inserted. Mounted as /mnt/sdcard-ext, /mnt/sd_external or /mnt/external_sd. Apps CANNOT be moved here! Media files can be saved here though.

Here’s the storage of a cheap “8GB” Android 4.0 tablet: 1.15 GB of “internal storage”, plus 5.78 GB of “internal SD” (for a total of 6.93 GB):

chep_tablet_storage

NOTE: The above screenshot is taken from a tablet. On a phone, the second “Internal Storage” would have been labeled “Phone Storage”.

The problem with today’s Android devices — being them 4.0 ICS or 4.1-4.2 JB — is that they’re inconsistent in the way the internal and external SD partitions are used:

  • some devices are using a “unified” internal storage (à la iOS): a single partition for everything, and no external SD card supported (Nexus 3, Nexus 4);
  • some devices are using a “unified” internal storage, and when a SD card is added, it can only used for media files (apps cannot be moved there);
  • some devices are using a “unified” internal storage, but when a SD card is added, apps too can be moved there — the card is mounted as “internal SD”;
  • some devices are having “internal storage” + “internal SD”, and when a SD card is added, it can only used for media files (apps cannot be moved there);
  • some devices are having “internal storage” + “internal SD”, but when a SD card is added, apps too can be moved there – the “internal SD” is actually mounted so that Android believes it’s “external SD”, and apps cannot be moved there, but an added SD card is mounted as “internal SD”, so apps can be moved to it!

The last variant is a nice hack, as it allows for cheaper internal storage (split in 2 partitions), yet the space for apps can be extended through the addition of a SD card. Some HTC and Huawei devices hack Android to do that. In contrast, Samsung and LG are known to use the 4th approach — apps cannot be moved to the external SD card (Samsung has currently started deploying firmware updates that would change this for some devices).

I’ve made a research for some current models on the market, and in some cases I have double-checked on forums that the storage model for the investigated models are as follows:

Sony Xperia Z (5″, 4.1.2, 530…580 €)

  • 11.73 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

Sony Xperia SP (4.6″, 4.1.2, 310…330 €)

  • 5.37 GB available (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

SGS4 (5″, 4.2.2, 570…630 €)

  • 7.65 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not* install on external SD
  • *a firmware update should allow apps to be moved to external SD as well (GT-I9505)

SGS3 (4.8″, 4.0.4/4.1.2, 440…490 €)

  • 10.94 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

SGS3 Mini (4″, 4.1.1, 270…290 €)

  • 4.54 GB available (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

SGS2+ (4.3″, 4.1.2, 280… 315 €)

  • 3.94 GB available (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

HTC One (4.7″, 4.1.2/4.2.2, 599 €)

  • 25.3 GB available (out of nominally 32 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

HTC One X 32 GB version (4.7″, 4.0.4/4.1.1, out of production)

  • confusingly reports 25.24 GB available, but also 6.76 GB for applications, of which about 5.4 GB are already used with 4.1.1 (25.24 + 6.76 sum to the nominally 32 GB), so in fact it has:
  • about 1.36 GB internal storage + 25.24 GB internal SD
  • will not install on external SD

LG Optimus G (4.7″, 4.1.2, 499 €)

  • 25.04 GB available (out of nominally 32 GB)
  • apparently unified internal storage (could not check the device)
  • will not install on external SD

LG L9 (4.7″, 4.0.4/4.1.2, 499 €)

  • 2.33 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD
  • quite a shame for such a price!

LG L5 II (4″, 4.1.2, 170…190 €)

  • 2.10 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB; sites who report 1.4 GB available must have reviewed a unit with lots of carrier bloatware added)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

Orange San Remo (4.7″, 4.1.2, 199 €)

  • 2.10 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will not install on external SD

Orange Nivo (4″, 4.1.2, 105 €)

  • 744 MB internal storage + 1.6 GB internal SD (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

Xperia J (4″, 4.0.4/4.1.2, 190…205 €)

  • 754 MB internal storage + 2.01 GB internal SD (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

Huawei Ascend Mate (6.1″, 4.1.1, 309…329 €)

  • 4.56 GB available* (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage*
  • can change the default storage for apps, but without an added SD card, only “Internal storage” can be selected
  • will install on external SD card (which will be mounted as “internal SD”)

Huawei Ascend G510 (4.5″, 4.1.1, 165…184 €, single-SIM EU variant)

  • 2.16 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB), but mentioning “only 1.12 GB available for applications”
  • so it’s actually 1.12 GB internal storage + 1.04 GB internal SD (out of nominally 4 GB), not unified
  • can change the default storage for apps, but without an added SD card, only “Internal storage” can be selected
  • the second 1 GB internal partition is mounted as “external SD”
  • will install on external SD card (which will be mounted as “internal SD”)

Huawei Ascend Y300 (4″, 4.1.1, 129…149 €)

  • 2.16 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB), but mentioning “only 1.12 GB available for applications”
  • so it’s actually 1.12 GB internal storage + 1.04 GB internal SD (out of nominally 4 GB), not unified
  • can change the default storage for apps, but without an added SD card, only “Internal storage” can be selected
  • the second 1 GB internal partition is mounted as “external SD”
  • will install on external SD card (which will be mounted as “internal SD”)

Huawei Ascend G615 (4.5″, 4.1.1)

  • 5.29 GB available* (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage*
  • will install on external SD

Huawei Ascend G700 (5″, 4.2.1)

  • 5.2 GB … 5.74 GB available* (out of nominally 8 GB), depending on the version (G700-U00, G700-U10, G700-U20) and country
  • unified internal storage*
  • will install on external SD

Orange Yumo = Huawei Ascend G740 (5″, 4.1.2, 249 €)

  • about 5.5 GB available* (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage*
  • will install on external SD

Huawei Ascend P6 (4.7″, 4.2.1)

  • 4.7 GB available* (out of nominally 8 GB)
  • unified internal storage*
  • will install on external SD

Philips Xenium W832 (4.5″, 4.0.4, 225 €)

  • 503 MB internal storage (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • plus 2.05 GB mounted as “external SD” (so apps cannot be installed here)
  • adding a SD card will mount it as “internal SD”, so apps can be installed on it

Philips Xenium W6500 (4.3″, 4.2.2, 225 €)

  • 1.3 GB internal storage (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • adding a SD card will mount it as “internal SD”, so apps can be installed on it

Philips Xenium W8510 (4.7″, 4.2.2, 270 €)

  • 1.73 GB internal storage, of which only 0.98 GB available for applications (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • so it’s actually 0.98 GB internal storage + 0.75 GB internal SD, not unified
  • adding a SD card will mount it as “internal SD”, so apps can be installed on it

Philips Xenium W8560 (5″, 4.2.2, 420 €)

  • 1.97 GB internal storage + 26.28 GB “Phone storage”  (out of nominally 32 GB)
  • can install apps in the “Phone storage” partition
  • will not install on external SD

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra (4.65″, 4.1.1, 269 €)

  • 13.08 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • apparently unified internal storage
  • no SD card supported

Alcatel One Touch X’Pop (4.5″, 4.0.4/4.1.1, 149 €)

  • 1.37 GB internal storage (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • plus 0.97 GB mounted as “external SD” (so apps cannot be installed here)
  • adding a SD card will mount it as “internal SD”, so apps can be installed on it

Orange Hiro = Alcatel One Touch Idol Mini (4.3″, 4.2.2, 125€)

  • 2.05 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • unified internal storage
  • will install on external SD

Oppo Find 5 (5″ FullHD, 4.1.1, 399 € for 16 GB, 429 € for 32 GB)

  • 1.97 GB internal storage + 10.81 GB internal SD (for the 16 GB model)
  • no SD card supported

ThL W11 Monkey King (5″ FullHD, 4.2.1, $310 for 2 GB RAM, 32 GB ROM, $260 for 1 GB RAM, 16 GB ROM)

  • 2.66 GB internal storage + 27.47 GB internal SD (for the 32 GB model)
  • 2.66 GB internal storage + 10.99 GB internal SD (for the 16 GB model)
  • does not support a SD card

ThL W8 Beyond (5″ FullHD, 4.2.1, $260)

  • 3.94 GB internal storage + 9.83 GB internal SD (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

ThL W8+ (5″ FullHD, 4.2.1, $250)

  • 0.98 GB internal storage + 12.83 GB internal SD (out of nominally 16 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

ThL W8S (5″ FullHD, 4.2.1, $280)

  • 3.94 GB internal storage + 24.28 GB internal SD (out of nominally 32 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

UMI X2 (5″ FullHD, 4.2.1, $300 for the 2 GB RAM + 32 GB ROM version)

  • 1.48 GB internal storage + 26.77 GB internal SD (out of nominally 32 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

Xiaomi MI-2/MI-2S/MI-2A (4.3″/4.3″/4.5″, 4.1.1, RAM 2/2/1 GB, ROM 16-or-32/16-or-32/16 GB)

  • 16 GB models: 3.45 GB internal storage + 9.37 GB internal SD
  • 32 GB models: 3.45 GB internal storage + 23.56 GB internal SD
  • no SD card supported

Xiaomi Hongmi (Red Rice) WCDMA version (4.7″)

  • 1.96 GB internal storage + 0.76 GB internal SD (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • will not install on external SD

Acer Liquid E2 Duo (4.5″, 4.2.1, 200 €)

  • 0.98 GB internal storage + 1.64 GB internal SD (out of nominally 4 GB)
  • will not install on external SD
  • quite a shame for a 2013 model!

For the devices that cannot move apps to the (external) SD, some hacks are available if you root the device. Apps such as Root External 2 Internal SD, Mounts2SD, or GL to SD; can do what the manufacturer of a device didn’t bother to: mount the external SD as “internal SD”, and, if needed, declare the “internal SD” partition as external. Custom ROMs exist sometimes for the same reason. Or you can just edit /system/etc/vold.conf (or vold.fstab).

Now, to cheer up, let’s watch an educational video issued by Huawei and demoed on the new 6.1″ Ascend Mate:

Bottom line: ALL the smartphone reviewers are incredibly stupid and ignorant not to check and mention how much storage space is available for installing apps, and whether this can be extended or not (mostly not, nowadays) by the addition of a micro SD card!

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P.S.: I hate it when I see the “internal SD” part of the internal storage (usually in phones who don’t support a SD card) labeled or called “USB storage”. It’s never “USB storage”, but a moronic way of saying “this is the part where you can transfer files to and from via the micro-USB cable”.

CLARIFICATION FOR THE UNDERBRAINED: When in the management screen for an app you see the storage occupied with the following lines:

  • Total
  • App
  • USB storage app
  • Data
  • SD card

and a button “Move to SD card”, what happens if you tap that button is that parts of the app are moved… to “USB storage”, because “SD card” is the external SD card, not the 2nd internal partition!

To avoid this limitation (an external SD card can have 32 GB or even 64 GB), some ROMs are hacked to mount the external SD as “USB storage”, and the 2nd internal partition is mounted as if it were an external SD! Android will NEVER be able to install or move apps in more than ONE extra partition in addition to the first internal partition!

__

*IMPORTANT NOTE (OCT. 2013):

The Huawei phones marked with* (Mate, G615, G700, G740, P6) do not have in the system information screens a note like some other models (G510, Y300) saying “only 1.12 GB available for applications”, however they might have a similar limitation of about 1 GB for apps, despite the storage looking like unified!

On a Huawei Ascend G700, Quick System Info PRO reports a so-called “System storage” (that is nowhere explained) of 0.99 GB, of which 270 MB are free. Depending on how they define the GB, this suggests 730…744 MB being taken by some apps, however the phone reports only 547 MB as taken by apps:

huawei_g700_info1

LATE EDIT — FALSE ALARM: I guess I am just paranoid. I’ve installed ~300 MB worth of new apps, the “free internal storage” dropped from 3.43 GB to 3.13 GB, yet the “System storage” still reads the same “0.99 GB / 270 MB free”! So I guess it’s just some irrelevant and fake thing reported by Android.

Could Android storage be more confusing than that?

JANUARY 2014 NOTES: I have removed some previous remarks (with screenshots) which incorrectly claimed that on some Huawei phones, moving an app to SD wouldn’t have moved it to the actual external SD (/storage/sdcard1), but would still keep it in the internal storage (/storage/sdcard0). I have been fooled by the fact that the access to /storage/sdcard1/.android_secure is denied to file managers — but connecting the phone to a PC made it possible to look into that folder and see the “.asec” files.

So no, Huawei’s phones are not more confusing that other phones!

I have also discovered that indeed, there is no hidden limitation to install apps into phones such as Huawei G700 (and other models that do not report “only 1.12 GB available for applications”). At some point, where the free internal storage was exactly 0.98 GB, I’ve got that infamous message from Google Play: “insufficient storage available”. It was however just a bug — and another false alarm –, because after I rebooted the device, I could continue to install apps!

As a matter of fact, I’ve installed 253 apps, completely into the internal storage, having left only 560 MB free! I knew from the times I was using a Gingerbread phone with 153…159 MB of internal storage that 10% of the space is reserved, so the “insufficient storage available” message appeared as soon as less than 16 MB were free, but I am not sure about the settings in Android 4.2.1: 560 MB is less than 10% of the total of 5.74 GB really available (from the nominal 8 GB), yet the system allowed me to do that!

storage1storage2

■ Note how the system reports as “Apps” only 0.95 GB — the app data is part of the “Misc” (3.73 GB), despite the claims to the contrary!

In the meantime, because the 9 biggest apps, with space needs between 94 MB and 160 MB, took 1.1 GB, I’ve moved (parts of) them to the SD card, to gain some more internal space, and I will uninstall a few more apps when I won’t be needing them anymore. It’s a good idea to keep at least 1 GB of free internal storage.

■ Oh, moving apps on the SD card won’t reveal any new category in the “SD CARD” space report — only the “Available” space will decrease. I’d have liked to have the space counted for the /storage/sdcard1/.android_secure folder…

■ As a matter of fact, it’s not clear to me why a practically unified internal storage still has to mimic a 2-partition model — the entire available internal storage is mounted via fuse as /storage/sdcard0, so that an added SD card would become /storage/sdcard1. Of course, on non-rooted systems, some files need not be accessible via a file manager, so they’re considered as part of a “system storage” (the 0.99 GB one, which seem to always have 277 MB free, no matter what I do), but still, why make things complex when they can be kept simple?




35 thoughts on “Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You

  1. greengirl

    Thank you for publishing a terrific article like this! I had an HTC One and 8gb internal storage installed App2SD. Had an older android OS probably Gingerbread or Froyo? I was able to move many apps to my 16gb external SD. I assumed that this was in tablets, newer phones, etc. Just made sense it would. I buy 32gb+ (expensive) micro SD cards and placed in my ASUS TF7200 and my midrange LG Motion smartphone. I saw right away that only pics, video and music went there! I wanted my apps to store as well. With more companies eg: Google, Amazon, etc giving some free Cloud sp and then enticing you to buy more if needed…it seems this has gone the way of the dinosaur app to SD cards. I am about to buy the Nexus 5 cell and wish there was a return to app2SD abilities. With this info, there is no need to buy any SD or micro SD card over 32gb as why spend so much on one card and save thousands of media on it only to potentially have it get lost or corrupted? Knowing this, i feel duped and foolish to have spent so much $ on a 64gb microSD card. Unless I download an HD movie (why would i with cloud like Ultraviolet or Kindle svs) what’s the point. Music, fotos, docs and books take little space. I’ll end here and thank you again. I have saved, printed and bookmarked and FB shared w/friends & family. Please update this list to enlighten all!

    Reply
  2. sbenrap

    Thanks for this detailed article.
    I have a somewhat peculiar situation with my NEO N003 phone, I cannot move apps to the ‘Phone Storage’ and can only move them if I install an external SD card (if I don’t install an SD card there is no button to move to SD).
    Using Quick System Info pro, under Environment Variables I noticed that ‘EXTERNAL_STORAGE=/storage/sdcard0′ which I believe is the culprit in not allowing me to store the files, I’m a bit stumped on how to resolve this though…

    Reply
    1. Béranger Post author

      This is exactly as you said, and there are some other phones (a Philips Xenium, if I’m not wrong) that do the same. The “internal SD” (/storage/sdcard0) is ALWAYS mounted as external storage so no, you can NOT install on it, no matter what you do!

      As you said, you have to add a physical SD card to be able to move apps on it (/storage/sdcard1 will be mounted as internal). Are you having the 4GB ROM, or the 32GB ROM variant? For the latter, it would be strange for a phone with such a big ROM to only dedicate less than 2 GB as the “true internal storage” and to have 26.5 MB only for multimedia files and the like. You might be able to find custom ROMs that mount the partition differently.

      Reply
  3. sbenrap

    It is the 32GB variant.
    With the stock ROM, I think I could move apps to SD, but apps installed could not find it (so various download managing apps kept telling me I do not have storage), I believe it is due to the fact that ‘/mnt/sdcard1′ was the first accessible mount point (this moved to ‘/mnt/sdcard0′ as soon as I inserted an SD card, ‘fixing’ it).

    After flashing a custom ROM (which is a modified stock that was made to fit with the E02 version of the device) I thought all the SD issues were fixed (since apps were identifying it), but it seems Android app manager itself is now not finding it (I have another environment variable called ‘SECONDARY_STORAGE=/storage/sdcard1′)
    I would like to mess with the environment variables, but init.rc does not have the EXTERNAL_STORAGE variable and I am yet to find where it is defined.
    As I have root on the device I’m still hoping to find some way to explain to the phone how to setup the partitions.

    Reply
  4. Joemi

    Thank you very much with your article, it’s so informative… same goes with my newly acquired Kata Fishtab 3… it has a 8Gb capacity but only 5.5Gb of user memory… even though i inserted an external SD and the recent OS update of the manufacturer, no way i can transfer some applications and games to external SD… just wondering, why the manufacturer claims that it can be expanded up to blah blah and yet, no way to do so…. i felt i was SCAMMED… i’ll just try your suggestion to go around it…

    Reply
  5. Anindya Mitra

    Thanks Sir for the great article. If possible please help me in the following problem.
    I have an iBall Andi 5h Quadro with 4 GB total internal storage running Android 4.2.1 JB. I have a 16 GB micro Sd card inserted. Preferred install Location is selected as SD Card.
    Now, in the Storage section, it has 3 parts. 1st is “Internal Storage” where Total space is 0.98 GB where Apps are taking 399 MB, Available is 157 MB and Cached data is 2.19 MB. Then comes SDCARD. There Total space is 14.72, Available 13.44GB. And in the last part, it is called “PHONE STORAGE”, Total Space is 1.60 GB and Available is 1.48GB. I have moved all the possible Apps to my external 16GB SDCard. New downloaded apps are installing to the external SD by default. Only the inbuilt Apps are present in the internal storage. BUT, the problem is, when the Inbuilt Apps, such as Hangout, Facebook, Google Plus, Gmail, Youtube etc. are updating, I am soon running out of space. I am not being able to move those inbuilt apps to anywhere. So I am being forced to use the older versions of the softwares. Is there any way by which I can move the INBUILT Apps (hangout, gmail…), [or at least move the Updates of them], to either internal SD or external SD?
    Will be grateful if you can help.

    Reply
      1. Anindya MItra

        Thanks fro your prompt reply. Mine is a new phone (only a month old). Hence I am afraid of rooting it. And not very much about my model is available on net. How safe will it be? Can you suggest me the most reliable source from where I can get the required files for rooting my iBall Andi 5h Quadro? Thanks again.

        Reply
  6. Anindya Mitra

    Sir, found few more info about my phone if it can help. With the “CPU-Z” app, system information is showing as:
    Hardware : mt6589
    Android Version 4.2.1
    Kernel Architecture : armv7l
    Kernel Version : 3.4.5 (eng.builder24.1372942055)


    Root Access : Yes

    Since it says Root Access : Yes, does that mean I can operate as root without rooting the phone? Please help.
    Thanks for your concern again.

    Reply
  7. Wern

    I wen to Indonesia with my Note2- as before. This time my trusty off-line mapping package let me down after a day or so. Bloody software, I thought until I saw there were no maps, and also no SD-card, just like that. Back home, I put it into PC an that one also encouraged me to “put the media into the drive”. Hmm. Where from here?

    Reply
  8. Sourav

    This is one awesome article- wish I had read it earlier! I recently bought an Xperia SP , and soon realised this problem (believe me, I’d have chosen S4/S3 if only I knew this). I rooted the device immediately, but still couldn’t get any of the apps meant to transfer apps to SD card to work on my phone. Is it possible to swap the internal and external storages, something similar to what Samsung did with S4? Can we do it on our own?

    Reply
  9. Saeed

    Thank you very much with your article. there is another issue added to the field now a days. now the second part of internal storage in devices like Apple Ipad or Xvison (tablets) is called NAND storage.
    it’s like this: (for example this one is a storage setting for a 16 GB XVISION Tablet):

    INTERNAL STORAGE
    Total space: 2 GB
    Avalable : 826 MB
    (SOME OTHER DATA) …

    NAND FLASH
    Total space: 12.14 GB
    Avalable : 12.06MB

    could you explain about the NAND Flash term used instead of Internal SD. what does it implies. sorry for the weak English writing. It’s been long since I talked or write in English to anyone.

    Reply
    1. Béranger Post author

      Just a different way to say the same thing. The internal storage is made of e-MMC, which is actually NAND flash memory.
      Maybe they use the term NAND to make it clear this is not about a micro-SD card, aka TF (TransFlash), which is slower.

      Reply
  10. Saeed

    I forgot to say that the storage is defined as Internal Storage, Nand Flash, SD Card and USB Storage. SD card refers to the external SD and USB Storage refers to the USB Flash that can be mounted through USB port or Mini Host USB port. the Internal Storage sure refers to that part of Internal storage available for installing apps and so. so there is only one left which is the NAND Flash. I am guessing its the same as Internal flash part of the Internal memory that could be used to save pics and movies and stuff but the only difference is that in a type of Nand flash.
    or maybe they all are Nand flash but they just simply didn’t use to call it by that name before and now they have changed their minds.

    Reply
    1. Béranger Post author

      As I said, the NAND flash is the part of the internal e-MMC storage that’s beyond the “true” internal storage (the one available for apps).
      I’m sure it’s mounted as /storage/sdcard0.
      The added SD card should be mounted as /storage/sdcard1, and the external USB flash drive mounted via OTG (USB On-The-Go cable adapter) might be mounted as /storage/sdcard2, or maybe /storage/sdcard1 if there is no microSD card inside the device.

      Reply
  11. Béranger Post author

    This review of the LG G Pad 8.3 with “Google Play Edition” — not the one with LG’s skinned 4.2.2, but with the stock Android 4.4.2 — shows that SD support can be horrendous if stock Android is not hacked:
    “…the microSD slot (a much-appreciated feature for a tablet with just 16GB of internal storage, even though you can’t actually write to it from the Google Play Edition model)…”
    And it’s listed under “Bad Stuff”: “Stock Android doesn’t have full SD card support”
    http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/17/5217498/lg-g-pad-8-3-review-google-play-edition

    Reply
  12. Anthony

    Thank you so much! This always puzzled me! And it’s true, reviews don’t even mentioned it. Always wondered why my internal storage was split into two and the SD recognized as second SD…

    I have a Blu Life Play, reviewers talk about its ability to save apps to SD even though it’s running android 4.2.

    I guess they don’t know why it’s able to download that. But based on this info, I understand clearly now.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Axel

    Wow, this article confirms what I have had suspected long time ago. This is very interesting, unfortunately it also kills my hope to repartition my two internal storages into a single solid 12 gb one. This is very annoying, I think i would have to conform by using Link2SD or somewhat similar.

    Congrats for your very complete article.

    Reply
  14. Andrei

    Hello! I have a rooted Lg P760 and I want to install big games. I have very little internal and an 8 GB sd card. First of all, the SD is seen as a media player in My Computer and second, how should I ‘tell’ apps to install directly to sd (or how can I take their data, put in on SD and make them ‘know’ how to use it from there)?? Thanks in advance! Greetings from Romania!

    Reply
  15. Tara

    Thanks for the help! It helped a bit, still quite confused. I’m used to Samsung, however I bought a Huawei Ascend y300 for €50, cheap right? I also bought an SD card of 8GB. I found a way to store certain apps yo the SD card and all the data, some apps like, Fumble and Vine can’t save to the SD card. It was the same and my old phone. Anyway, I can’t find a way to store pictures, videos or music to the SD. There’s very little memory taken up on the SD and the internal storage has most memory taken up. I set the default storage to SD card but when I install apps on Google Play it says “Modify or delete contents of SD card” so I’m not exactly sure.

    Reply
  16. jumpjack

    On my Huawei G510-0100 I was not able to move apps to SDcard, as the dedicated button did not even appear, although I had just installed an 8GB card; then I played a bit with settings, and I find that once I set “SD card” as “default storage”, the “Move to SD cars” button appeared in apps manager.
    Phone is not rooted, Android 4.1.1

    Reply
    1. Béranger Post author

      …which is weird. It shouldn’t have been this way. On G700, I can move on SD regardless of the default storage settings.

      Reply
  17. jumpjack

    Addendum:
    once moved to SD card…. bytes on SD card appears to be “0″, but I can also see a text “Applicazione in archivio USB” (something like “USB application storage”), which shows how many bytes have been moved to SD! (for example “Kobo” app is 56 MB large and 46 are put on the “USB storage”).

    Reply
  18. Lola

    Well, I didn’t know all this! I have just rooted my Galaxy S3 mini… can I move some apps to the second partition external SD? or it won’t work?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. juan

      LOLA pudiste o no, mover aplicaciones a tu SD externa ayuda porfabor que tengo un S3 mini y no puedo mover aplicacion a mi sd externa mi equipo esta root

      Reply
  19. gho

    thanks for a great article explaining the difference between “internal storage” and “phone storage”. my phone (jiayu g5) comes with 32gb of internal memory, but it seems only 2.50GB is allocated for “internal storage”.

    my phone is rooted; what can i do to change / increase the allocation so that more of the rest of the 32GB (currently, about 25.74GB) is available to me for installing apps. i know i can insert an SD card and install apps to that, too, but i want to first use up more of the internal memory before resorting to external.

    thanks in advance for any pointers!

    p.s. i like the new look of the site! :D

    Reply
      1. gho

        thanks so much for your reply! i didn’t even know where to look, but thanks to your reply, just a google of “repartition storage” helped me find a few sites that i hope i can use / follow to do what i want. :)

        Reply

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