KitKat will make your SD Card completely useless: per the Android API specification, apps can no longer write files to your SD card. And Samsung is following it.
This only applies to dual-storage devices, i.e., devices with a user-writable internal flash storage AND a removable SD card.
“The WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission must only grant write access to the primary external storage on a device. Apps must not be allowed to write to secondary external storage devices, except in their package-specific directories as allowed by synthesized permissions.”
If your device has user-accessible internal flash storage, your SD Card is a “secondary external storage device”.
What this means is that with KitKat, applications will no longer be able create, modify, or remove files and folders on your external SD card. As a for-instance, you can no longer use a file manager to copy files from your computer to the SD card over a network. This ability, which has existed since the beginning of Android, has been taken away.
The only stated reason for this removal of functionality is that,
“Restricting writes in this way ensures the system can clean up files when applications are uninstalled.”
I do not pretend to understand this logic. Apps are still allowed to write in arbitrary directories on the primary storage (with the appropriate permission), but are denied the same access to external storage.
Samsung has implemented this feature with their KitKat OTA updates. [...]
In my opinion this is a horrible misstep by Google and the Android Open Source Project. Functionality has been removed without reason, to the severe detriment of users and developers alike.
I apologize for not bringing this to everyone’s attention when KitKat 4.4 was released, but it was not mentioned in the Android 4.4 changes document. It’s only mentioned in the article on source.android.com. I was only made aware of its existence from user reports as a result of Samsung implementing this change in its KitKat OTA updates.
Of course, the official reason is pure bullshit. A lot of apps write in random directories in the internal storage, and nobody cleans up when they’re removed — and the internal storage is much more critical than a fucking SD card that anyone can erase or even reformat!
First, Google removed in Android 4.0+ the ability to install apps on such a “secondary storage”. Some Chinese phone manufacturers (Huawei, Alcatel = TCL, Philips = China Electronics Corporation / Shenzhen Sang Fei) have hacked an workaround that allows apps to be installed either in the internal storage, or on an added SD card, but the stock Android doesn’t allow that.
Second, Google removed in Android 4.4 the ability for an app to write in arbitrary locations on a true SD card, whereas they can do (if allowed) whatever they want in the internal storage. This is not specifically to kill file managers — although this is one major effect –, but to kill the idea of an added SD card altogether! Google wants you to buy their stupid Nexus phones, designed just like the iPhone, without any support for a SD card!
I’d like to remind you that in the times of Gingerbread, phones typically had something like 153 MB to 1 GB of internal storage, and any added SD card counted as “primary external storage”. Since ICS, most phones had either a “unified internal storage”, or an internal storage split in two partitions, one of them being a sort of an internal SD card, counting as “primary external storage” (/storage/sdcard0), so that adding a SD card would make it a “secondary external storage” (/storage/sdcard1). Now Google tries to make any added SD card impractical — so you would stop buying phones with SD card support. Only buy phones from Google, right? Android is less and less of an open system…*
Until yesterday, I’d also have said “they want you to buy Nexus or Motorola” (Moto X and Moto G both lack the SD card support), but now we all know that Lenovo will acquire the Motorola Mobility smartphone business for about $2.91 billion. That’s right, this is the same division that Google purchased in 2011 for $12.5 billion. Go figure.
What’s wrong with these huge, stupid corporations, full of business geniuses who are able to lose almost $10 billion and still fail to make a division profitable? (At a smaller scale, this reminds me of how Nokia has bought Trolltech, the maker of Qt, in 2008, fired its best people, then they’ve resold Qt to Digia, in 2012.)
Now, Google is both evil — see the way they’ve screwed KitKat — and stupid**. Larry Page’s explanations already have more than 1500 comments in a couple of hours!
On the other hand, Lenovo’s CEO said he will treat Motorola like a treasure, no plans for layoffs; that “We will not only protect Motorola brand, we will make it stronger.” Finally, the Motorola brand will be used in North and Latin Americas, while the Lenovo brand will be used in China and the emerging markets.
Now what? Some of you were happy that your Samsung or HTC device has received an update to Android 4.4. Some other people are unhappy that they’re stuck with 4.1.2, 4.2.1, or 4.3. Be careful what you wish for!
Suppose future versions of Android will get screwed even further. What should people do? Go for iOS, a closed system that’s even more restrictive, and which has only acquired true, full multitasking in the childish version 7? Opt for the retarded Windows Phone, who’s still lacking true multitasking? (Background apps are frozen aka tombstoned, except for media playing and file transfers.)
Seriously, Google selling Moto for a $7B loss after 3 years is just evidence that they have no idea what they’re doing outside advertising.
— Ed Bott (@edbott) January 29, 2014
Moving for good to a tropical island without Internet becomes increasingly tempting…
*Look, Samsung will allegedly tone down on custom software on Google’s request.
**Oh, those patents? They don’t worth that much.
LATE EDIT: Android Police, on April 6: Apps Still Have A Loophole For Writing To The SD Card On KitKat, But For How Long?
The workaround that currently still works relies on Media Scanner and the use of the MediaStore class. Since the Media Store runs with system privileges, apps are able to masquerade as a system service for the purpose of writing to the SD card. Android Police adds:
Unfortunately, making use of this technique isn’t very intuitive, it’s prone to bugs, and there seems to be some unpredictable inconsistencies across devices from different OEMs. In other words, this is obviously not the way the Media Store was intended to be used. Among the devices we’ve been able to test, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has shown the least friction while the Google Play Edition LG G Pad 8.3 has been much more hit-and-miss. The HTC One M8 mounts the SD slot slightly differently than most devices, so the developers we’ve talked to are still looking into it.
From the file managers who are implementing this workaround, Total Commander seems to be the most successful so far, the second place being awarded to ES File Explorer. Here’s a starting point for programmers.