Multi-user support could make microSD inclusion problematic for Android OEMs going forward
The lack of a microSD card slot on Nexus devices has been a topic of hot debate for a while now. After the release of the Nexus 7, Android engineer Dan Morrill explained why Nexus devices have no microSD slot and this was yesterday reiterated by Google’s Matias Duarte on Google+ in somewhat plainer terms: inclusion of a microSD slot is ‘confusing’ for users.
The lack of a microSD slot would perhaps not be so badly received if there were greater internal storage options for Nexus devices; the Nexus 4 is currently only offered in 8 or 16GB variants. This combined lack of storage options has lead some to question whether the decisions are in-fact taken to push users into Google’s cloud storage services.
However, with new multi-user support for Android 4.2 (tablets), there could be further technical reasoning for omitting microSD card slots, as explained by Artem over at Android Police. Having a microSD slot alongside multi-user options would be problematic from both a security and user experience point of view.
As it stands multi-user support in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is only available for Android tablets, with some speculating that a Nokia patent could be keeping the functionality from being used on smartphones. However, should multi-user support be added for Android smartphones as well, OEMs may need to reconsider microSD inclusion.
There are some manufacturers, such as HTC with the One X and One X+, that already omit a microSD card slot. However, Samsung has continued to include it in its 2012 Galaxy range and this has been a popular decision with its customers. The inclusion of microSD slot and multi-user support may not be impossible but, as Artem points out, could lead to ‘ugly hacks’ from manufacturers. It could also have implications for other external storage that can currently be attached via USB on the go.
That being said, some manufacturers may regard microSD (and other external storage options) support as being preferable to multi-user support on a handset and decide to include the former rather than the latter if push comes to shove. Multi-user support is more suited to a tablet, which is more likely to be shared by several people than a smartphone.