This occurred to me after reading up on the specs of the new OnePlus Nord N20 5G, a pleasant, mid-range 6.43-inch Android 11 (🤦♂️) handset that promises decent performance. And with a 48MP main camera, it should have solid photography chops. It ships with 128GB of storage, which is not bad, considering budget and entry-level smartphones (looking at you, Apple) sometimes ship with just 64.
But here's the kicker: the $282 Nord N20 5G includes a micro-SD storage slot that lets you upgrade the onboard storage to up to 512GB. Assuming I don't get scammed on Amazon, I can buy a 256GB SanDisk microSD card for $35.
For Android phones, this is nothing new. They've long included slots for storage upgrades. In fact, the BlackBerry Torch I recently fiddled with to salvage decade-old photos put its storage slot right on top of the SIM slot.
In recent years, though, Android manufacturers - even Samsung - have moved away from the personal upgradeability paradigm, sealing phones and their batteries while removing open, external slots.
Part of this makes sense, as most modern smartphones are now IP67- or IP68-rated for submersion in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. That can be tough to do if the back isn't fused to the phone's body.
Yet I can't think of a smartphone that doesn't have a sim slot, and it is conceivable that part of that space could be used to house space for the microSD card, as well.
If there's any company that can and should figure this out, it's Apple.
I've never understood the Cupertino tech giant's storage stinginess. Sure, you can buy an iPhone 13 Pro with 1TB of storage packed into it, but it'll cost you $1,499. There is no way to buy the $999 iPhone 13 Pro and add in a 512GB microSD card for $63.
If you're on a budget and choose a new iPhone SE, you could start with the paltry 64GB model (and to be clear, no one should be buying smartphones with that little storage space) for $429 or upgrade to the 256GB model for $579. So you pay $150 more for 192GB. But that 256GB microSD card still costs just $35.
At the very least, Apple could take its next iPhone SE and iPhone 14 base model and include an SD card slot somewhere on the body, giving budget-conscious buyers the option of more storage without laying out so much money upfront.
Android devices that included microSD card slots often let you choose to store photos and other files on the removable storage. Now imagine that on an iPhone where, instead of constantly filling up that free 5GB of iCloud storage and making the brutal decision of which photos to delete, you could just keep buying new, cheap micro-SD cards and keep your photos stored locally.
If Apple really wants to move the needle on the iPhone 14 and, perhaps, surprise a few competitors, it'll add a removable storage option. It would be the first time in a while Apple would truly recognize the budget conscious. It would also open up the glory that is the iPhone to people who thought they couldn't afford the apex of handset design.
It'll also give them enough room to store all the photos and videos they capture with what we expect will be an awesome new camera system.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.