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02/09/13

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You


June 14, 2013 Categories: Smartphones, Tablets, E-Readers Tags: alcatel, android, htc, huawei, lg, samsung, sony, storage

My experience with Android only dates from end-November 2011 (heck, Im a Luddite, I resisted the temptation!). And its 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 wouldnt 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 8090% of the app would move out of the internal storage. So, whats the deal with Android ICS and newer? Is it a regression? Lets 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 150160 MB, sometimes up to 12 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
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02/09/13

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

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 couldnt find any documentation on that, but on a cheap LG phone, Quick System Info PRO reported a 236 MB limit:

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 816 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) dont even support an additional SD card, but when they do, heres what their storage layout:
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02/09/13

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

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/sdcardext , /mnt/sd_external or /mnt/external_sd. Apps CANNOT be moved here! Media files can be saved here though. Heres 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):

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 todays Android devices being them 4.0 ICS or 4.1-4.2 JB is that theyre inconsistent in the way the internal and external SD partitions are used: some devices are using a unified internal storage ( 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
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02/09/13

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

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 its 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). Ive 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, 530580 ) 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, 310330 ) 5.37 GB available (out of nominally 8 GB) unified internal storage will not install on external SD SGS4 (5, 4.2.2, 570630 ) 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, 440490 ) 10.94 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB) unified internal storage will not install on external SD SGS3 Mini (4, 4.1.1, 270290 )
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Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

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, 170190 ) 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
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02/09/13

Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

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, 190205 ) 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, 400450 ) 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, 165184 , single-SIM EU variant) 2.16 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB), but mentioning only 1.12 GB available for applications so its 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, 129149 ) 2.16 GB available (out of nominally 4 GB), but mentioning only 1.12 GB available for applications so its 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) 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 Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra (4.65, 4.1.1, 269 ) 13.08 GB available (out of nominally 16 GB) apparently unified internal storage non-expandable (no SD card supported)
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Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

Alcatel One Touch XPop (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 Oppo Find 5 (5, 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) does not support a SD card 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 didnt 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, lets 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! __ P.S.: I hate it when I see the internal SD part of the internal storage (usually in phones who dont support a SD card) labeled or called USB storage. Its 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
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Android Storage: What Nobody Bothered To Tell You | Homo Ludditus

SD! Android will NEVER be able to install or move apps in more than ONE extra partition in addition to the first internal partition!

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