Monday, April 29, 2013

Phone Advice: Internal Memory Vs. Expandable Memory

There is a popular saying that goes something like, “You don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.” This rings true in so many areas of our lives, but especially so in that precious device storage that is known as internal memory. This is that area that holds our photos, our videos, our games, our Apps and everything else in the phone that we carry every day. Those amazing photos of our trips, our birthday parties or even just that crazy tea party we had with our child. Yes, it is all about the memory. There are two different camps that surround the memory front and they couldn’t differ more in how they work. Let’s take a quick look at both and the positives and negatives of both.

Internal memory is the most expensive option for a manufacturer. The cost of the chips is higher. The cost of the assembly is higher. Even the cost of making 2-3 different sized devices is higher. When a phone comes in multiple configurations, it means more models to stock, advertise for and support. It’s not a cheap process, but it does eliminate so many of the problems that a device can have. Of course, the biggest issue with internal memory is that you either rely on an automatic ‘sync’ feature like iCloud SkyDrive, or Google+ to save that important content or you manually sync your stuff to your computer. There isn’t any other option to clear that memory but sync and delete.

When you start to think about the staggering numbers, like how the best selling iPhone 3Gs model was the 8GB model, and now there are 64GB iPhone 5’s, it makes you appreciate how much more storage we use today. With 8-12MP cameras becoming the norm, images have gone from 500k to 3MB in no time at all. Songs going from 96kbps to 320kbps chew up memory even faster. A song that used to be 2MB is now 10MB. Finally we get to that pesky video camera that we all use. what used to shoot VGA resolution or about 3MB per second (180MB per hour) is now shooting about 4GB per hour (or about the same amount as an uncompressed DVD will hold) of HD video. Sure, you can drop the quality of all of these and fit more into that fixed space, but why bother when you just bought that phone that will do all those great things?

The volley from the removable memory camp is expandable memory. They will give you a smaller 4, 8, 16 or even 32GB of internal storage, then give you a slot for a memory card to slide into. You can purchase a small card, usually called a MicroSD or TransFlash card to give you more space for music, movies and photos. While this usually seems like a great idea, like the first line said, you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.

The reason I say this is that the last 3 Windows Phone devices that I have owned were an 8GB and 2 16GB internal memory only devices. I never had an issue with anything on them. Photos were always saved, movies were always recorded and most of all, they played back smoothly and had no jitters to them at all. I step forward to my trusty Lumia 810 that I am carrying now, with it’s 8MP camera, HD video and 8GB of internal memory. Of that actual 7.4 GB of usable memory, 2GB is taken up by the OS, 1.5 is taken up by Apps, another 2.5 – 3 is taken up by App storage which leaves just 1 GB for recording media. That SD card is a must have in this case.

So, I started with a lovely 16GB class 4 (memory cards are measured in classes which tells the user how fast they will read and write information – the higher the class, the faster the read/write times are) and had nothing but problems with it. Stuttering videos, longer load times, even slow loading photos. This lead to me pulling the old class 10 card that I had for my HTC Evo 4G out of storage and reformatting that for Windows Phone. The process was smooth and most of the issues went away. I still had a few video problems and the “There is a problem with your SD card, please insert into your computer to fix the issue" message got old very quickly. Once I started ‘fixing’ the card in my PC every other week, I was able to survive quite easily.

That was until this weekend when we were out at a ‘fun’ place for the kiddo. I was snapping photos when an SD card error popped up on screen. I didn’t think much of it and cleared the error just like always. Later that afternoon, we were sitting at lunch when I tried to play back one of the videos I shot when I realized the card had dismounted. This means that it wasn’t ‘in the phone’ anymore and wasn’t being used. I restarted the phone and saw that I had lost all my videos, and my music and even my photos. They had just evaporated off the card. I restarted again and the phone found the card this time, so many of my photos were there, and the videos and even my music – or at least most of it. I knew that this was the beginning of the end for my card, so I did what I could to get the content off when I got home.

After copying as much data as it would let me, my trust 32GB Class 10 Micro SD card was toast. It wouldn’t format in the phone or the computer. It wouldn’t do anything but look cute in its little case. I had lost my $99 Micro SD card. Fortunately, with the costs of them coming down so much, a new SanDisk Ultra 32GB Class 10 MicroSD card had plummeted to under $30 so that was ordered immediately. In the mean time, I was lucky enough to have that old 8GB class 4 card laying around to use until it arrives.

The lesson of this story is that if the memory comes out of the phone, you will need to back up that card once a week to be safe. Make sure you do this with your fixed memory devices as well, even if they do have those auto-backup systems in place. Because you really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Sent from my Nokia Lumia 810
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