Why don’t phones have MicroSD slots anymore?

MicroSD slots are small slots in mobile phones that allow users to insert removable flash memory cards, called microSD cards. These cards provide additional storage space for photos, videos, music, apps, and other files on a phone. MicroSD slots used to be very common in mobile phones, especially Android devices, because they allowed users to expand their phone’s built-in storage at an affordable price.

According to data from Strategy Analytics, around 75% of smartphone models contained microSD slots in 2015, but this number has declined steadily in recent years as phone manufacturers move away from including the slots in their devices. MicroSD cards grew in both capacity and speed over the years, so their waning popularity seems counterintuitive at first glance.

Reason 1: Waterproofing

Waterproofing has become a popular and expected feature in modern smartphones. Phone manufacturers want to make their devices usable in all conditions, including around water. However, MicroSD card slots can potentially allow water ingress into the phone which complicates waterproof designs.

MicroSD slots require openings in the phone housing and a removable plastic tray that holds the card. This introduces potential gaps where water could enter. The seal around the slot needs to be perfectly watertight to maintain water resistance [1]. While the card itself may survive brief water exposure, moisture getting inside the phone could cause bigger issues.

Removing MicroSD slots allows phone makers to more easily seal the housing and achieve higher IP ratings for water and dust protection. Phones like the Galaxy S21 are rated IP68 for full submersion without MicroSD. So waterproofing considerations have been a factor in the move away from expandable storage.

Reason 2: Thinner Phones

As smartphones have become more advanced, manufacturers have engaged in an arms race to create the thinnest and lightest devices possible. This trend towards ultra-slim phones is one reason MicroSD slots have been eliminated.

MicroSD cards add thickness to a device. According to the SD Association, MicroSD cards are typically around 1mm thick1. For a phone that’s just 5-7mm thick, that extra millimeter to accommodate a MicroSD slot starts becoming significant.

Phone makers have determined the tradeoff in thickness is not always worth the added expandable storage. As an example, when Samsung released the waterproof Galaxy S7 in 2016 and eliminated the MicroSD slot, they cited the design decision to make the phone as thin as possible2.

Of course, consumers may have differing opinions on the value of thinness vs expandable storage. But for manufacturers obsessed with slim profiles, the MicroSD slot is an obstacle to overcome.

Reason 3: Cloud Storage

The rise in popularity of cloud storage services like Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive has significantly reduced the need for expandable local storage on smartphones. According to Cloud Storage Statistics You Need To Know, 65.28% of people now use personal cloud storage as their primary data storage. With so much data stored in the cloud, most users simply don’t need microSD card slots for extra local storage anymore.

Cloud storage offers several advantages over local storage that explain its growing adoption. Storing data in the cloud provides access across all devices, automatic backups, and sharing capabilities. Cloud storage services also offer large amounts of space for free or very cheap, often more than what microSD cards can provide. For example, Google offers 15GB of free Drive storage. With remote cloud storage meeting most people’s needs, the demand for expandable local storage has declined.

Smartphone manufacturers have responded to this shift by removing microSD slots to simplify phone design and reduce costs. While some power users still want expandable storage, most mainstream consumers are satisfied relying primarily on cloud storage services. With the convenience and abundance of cheap cloud storage options today, the era of needing additional local storage on phones has largely passed.

Reason 4: Profits

Phone companies like Apple and Samsung have found that selling storage upgrades is extremely profitable. For example, it’s estimated that upgrading from 64GB to 512GB boosts Apple’s profit margin by over $240 per iPhone sold (source). The profit margins on storage upgrades can be massive, with some estimations showing 300% markups on extra storage (source). Removing MicroSD slots forces consumers to pay these premiums if they want more storage. While it inconveniences customers, selling built-in storage upgrades has proven incredibly lucrative for manufacturers. The cloud storage business is also profitable, with companies like Apple offering paid iCloud upgrades starting at $0.99 per month for more storage. So phone companies have financial incentives to push customers towards paid cloud storage rather than external MicroSD cards.

Reason 5: Simplicity

Removing MicroSD card slots simplifies the user experience in a few key ways. First, it reduces confusion for less tech-savvy users who may struggle to understand the difference between internal storage and external SD card storage. Without a separate SD card, everything is stored simply in one unified location.

Additionally, onboard storage is faster and more reliable than SD cards. SD cards can have issues with speed, corruption, and improper ejection/dismounting1. By relying solely on internal storage, there are fewer issues to troubleshoot and a more seamless experience for users.

Finally, removing SD slots allows for thinner, lighter phone designs without compromises. With users often choosing phones based on sleek aesthetics, having a simple and streamlined unibody design improves the overall user experience.

Pros of Losing Slots

One potential benefit of removing MicroSD slots is improved water resistance. MicroSD slots use a physical door that exposes the interior of the phone when opened, creating a potential entry point for water. Removing the slots allows manufacturers to better seal the phone internals.

Removing MicroSD slots also allows phone manufacturers to create thinner devices. The slots take up internal space, so eliminating them frees up room for larger batteries, more advanced components, or simply a slimmer overall design.

With many modern phones offering 64GB or 128GB of internal storage, some argue MicroSD slots are less necessary given the prevalence of cloud storage. Services like iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox make it easier to store photos, videos, and files remotely instead of locally on the device.

From a business perspective, removing MicroSD slots may incentivize users to pay extra for models with more internal storage. Manufacturers can charge $100 or more for storage upgrades, increasing profit margins.

Finally, removing the slots simplifies the user experience. There’s no need to manage internal versus external storage, and no small door to open that can trap debris. The phone interior is sealed, creating a more streamlined device.

Cons of Losing Slots

The main drawback to consumers from removing MicroSD slots is less storage flexibility. With a MicroSD slot, users can add more storage as needed by simply inserting a new card. This allows them to store more photos, videos, music, apps, and files on their phone. Without the option for expandable storage, consumers are stuck with the internal storage amount when they purchase the device. If they later need more space, their only option is to delete content or purchase a new phone with more storage, which is an expensive proposition.

Another downside is reduced media portability. Users often rely on MicroSD cards to easily transfer files between devices, like moving photos from a camera to a phone. Without a slot, it becomes much more difficult to access media across multiple devices.

Data recovery and backups are also more challenging without removable MicroSD cards. If a phone is damaged, broken, or lost, the data on internal storage can be difficult or impossible to retrieve. Removable cards make it easy to maintain backups and recover data if needed.

Overall, the loss of expandable storage reduces user flexibility and control. Consumers have fewer options to manage their storage needs over time when purchasing a device without a MicroSD slot.

The Future

The future of MicroSD slots in phones is uncertain. On one hand, some manufacturers like Samsung have continued including MicroSD slots in mid-range and budget devices. This suggests there is still demand among some consumers for expandable storage.

However, most flagship devices from Samsung, Google, Apple, and other major brands no longer include MicroSD slots. This trend towards excluding expandable storage has been driven by desires for slimmer, waterproof phones as well as pushing consumers towards paid cloud storage services.

According to Android Authority, it’s likely MicroSD slots will continue disappearing from more and more devices going forward. Factors like 5G connectivity making cloud storage access faster and cheaper mean onboard storage will keep increasing while upgradable storage faces extinction.

While MicroSD may still have a place in budget phones for the next few years, it seems inevitable that expandable storage will eventually vanish entirely from flagship consumer devices. Unless consumer demand changes significantly, the future likely holds an end to the era of MicroSD slots across the smartphone industry.


In summary, there are several key reasons why most modern smartphones no longer include MicroSD card slots. Waterproofing and the desire for thinner, sleeker devices have led manufacturers to remove slots and rely on internal storage. Cloud storage has also reduced the need for expandable memory. Removing MicroSD slots likely increases profits for phone makers as well. While expandable storage has advantages like upgrading capacity and accessing files across devices, overall there has been a clear shift away from MicroSD in flagship phones. It seems the future will be no slots as the default, though some midrange devices may retain them. Looking ahead, onboard storage capacities will continue rising, and cloud syncing will keep improving. So while the MicroSD slot has been a stalwart of older devices, don’t expect it on your next high-end phone purchase.

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