Thought Leadership

May 26, 2015
microSD Memory Cards Help Drive Mobile Sales
More storage choices are good for both consumers and the mobile device industry

By: Brian Kumagai, president of the SD Association

microSD memory cards have supported successful mobile phone sales strategies since 2005, allowing device manufacturers to reduce costs and increase sales by offering a range of price points on the latest mobile devices. Specified and standardized by the SD Association (SDA), microSD memory card capabilities are continually enhanced to promote new design innovations with continual feature and capacity improvements that are still easy for consumers to use.

The fingertip-size memory cards deliver value to consumers and manufacturers across numerous industries, making products more affordable to consumers while adding more capability to the product, which is a rare feat for any technology.

A Consumer Favorite

Consumers have the option to upgrade storage at any time with microSD memory cards that are available in capacities from 1GB to 200GB today. SDA members complete SD compliance tests to ensure these cards maintain consistent performance for consumers. Today’s constant snapping of selfies, food pictures and storage-hungry video are vital requirements for modern smartphone users – and critical capabilities for new social media markets like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – but are not easily sustainable without SD memory cards. The SDA has been very responsive to these needs with capacity increases and standards like Speed Class that ensure consumers have the storage and minimum video recording performance needed to meet those requirements. This constant improving and upgrading of SD capabilities also open new markets to these versatile cards, such as the rapidly growing Internet of Things market.

Innovation Driver

Mobile device manufacturers can push design and development boundaries without compromise, knowing SD storage and processing rates reliably keep pace with their innovations. The SDA has delivered microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC card standards for manufacturers to meet increasing storage needs. It developed Ultra High Speed (UHS) standard to speed the processing of massive amounts of data between the mobile phone and the memory card. microSD can also include additional capabilities such as near-field communications (NFC) and Secure Elements in SMART microSD memory cards to make mobile devices even more valuable. The SDA continues to innovate and offer new capabilities for mobile phone manufacturers and will announce more microSD memory card benefits later this year that will keep this form factor a mission-critical strategy in driving robust global mobile revenues.

Eyeing Profit

Mobile device manufacturers have relied on microSD memory cards as a way to reduce product costs and sell more mobile phones for years. This profitable benefit still remains true today as an overwhelming number of mobile phone and smartphone models offer microSD memory expansion because it allows them to reduce the cost of the phone and provide consumers with more flexibility to upgrade and change cards to suit their storage needs. Thanks to microSD, people in every part of the world have access to sophisticated yet affordable mobile phones.

Sometimes manufacturers try a closed product strategy based on boosting today’s profit and compelling device replacement tomorrow. They increase profit by building additional storage into the phone, increasing its retail price, and removing storage expansion choice for their customers. Unfortunately, consumers lose access to entry-level device prices and pay a higher cost for storage than could have been provided by a microSD memory card. Their only choice is to throw away their phone when storage runs out instead of just expanding memory with a microSD memory card. This increases consumers’ costs and creates more electronic waste.

Some manufacturers are re-thinking the closed product strategy and found that even selling high-end smartphones without microSD slots, or without full access to SD features, did not deliver the results they wanted. Listening to their customers and realizing the benefits these cards provide, the manufacturers upgraded the phones to support consumers’ SD requirements. Consider the following:

  • HTC introduced the HTC One in March 2013 without microSD support. In March of 2014, they introduced the HTC One (M8) with microSD support.
  • LG introduced its G2 without microSD support in September 2013. By June 2014, it introduced the LG G3 with microSD support.
  • Android KitKat OS update made it more difficult for consumers to use their microSD memory cards in 2014. Complaints from consumers about these new restrictions prompted the Android team to make updates to enable greater use of the cards in Android Lollipop and the Android One device, which actually mandated the use of microSD memory cards.
  • New Windows Phones give consumers all of the normal storage flexibility offered by microSD and allows programs to run directly from the card.

Consumer reliance on microSD memory cards in their phones is likely to increase as mobile network operators make changes to the amount of data offered in their service offerings, especially with the elimination of unlimited data plans. As a result, consumers will look to microSD memory cards to store more data and help them reduce their data charges. These changes also limit the cloud as a storage option, as it requires lots of data downloading. Plus, the cloud is not always available due to physical location/connectivity limitations and it lacks the data security consumers seek. For these reasons, many cloud applications use caching and intelligent synching features that can require lots of local storage.

Performance Confidence

The SD Association creates SD standards and specifications to ensure consistent promised performance and interoperability between SD memory cards and across SD devices. Only SD Association members have complete access and license to all SD specifications. Members access compliance and testing tools to confirm their products meet standards and specifications. Dedication to consistency and interoperability has made SD memory cards a consumer favorite.

Whether its designer handbags or electronic devices, counterfeit products are present, which is a sign of their success and large consumer demand. Counterfeit products, including SD memory cards, are commonly found in China and in online stores selling products in bulk or without packaging through online retailers. Recently EETimes and The Counterfeit Report both explored this storage industry wide problem and suggested resources consumers can use to ensure card authenticity. Counterfeit SD memory cards do not meet SDA standards and have not passed SDA compliance tests. They can create operational problems and can have less memory than claimed and are responsible for reports of “SD card” problems experienced by consumers who shop solely on price today.

SDA members and SD-3C LLC are working with government officials to seize and destroy shipments of counterfeit SD memory cards. SD-3C LLC licenses and enforces intellectual property rights essential to SD Memory Cards and SD Host/Ancillary Products. Since 2012, more than 1 million counterfeit SD memory cards have been seized, destroyed and prevented from entering the global marketplace. There are active Internet web searches designed to detect advertisements offering counterfeit cards and cease such sales. The Chinese government has worked for years to rein in counterfeit products of all types. The Quality Brand Protection Committee in China has SD-3C LLC representatives that participate in symposiums designed to improve China’s intellectual property rights environment. SDA members work aggressively to curtail counterfeiting through the addition of retail security features, legal action and tight distribution control.

Consumers’ best resource for ensuring they obtain legitimate SD memory cards is SD-3C LLC’s website which lists authorized companies that manufacture and sell SD memory cards and host products. Another valuable resource is a product manufacturer’s website that list their authorized sellers, distributors and resellers. This step is important as counterfeiters are known to copy the branding of established card manufacturers. In these cases, there are third-party tools unrelated to the SDA that screen counterfeit SD memory cards.

Brian Kumagai is the president of the SD Association.

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