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How to pick the best microSD card for your Android phone

As we find out each time a major manufacturer decides to release a flagship phone without a microSD slot (we're looking at you, Galaxy S6), Android enthusiasts remain passionate about our options to expand internal storage. But how well your microSD card performs depends on its class and speed, as well as the capabilities of your phone. Here, we tell you everything you need to know to help you pick the best microSD card for your Android device.

First, make sure your device supports microSD cards

Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, many smartphones don't have microSD slots and instead claim the on board internal storage is sufficient. And though from our perspective this seems ridiculous we need to ensure our device has a microSD card slot. 

You can inspect your device and see whether there is a microSD slot. If you need to, consult your phone's manual to open the device (or to find whether there is a microSD slot). If there is no microSD slot then, well, you can't use a microSD card. If you want a phone that supports microSD take a look at the phones linked below.

What's the difference between SDHC and micro SDXC?

When buying a microSD card, you'll notice that it's either a micro SDXC or SDHC card. The difference between these two microSD formats is simply the amount of data they can store. SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) stores up to 32GB of data, while SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) handles 64GB and above. 

Many lower-end devices don't support SDXC microSD cards, so it's crucial that you check your phone's compatibility before buying one. Most SDXC cards go up to 128GB, but in March 2015, Sandisk revealed the world's first 200GB microSD SDXC card.

Darth Vader micro SD ANDROIDPIT
Make sure you know the types of microSD cards before purchasing. / © ANDROIDPIT

What does 'class' mean on a microSD card?

This one's important. MicroSD cards come in several different classes - Class 2, 4, 6 and 10. While these numbers may mean nothing to you (and leave you wondering what happened to the other numbers up to 10), they in fact simply reflect the minimum rates at which these cards sustain data transfers. So a Class 2 card reads and writes data at 2MB/s, while a Class 10 card does so at 10MB/s. Suddenly it's not that complicated, right?

SDHC and SDXC speed classes
Class Minimum speed
2 2 MB/s
4 4 MB/s
6 6 MB/s
8 8 MB/s
10  10 MB/s

The 'Class' number directly reflects the minimum write speed of the card. However, top-quality cards can run much faster than this, with some of the best ones out there clocking read speeds up to 95 MB/s. One such card is the SanDisk Extreme Pro, which can be picked up for $33 at Amazon.com or £34 at Amazon.co.uk.

What does UHS mean on a micro SD card?

Since 2009, certain microSD cards are also UHS-1 or UHS-3-compatible. While in theory UHS cards can reach data transfer speeds of up to 312 MB/s, you are realistically only likely to attain the minimum transfer speeds listed below, because no smartphone currently supports the UHS standard. As such, UHS will make little difference to your micro SD card speed at this point.

UHS speed classes
UHS class Minimum speed
1 10 MB/s
3 30 MB/s

 

Will a better microSD card speed up my phone?

The most important question is whether picking one microSD card over another will improve performance on your phone, to which the short answer is 'Yes'.

If you store apps and photos on your microSD card (what else would you use it for?), then a higher-speed micro SD card will save photos faster, improve data transfer speeds when moving files between devices, and open apps stored on your micro SD card faster. Note that opening apps on microSD cards may be a bit slower than if you were storing them on your phone's internal memory, because there's an extra layer of communication between your phone and micro SD card that needs to be carried out.

microsd galaxy s4 closeup
MicroSD cards might not necessarily speed up your phone. / © AndroidPIT

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when buying a microSD card, and hopefully the above guide will give you an idea of which one to buy. It's also worth sticking to reputable brands for microSD cards, such as SanDisk, Samsung and Kingston. Use the prices of these brands as a guidelines as well - if you see a microSD card from another company that's five times cheaper than these, then you should be wary of its quality.

Do you use a microSD card? Let us know in the comments.

70 comments

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  • Maggie 1 week ago Link to comment

    This article was great, answered a lot of questions.
    I just bought the newest Sony Experia Z5 Premium... ok, my kids bought it for me... I just can't afford it. There's not a lot of info out there yet about this phone and the last thing I want to do is put something into it that is going to screw it up.
    With not a lot of money I need to make the best choice the first time. Please, can someone help?

  • I have a Samsung S5 and I installed a SD card in it when I bought it 2 years agó. The card worked great until the Marshmallow update. Now every time a app is updated from the Google play store I have to manually move it from internal memory back to the card. Very annoying and time consuming. Good article, I would like to know if there are any good apps to help manage SD card data.

    • I have found that SanDisk microSD cards don't work well with Samsung phones. If that is what you use, try a Samsung EVO.

      • I had read very compelling reviews about the reliability of Samsung EVO SD cards. Got a 32 Gb class 10 about 5 months ago for my s7 edge. Worked great until it died 10 days ago when playing music connected to my car over Bluetooth.

  • @Dasaradha A. Your comment replaces a million keystrokes from authors who tell you everything except what you should really do to get an SD card into your phone. Well done.

  • That is very simple thing.just look at your phone internal storage.and decide what capacity of sd card required to your phone like 8gb,16gb,32gb.........it is based on your phone storage uses.
    Go to nearest phone accessories store and choose the best brand of sd card.i mean which brand having great data transportable capacity like sandisk,samsung.

  • 8
    Darcy 1 month ago Link to comment

    I always use SD cards with my Android devices, I never use "the cloud". I prefer to store my information on something that is kept in my possession, rather than in someone else's storage which is what "the cloud" is, though each to their own. I also use an app called 'SD Insight' that checks the SD card, and can let me know if it's safe to use, such as whether or not it's counterfeit or corrupted. Someone here on AndroidPit previously said you should be weary of SD cards via eBay, it's good advice! I bought one once cleverly disguised as a genuine Sandisk. Finally I'd like to say, from my experience that Android Jellybean was wonderful for SD cards, you could move your data & apps from internal phone memory to SD card nice & easy, pity that's not the case with Android Marshmallow! I sincerely hope that is remedied with Android Nougat!! As Google have a very negative regard for the humble SD card, I'm not holding my breath!

    • Mark G. 1 month ago Link to comment

      You should purchase a excellent Samsung device, Samsung has ignored most of the changes Android made regarding SD cards.
      I have the brilliant S5 which was running Android 5.02 now 6.01 both versions allowed seamless transfer of data between the device and the SD card.
      I use the excellent file Manager app X-plore which makes transferring data super easy.

      Peace ✌

    • I have experienced the same problem with the Marshmallow update. I hope it will be fixed with Nougat too.

  • Mark G. 1 month ago Link to comment

    Do not Ever buy SD cards from Ebay or Amazon, 99% will be fake/counterfeit, if Samsung sells a 64GB micro SD card for £40 then it's common sense that one on ebay for £10-£20 cannot be genuine. Even apparently genuine sites can not be fully trusted, if it seems to good to be real, then it probably is....

    You don't want to risk losing all your precious photos, music, documents for the sake of a few pounds. Even if you are lucky enough to get a fake that has the advertised capacity, the cards software will not be as good. This could at least mean a slow transfer speed, or at worst lost files corrupt data, and permanent damage to the device.

    You have just purchased an expensive phone, don't ruin it by using substandard or fake SD cards.

    Peace ✌

  • People do not seem to check things out before buying there micro sd cards and just seem to think the cheaper it is the more money they save,then when they put them inside there phones it might work for a little then all of sudden it will not get recognize inside there phones,this seems to be the same problem when people buy memory sticks to keep hold of there data,i have always used memory cards and love saving All my applications on my cards to help me stop using to much internal memory on my phones,Always used App Control to save the Applications and then send the Applications to my memory card and then install them,that is what we missed on the Galaxy S6 series phones

  • lol
    just walked into a store got the cheapest 16gb sd card for 5€

  • This article is vague and offers no relevant information. You miss to touch the sensitive area of SD card usage on android phones / tablets.I recently bought an Asus ZenPad Z500M with Android 6.1 and SanDisk Ultra microSDXC 128GB Class10 UHS-I 80 MBs. The tablet saw the card and everything was ok in the begging .....but. after 2 days i started getting an annoying notification " sd card unexpectedly removed" . I searched the net for this problem and it is a very big issue with some SD cards. seems that some SDXC cards are not compatible with Android system and they are unmounted from time to time . This issue affects mainly Sundisk SD cards but not only. This issue is critical as the unmounting and mounting of the SD card drains the device battery very fast and also causes that annoying notification. I replaced the sd card with one kinston SD card lower class 8 GB that i had from an older phone and the issue disapeared. I have no other microSD cards to test but seems that with lower class cards this is not an issue. This problem is still found on many devices and it seems to affect mainly high speed SD cards. There is still a lot to discuss but this should be taken into consideration when choosing an SD card. Now i use the SanDisk Ultra as an external storage extension to my windows 10 laptop and has no problems. It seems that this bug affects only android devices.

  • Mr N 1 month ago Link to comment

    I just put in a 32GB class 10 sd card, and my phone now classes this as "internal storage". This means that things have slowed down a bit. I notice Whatsapp takes three times as long to open. I see that its storing photos etc to this SD card now.
    Dropbox is slower, so is ES File Explorer etc. Everyting seem to take longer to open.
    How do I find out if my phone supports UHS?

  • For people need to know what best microsd on market now is:
    Best Quality/Price
    Samsung EVO+ (red one)
    Sandisk Ultra

    Best Quality and fastest
    Sandisk Extreme

    Keep in mind that your phone probably can't reach the maximum speed of the card. Heat also slow the transfer rate.

    Good luck

  • I'm grateful I came across your article. I intend to buy a MicroSD card for my smartphone. I usually just search the Internet what the best brand is and what the consumer review is for each brand.

    Then your article made me search for the type of MicroSD card that my phone would support. The website of my smartphone manufacturer only states that it has a slot for MicroSD card (64GB). I have Googled if an XC would be OK with my smartphone instead of an HC and found nothing.

  • I Already using Smart phone is HUAWEI Y5-2 4G LTE .please recommend Micro sd card Brand and capacity for my phone.

    • that's a budget phone, just get any brand, you won't notice any speed difference
      according to gsmarena it supports up to 32gb

  • Im just now going to use my PNY 32GB (10) on my G4 for aps only. Ive had this sd card for 3mos, but reading your article about them has got me ready to do it! Thank you for al the valuable info you provide!!

  • Thanks for the informative article . I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 ..great phone dont feel I should upgrade however Im constantly running out of storage space due to ta li ng a large amount of photos ... which SD card would you recommend, as yet I dontbhave an external storage device to transfer old photos

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