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How to pick the best microSD card for your Android phone

As we discover every time a major manufacturer decides to release a flagship phone without a microSD slot (we're looking at you, Samsung Galaxy S6), Android enthusiasts remain passionate about our options to expand internal storage. But how well your microSD card performs depends on the class and speed of the memory card, 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.

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Firstly, make sure your device supports microSD cards

Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, many smartphones don't have microSD slots and instead claim that 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, well, you can't use a microSD card. If you want a phone that supports microSD take a look at the phones linked below.

androidpit sony xperia x sim sd slot
Firstly, make sure your device supports microSD cards. / © AndroidPIT

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 32 GB of data, while SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) handles 64 GB 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 128 GB, but in March 2015, Sandisk revealed the world's first 200 GB microSD SDXC card.

androidpit sd cards 4
Make sure you know the different 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 do in fact simply reflect the minimum rates at which these cards sustain data transfers. So a Class 2 card reads and writes data at 2 MB/s, while a Class 10 card does so at 10 MB/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.

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 microSD card speed at this point.

UHS speed classes
UHS class Minimum speed
1 10 MB/s
3 30 MB/s
androidpit sd cards 1
In theory, UHS cards can reach data transfer speeds of up to 312 MB/s, but this isn't realistic. / © AndroidPIT

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 microSD card will save photos faster, improve data transfer speeds when moving files between devices, and open apps stored on your microSD card more quickly. Note that opening apps on microSD cards may be a bit slower than if you store 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.

Darth Vader micro SD ANDROIDPIT
MicroSD cards do 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, you should be wary of its quality.

Do you use a microSD card? Which size and type do you use for your phone? Let us know in the comments.

92 comments

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  • i am recently buy HTC desire 825 which is the best memory card for this mobile

  • Previously I had a bad experience of using microsd card with my galaxy note 3. Whenever i try to play a game or open the camera app, my phone started heating from the place where sdcard was mounted. Many times I checked the memory card and notice it was heating and also causing the phone hardware to heatup. Since then I stopped using any external storage for my phones because 16 or 32 gb storage that come default with most android phones was enough for me.

    But now with the advancement of mobile phones the usage of android phones is rapidly replacing computer for most of daily tasks, the storage capacity can never be enough. So I am frequently getting out of storage with my honor 6x, I am deciding to get a 64gb memory card to make enough room for my storage hungry apps and media files. I hope this time I will not experience the same heating problems that I faced last time.

  • I have two Blu Diamond M phones that are supposed to support micro SD cards up to 64Gb. I have various cards (Samsung, Sandisk and Kingston) of 16Gb and 64Gb that work with my Windows PC and the smaller ones work with my old Android 4 phone. The Blu Diamond can see the card, but can only load 2Gb of data onto it. Any more and it hangs. If I load up the card on a PC and put it in the phone, it sees the first 2Gb of data and dumps the rest in corrupt files in "Lost and Found". If I try formatting it on the phone as "internal" it gets to 20% (both sizes of card) waits 5 minutes then tells me the card is corrupt. (I can rescue it using an SD formatter program on my PC). Would a better, faster card solve the problem - or should I just dump the phones and stick with Android 4?

  • Can someone tell me how to clear a micro SD card. I have a 64g SanDisk ultra xc 1 card and used it for months in my note 4 and something happened. If it try to move an app over to it (through app to SD card app) it says there is no room. There should be a lottttt of room. I am using an 8g one now and it transfers over just fine, everything works fine. I bought an SD card reader thing and tried it out but I have NO idea what i am doing. If anyone can help I would so appreciate it. Id like to use my 64g if possible. Also i need to find a place to help me understand what to do once I have the card connected to my computer. THANKS

    • hello. Just connect the sd card reader to your pc with the sd card in it, then format it by right clicking the drive, make sure its in FAT32, not NTFS or exFAT. watch a video on how to format sd cards and you will be fine. You are having issues with sd card probably due to your phone not being able to support it.

    • Amber, Phones usually require you to dismount an SD card. If you take it out without dismounting it and try and read it in a computer you might damage it and lose your data. There is a utility in the phone to do this for you. Many phones won't accept an SDXC (over 64 GIG) you'll have to use an SDHC card.

  • Hoping someone can help me. I bought a San disk ultra 64gig micro sd xc. I don't know much about sd cards but just did some reading. It worked fine for months and then something happened. When i try to transfer an app to the sd card it acts like it's going to move but then says there is no room on the card. If i look at the storage in settings there is only 4.4 g's used. I am using a 8 gig that is working fine now but when i bought the 64 i was excited and didn't think i would need another one for quite a while. I have a Samsung note 4 if that helps. Thank you very much for reading.

  • KC Turner 4 months ago Link to comment

    I have a galaxy 5s 5 active active I want to know what kind of SD card do I need to get for it I have an 8 gigabyte in it now that's not big enough going to have to buy a new one just need to know. I have had nothing except problems with this phone

    • Green KMH 4 months ago Link to comment

      Now, 1/7/17 you can get a samsung 128gb SDXC CLASS 10 for about 50$ at wallmart. Or a 64gb for 20$. Both will work fine on most phones with a microsd slot and most have a 10 yr. warranty so think big and transfer it and your files with your next phone.

  • Tim 4 months ago Link to comment

    I used mostly SanDisk cards in all my galaxy phones. Over time they would fail but I was eligible for a replacement update in both cases. I switched over Samsung's brand and have not had a problem since! The speed of transfers increased as well as the overall proformance of the phone. I would suggest if you have an Samsung phone use a Samsung Sdcard. Everything just works much better. As I stated I have had 2 different speed cards fail from the company everyone will tell you is the best. Until phone makers decide to make large capacity storage in their phones the ability to add storage will always be important. But you don't want your storage media failing just because either.

  • George W. 4 months ago Link to comment

    I've been using a Samsung 64GB card for almost a year now in my GS4. All music (about 23 GB) and I couldn't be happier. It has performed flawlessly. I'm currently looking forward to the GS8 release hoping that I can afford the largest phone storage model and enhancing it with the largest SD card storage possible.

  • skyrail 4 months ago Link to comment

    I've been using a sandisk 64 Go sdxc class 10 for several month, until now. I am going to replace it with a 128 Go (same specs).
    A soon as I remove my sd card, I noticed a noticeable increase of my Android phone.
    I have 80% of my apps moved to extsdcard.
    So I am asking if I should stick on using an extsdcard to host my apps or only for media files.
    Keep key/most used apps in internal memory card, move others to external card, or switch to a faster sd card?
    Which one would suit Galaxy S5 G900F in the last case, if I want a device wihout noticeable slow down?
    It is currently doing well, but not always responsive in the second (or 2 ou 3s).

    • Tim 4 months ago Link to comment

      When I had my first problem with my Sdcard it was with this model of phone. I received an updated replacement but later on down the line it also failed. I have been using Samsung's storage brand ever since. Once I added it you could see the change in the phone. I would suggest getting a Samsung storage model. I am using the largest capacity storage for my GS7E Samsung class 10 Sdcard it's lighting quick. 600 MB files from phone to my Sdcard take take seconds! If you are having freezes with your phone sometimes, it's not the phone it's the SanDisk Sdcard! Speaking 100% from experience of someone who has lost lots of music using that brand. 5k songs plus to be exact!

    • Also had some problem with 128 Go sandisk ultra.
      have a look to this post: http://thedroidguy.com/2016/04/samsung-galaxy-s5-stopped-recognizing-microsd-card-issue-related-problems-1058426

      128 Go sd card had issues, refused to be formatted under windows.
      But sometimes format was ok but unable to copy large files. You had to format either in a camera or preferably in your smartphone, as exfat filesystem.
      Lower capacity had no problem, except windows willing to fix bad sectors sometimes, since there did not sim to be any errors.

  • Teslife 4 months ago Link to comment

    Wouldn't it be better to take pics. and videos directly to your phone then transferring to the microsd card later? The phone storage is quicker.

  • Most articles focus on "sequential write" speeds for microsd cards, especially for those anticipating recording 4k video and burst shooting larger format photos on new phone models. That's fine for phones, but I'm in a different camp at the moment, replacing an old 8gb Android J tablet with a new 16gb Android M model which should let me format the card as additional storage. Based on experience, I don't expect to use the tablet's camera at all, except for occasional ho hum document scanning.

    After some googling I've concluded my Class 10 card buy for the tablet should be based on best read speed, which can vary significantly from the recording write speed according to lab tests. The object is to get the data from the card to the 7" display as fast and reliably as possible, rather than the other way around.

  • it's interesting how people respond to this article, some overjoyed with it, some denigrating it. I read most of them to try to get a further idea and some intelligent replies add to it thank you. I'm battling now with a 32 GB SD card that won't transfer, format or erase! 32 gb shows 6 gb data, yes pics. mainly. I had them transferred on my pc to try to format the card. later I put it on my pc and erased the lot (yes again) are these 6 gb were still on it! And ended up with an empty card at last....Well almost when as when I put my card back on my S5 ssung, everything was still there! So can't format, can't shift things around, can't delete from it, yet can see the pick on it. Go and figure.
    People get annoyed about phone that don't cater for SD cards...Perhaps they should not as if you buy one of them with a large internal storage you'll never worry about incompatible under performing or dodgy SD card. How much is enough. Try to estimate if you will do a lot of video or go crazy about music collection. If you have the ability to reduce your photos size to keep on your device, do so (photoshop with batch and droplet facility will reduce to your choice, for me 70% , a whole folder of pics automatically. Still looking good on your device and taking only one third of room from the original) I think Videos can be trimmed too...
    I was excited to see XDHC with 200GB but now not so sure I should buy one! So will search further on that topic.

    • Check to see if the pictures are on the phone's memory. It maybe calling the SD card internal and the phone's memory as external. Or pushing the data to the disc when you remount it. Take the disc out (dismount/eject), and examine from your PC.

      For those with very slow running apps: I had problems with Amazon music running from the SD. I moved it back to the internal memory. just the one app. It runs much better.

      These cards are very quirky. It's frustrating that they work fine in a PC. I bought a Moto X Pure, with 16 GB, 9.5 GB usable!! So I'm stuck with using an SD.
      Where is my Nougat? Phone is directly from Motorola. Does anyone know if things run better in Nougat?

  • Maggie 5 months 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?

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