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Monday, May 19, 2014

Why do Apple and Google hate flash memory cards?

My kids got iPad minis for Christmas.  Although I am firmly a fan of Android tablets, I bowed to their wishes based on the old standard argument that "all of their friends have them."  To some extent, that argument carries more weight in this context since collaboration, use of the same apps and games often requires being on the same platform.

My experience with Apple in this limited context has only reaffirmed my wish to stay as far away from Apple as possible.  All the accessories are overpriced.  Repairs (one cracked his screen already) are impossible.  Access to many very cool, innovative, and free apps seems much more limited.  Also, the Apple "Geniuses" at the Apple store have not lived up to their name.

But one frustrating limitation of the iPad that annoys me most is the lack of a micro SD port.  This omission makes it impossible to add additional storage space to your device.  You re stuck with the limited amount of space you purchased with your device.

One might expect this sort of thing from Apple, since the company has always been averse to including any technology which Apple did not develop and does not control.  It also does not like the possibility that owners might find a way to use the device that Apple did not anticipate. It's just Apple being Apple.

But I am also bothered by Google's refusal to include a Micro SD reader on its Nexus tablets.  Google seems to be drifting from its traditional view of "make something the consumers will love"  following the trend of Apple, to "make something which customers will accept but which benefits us more."

Both Apple and Google's refusal to include Micro SD creates real problems for users.  It makes it much harder to transfer files between the tablet and other devices.  It makes it much harder to recover important documents, pictures, music, etc. if the device fails.  It limits users' ability to carry around media with them for offline use.

Similarly, the failure to have a full size USB port on the device which would allow for the easy connection of flash drives causes the same limitations.  I'm not sure why some industrious manufacturer hasn't developed a flash drive with a micro USB interface to get around this problem.  Update: Kingston has a solution to this with its Microduo line.

There are some ways around this, at least with Android.  You can connect your tablet directly to your computer using a USB cable for transfers and backups.  But it still doesn't help with carrying around extra data.

All of these limitations benefit Apple and now Google's apparent strategy to keep everyone connected to the Internet all the time.  This allows both companies to track how customers use their devices and to gather more data on usage.  It also keeps the user inside the company's sphere of influence, making them more dependent on the company's services for online storage, online documents, online backup, etc.  If a user is working happily offline it is almost seen by the manufacturer as a failure.  Further, it forces users to pay more for devices that have more base memory, which are sold at a huge profit by the manufacturers.

Fortunately, most third party manufacturers who build Google products included the Micro SD reader.  This is the number one reason I am using them rather than the Nexus.  I will continue to stay as far away from Apple as possible.

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