Skip the navigation

Tablet storage: Do you really need an expansion slot?

July 29, 2013 01:57 PM ET

"Dramatically fewer people need to get an image off a storage card in a camera and into their tablet, since most of that is happening through services like online photo sharing sites, such as Facebook and iCloud," he said.

IDC analyst Ryan Reith said that while storage expansion slots in tablets may have been at one time a major threat to enterprise security, some companies are installing system-wide mobile management software that can disable external storage.

Even so, some companies have to devise stop-gap measures to prevent workers or visitors from using expansion slots, like putting tape over the slots, Mainelli said.

Samsung defended its use of SD card slots, which show up in Galaxy Tab 3 tablets, as well as Galaxy Tab 2 devices and the Galaxy Note phablets. "Samsung has actually offered expanded storage through SD card slots for a while now," a spokeswoman said. "We want to offer consumers the additional space for storage."

Microsoft didn't respond to a request for comment on its use of storage slots in Windows 8 tablets, including its own Surface Pro and Surface RT machines. Mainelli expects both Microsoft and Samsung to continue to offer a storage expansion slot as a way to differentiate their hardware.

"Microsoft's motivation [for storage expansion slots] is that they are really driving people to use their tablets as both a PC when they want and a tablet when they want," Mainelli said. Meanwhile, Samsung makes many tablets and other products in different sizes and with different features, meaning some future devices will have expansion slots while others don't.

In a recent TV advertisement, Dell compares its 32GB XPS 10 tablet (running Windows RT and selling for $399 at the moment) to an iPad with the same storage and a $599 price tag. The ad calls attention to the iPad's inability to take an SD card since it has no SD card slot, unlike the XPS 10.

Mainelli isn't sure how important the SD card slot will remain for Microsoft. He's one of many analysts concerned about slow sales for Windows RT tablets, although that may be due more to its operating system than the hardware.

"A small percentage of buyers want a storage expansion slot," Mainelli said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, offered a contrary view. "I don't believe local storage [and SD cards] are going away anytime soon," he said. "Vendors that don't have an SD expansion slot on their devices are using the cloud as a way to spin for why they don't have the slot."

Gold said as a practical matter that users are not going to want to store too many data-laden movies in the cloud, and possibly pay for that service. "Not everything will end up in the cloud," he said. "Why do I want to store a bunch of films I am going to view on my flight to California in the cloud? I'd rather simply side load them through the expansion slot. To my way of thinking, that's a lot easier than waiting for a cloud upload/download session. "

"So, not everything should go into the cloud -- only the stuff I deem important enough to store long term and don't have to pay for or doesn't make it painful to download," Gold added.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said consumer tablet buyers will prefer having an SD card slot as long as the tablet doesnt become too thick to accommodate it. So, there can be trade-offs with other tablet features.

Who's right? The storage expansion slot debate will continue for some time.

This article, Tablet storage: Do you really need an expansion slot?, was originally published at

covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen or subscribe to Hamblen RSSMatt's RSS feed. His email address is

See more by Matt Hamblen on

Read more about Data Storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.

Our Commenting Policies