If in this age of super fast broadband and cloud computing, you still want to lug an SD card around in your phone, you might be a technology neanderthal. At least that’s the impression I got after reading Google’s response to belligerent complaints about the lack of a 32GB option or at least an SD card slot for its latest Nexus device.
The much anticipated LG-manufactured Nexus 4 comes in 8GB and 16GB options — only. Local storage is not expandable because like we already said, the device doesn’t come with an SD card slot. While there is a lot else to like about the Nexus 4, this paucity of storage options has a lot of Nexus faithfuls foaming at the mouth.
Matias Duarte, Director of Android operating system User Experience, took to Google+ to answer questions about the new Nexus range of devices. On the SD card and local storage question, here’s what he had to say –
Everybody likes the idea of having an SD card, but in reality it’s just confusing for users. If you’re saving photos, videos or music, where does it go? Is it on your phone? Or on your card? Should there be a setting? Prompt everytime? It’s just too complicated. Your Nexus has a fixed amount of space and your apps just seamlessly use it for you without you ever having to worry about files or volumes or any of that techy nonsense left over from the paleolithic era of computing.
Paleolithic? Really? Obviously, Google has moved on, leaving us technology cave men behind.
In any case, while the geeks at Mountain View would have us believe that SD cards degrade the user experience, and that we’re stuck in paleolithic time capsules for wanting to keep (giga)tons of digital bric-a-brac on our devices, having less local storage on your mobile devices is co-incidentally convenient for Google. If you believe in co-incidence, that is. Here’s how Google would actually benefit from skimping on storage.
Google wants you to keep your stuff in their cloud. Lots of people have come to depend on Dropbox, Evernote et al, to keep and sync their stuff across their devices, but when you use an Android device, Google Drive could quickly become the obvious, if not default option for that sort of thing. Do you capture loads of photo and video? No problem, into Google Drive it instantly goes. Of course if the default 5GB doesn’t assuage your storage yearnings, Google is more than willing to give you as much storage as you can eat — for a monthly token. And afterall,16 Terrabytes in the cloud beats the hell out of a measly 32GB memory stick, right?
Google wants you to consume their content. Google doesn’t want to you live in some local storage kernel, sustaining yourself on just the content that you’ve squirreled away — that’s why they built a whole playground, all for you. Books, magazines, movies, music, apps, games, shows — a whole content multiverse to luxuriate and get lost in, and from time to time, pay for. Cha-ching.
Google wants you to be plugged in always. Or at least as much as possible, that being the more realistic objective. The time you spend connected to the internet, Google cloud services and Google content, is the same time they can follow you around in, to learn about your habits, and monetise the hell out of you via titillating content offerings and recommendations (read that as advertising Google thinks you’ll be interested in). So whether you’re in bed watching watching a movie, or on the bus listening to music, or generally consuming content that you couldn’t shoe-horn into your limited local storage, Google wants to be right there with you. How sweet!
But of course, not all that is good for the Google is necessarily good for the rest of us.
Understandably, Google anticipates a future in which access to the internet is ubiquitous, cheaper and faster. By then, digital content streaming streaming and cloud storage will be second nature. The need for local storage on devices will become redundant and likely atrophy till it reaches the barest minimum required for system critical software.
Unfortunately, that future is not here yet. Instead, the present reality for most people consists of expensive AND capped data plans, not to mention spotty broadband quality. The local storage limitations on the Nexus 4 sting even more when you consider that save for apps, most content in Google’s ecosystem — books, music, movies and devices — are available to just a few countries and closed to most of the world. But that is a different story altogether.
All of this will however not stop boat-loads of people all over the world from wanting — and buying the Nexus 4 when it becomes available on the 13th of November, with many (myself included) going so far as to “import” it. And why not? Afterall, the Nexus 4 is the current pinnacle of Google’s Android software in its purest form, assured of the latest updates, encased in some really envelope-pushing hardware (if you don’t hold the lack of LTE against it), and to top it off, it will sell for a mouth-watering bargain of $299/349 respectively.
All things considered, the Nexus 4 is a steal. It’s unlikely that a 16GB storage ceiling will keep it from selling out. In the words of the ancient Jedi master, and possible Google mentor, Yoda, “size matters not”. Fact is, the Nexus 4 is amazing technology for an amazing price. The storage gripes pale in comparison, and Google knows it.
Whether you’re going to be able to live within the Nexus 4’s meagre storage means, or augment them with Google’s cloud is ultimately up to you. The last iteration of the Nexus smartphone range had a 32GB option. That is unlikely to happen again. Duarte’s comments are a good indication that local storage has been demoted on the company’s list of priorities. Going forward, we can expect to see an aggressive Google push into the cloud, while they wait for users to catch up to them.