Today's phones and tablets are pretty powerful and can do almost anything a desktop computer can do.
Whether it’s work or play, your mobile device is going to need a lot of storage to keep all your files at your fingertips.
The internal storage of your phone is pretty self-explanatory. When you buy a 32GB phone, that’s the amount of storage you have — kind of. You don’t actually have full access, and, in some cases, you end up with about half the shown storage for your own apps and media. Much of the storage is used up right out of the box by the operating system. The next largest piece includes pre-installed apps from the manufacturer or apps installed by your carrier that subsidize the price of the device.
The ability to expand the memory on your smartphone has ebbed and flowed in recent years. Before storage became cheap with the rise of cloud storage, many manufacturers decided to remove the ability to add storage through a microSD card. Some companies, like Apple, have been against it from the beginning, with no indication of changing their position in the foreseeable future. Google with the Android OS may bring the pendulum back toward having the ability to expand your storage with one of their recent OS updates. This gave the ability to use a microSD card in conjunction with the internal storage to recognize itself as one large drive.
Even if you decide against making your SD card a permanent part of your storage, you can still use the SD card as portable storage like you would with a camera or other device. The Samsung Galaxy S7 has been the first flagship model from a major manufacturer to add an internal SD card tray, which can support up to 200GB. This is far beyond even the largest storage model of 32GB.
Phones without an SD card tray have more limited options when it comes to expanding your storage potential. Essentially, you have to have access to specialized flash drives that have the required port (microUSB, USB-C or Lightning). These work like normal flash drives, except they can natively attach to your phone. This works well with other types of media, such as photos and videos, but less so for games. If you’re a gamer, these keep your storage clean of other types of media, with the added benefit of having a copy in a separate location in case your phone is lost, stolen or broken.
Android users have a wealth of file explorer apps from the Play Store. Some of these drives have the app pre-installed and are customized to work well with the hardware. Drives like these often have encryption added to keep your files safe from anyone who isn’t supposed to see it.
If you’re in an area with good data speeds or are on your Wi-Fi network, storage is much less of an issue. Backups of photos and videos can be sent to the cloud, so the local files removed from your device. This is also handy for keeping your saved files backed up in case your phone stops working. Google has allowed developers access to cloud storage, so your saved files can be accessed from the Web. That way if you want to keep playing on your second device, you can pick up from where you were, rather than having to start everything over.