Some features are better in theory

Some features are better in theory
Visitors check out new Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphones.

Moments after Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge flagship Android smartphones in the packed hall of the Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona, my immediate thoughts were not on the new features on the devices, but on the fact that I knew what the criticisms of them would be.

Sure enough, comments on the new devices, in The Straits Times Facebook page and all over social media, focused on two things - the S6's fixed battery and the removal of a microSD slot for expandable memory.

Instead of assessing the new glass and metal chassis, speedier processor, curved display and improved camera, the detractors lambasted Samsung for removing two landmark Android features that had consistently been praised as inherent advantages over Apple's iPhones.

More aggressive commentators said that by ditching both features, Samsung was admitting it had been trotting along the wrong track all these years and had taken to following Apple's lead.

I wondered if any of the critics had ever used these features to the fullest extent as I have. And I am quite ready to give them up.

First, let us look at removable batteries. The idea is to allow a user to use a back-up battery when the main one runs low and to be able to replace a battery easily when it approaches the end of its life.

With inexpensive power banks now available, the need for a spare battery and charging cradle has become less compelling.

The trade-off is a much thinner and more compact device that still works as well.

When it comes to microSD storage though, the experience trumps, or rather, overshadows whatever theoretical advantage it might bring.

The use of a microSD to stretch storage space goes back to when early phone models offered a mere 4GB or 8GB of storage. A device that offered 32GB often bumped up the purchase price considerably. So, the expansion slot was a key advantage. But times have changed.

Now, many basic models already offer 32GB of storage, which is plenty for most users. For those looking to include a 64GB or 128GB microSD card to their phone, the end result is not always as efficient.

Using the same 64GB card in my last three Android smartphones, I had my music, movies and other entertainment at my fingertips. However, the card also slowed down my phone considerably.

I had photographs and videos from three devices stored on it. Each time I wanted to access the gallery on the phone, it took a while. If I wanted to share an image via Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, the wait was hugely frustrating.

Actually, anyone with a full storage of images on their phones, no matter the brand, would understand my pain, as being able to store more doesn't make it better. With great capacity came great appetite and I'd download a truckload of free apps from the Amazon App Store. Simply because I could.

Instead, I now carry a flash drive filled with content and plug it into my phone or tablet to get whatever I need.

A few years ago, this would not be necessary, but the influx of new devices and alternative storage solutions has made this a possibility that I am currently embracing.

Samsung is not the first company to remove such features from its devices and, as our usage habits evolve, I expect that tech companies will change accordingly.

If anything, I should blame Samsung for not doing so earlier.

This article was first published on Mar 11, 2015.
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