Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Steve Jobs' decision to omit a memory card slot in the iPhone, iPod touch was/is wrong (for a few years, at least)

During a Management Information Systems [MIS] class at Korea University Business School, one of the class groups made a presentation in which the folks recommended that Apple should add a memory card slot to the iPhone [they also suggested adding removable batteries, allowing third-party Web browsers, as well as other additions, in an apparent effort to add every "missing" feature to the iDevices].

At that time, I vehemently opposed the idea of adding a memory card slot to the iDevices. Why? Because I use a Nokia N72 phone [based on the Symbian OS] which uses a dual-storage structure and I find this structure unnecessarily complicated and inefficient [some photos are on the internal storage, others on the SD card, some applications on the internal memory, some on SD, and so on]. I had argued that the internal-storage-only structure used by the iDevices is clean, simple and straightforward, and that it has added benefits such as an absence of accidental/malicious tampering with the file system and its contents [since the iOS itself is largely a locked OS, so raw access to the file system is available neither via hardware nor software].

I realized that I was wrong about at least one thing [memory card slot] in November of 2012, when my much beloved iPod touch mysteriously and suddenly died one day, with no warning whatsoever. Dead like a dead fish. No heartbeat could be felt. No buttons to push, no lights to be seen, nothing to be opened.

I lost several gigabytes of critical data.

It was then that I realized the importance of a removable memory card. Had my iPod touch had all my data on a SD card, I wouldn't have lost a byte when it died [assuming that all notes, etc., were stored in a human-readable format]. It also occurred to me that since the iDevices cannot be opened [normally], you can easily lose several gigabytes of your data simply if/when your iDevice accidentally falls down and breaks - since you cannot yourself remove its flash memory chips to recover your data [one will almost certainly need professional help, assuming the data isn't stored in an encrypted form]. n00bs will argue that one can/should take backup of one's iDevices, but n00bs aren't aware that it's not easy to backup all your iOS data.

The latter - losing gigabytes of data when your iDevice falls down and breaks - is such a probable event that it has become a dealbreaker for me for my future purchases of iDevices.

Does it means that Steve Jobs was wrong? He was wrong to assume that his iDevices wouldn't break - I had assumed this too, until mine broke. However, Jobs' vision wasn't wrong - in the future, when high-speed wireless networks are as pervasive as air is, there will not be any need of external memory cards, since all data [whether notes or photos or videos or emails] will be automatically stored online. Until then, I'll buy only those devices where the data is decoupled from the device.


  1. Although I agree somewhat to your point, but I am still not sure that why did not you had enabled Wifi-Syncing feature in your iPod touch.

    Being an iPhone user, I have enabled Wifi-syncing (backup) feature and whenever I connect my phone to charger at home, the desktop/laptop starts taking a backup. So, even in case I lose my device, I can safely extract all my data using the backup stored in my computer.

  2. @Spyder

    Does it backup everything on your iDevice? If yes, I regret not knowing about this feature earlier. I must also add that I considered my iPod touch as too high-quality a device to ever require backing up, even if there was a way... never cared to find out a way...

  3. Update [Mar'15]: Now I feel that this combination of non-removable battery and absence of a memory card slot is a potentially fatal combination. The device becomes almost useless if the battery cannot be replaced [it, of course, is good for companies because this creates repeat demand]. Secondly, as said before, one fall is all that's needed to evaporate several gigabytes of critical data. Not a sensible combination.

  4. Update [May'15]: Looking at phones such as Xiaomi Mi4i [], it's clear that phone companies are making such 'castrated' phones [lacking a card slot, with low inbuilt storage, a non-removable battery, and with proprietary connectors in some cases] only to leech and skin the customer. For example, Mi4i's camera resolutions are such that the inbuilt memory will quickly run out, leaving the user with no practical option for further storage, forcing him to use paid online storage services. Why not spend a few more rupees/cents and put in a memory card slot? I've made it a policy to never buy phones that are designed to skin the customer in the above ways.

  5. Update [Oct'15]: A related FB post by me: