Thoughts on S60

reflections on the most popular mobile operating system worldwide

Quantity VS Quality: Looking at mobile device storage

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Aside from the megapixel race in mobile cameras, it seems we’ve seen a constant increase in demand for higher storage capacities as well. Although not the first mobile device to implement it, it seemed to start with the fixed 4 and 8gb iPhones in 2007, combatted by the N95 8gb, with the iPhone 3G in 8gb and 16gb variants fighting it out with the N96 the following year with 16gb+microSD slot (despite the N96 failing in several areas). It seems that this year is going to be no different with rumors flying that the next-gen iPhone is going to come in 16 and 32gb flavors to compete against the 32gb+microSD slotted N97. While I agree that more is almost certainly always going to be better in this regard, I believe there are conditions to be met to ensure that people are getting the most out of such an immense amount of storage.

Keep reading to understand what I’m talking about.

In trying to understand the purpose of adding more capacity to these devices, the only logical advantage I can see is time and speed, relating very heavily upon each other. People want to save time by keeping the most content on their device, so they can save time by not having to swap that content more frequently, and they want the process to be fast, again saving them more time. I’m going to try to group these together as best I can.


Before I continue, let’s remember the N95 8gb. At the time of its launch, 8gb microSD cards were only starting to come down in price and higher classes were starting to become available too. Still, the other advantages of the N95 8gb (larger screen, all black color) made it a pretty good buy for those looking for a lot of storage on a phone as an alternative to the iPhone.

The only problem was USB 1.1.

For whatever reason, the N95 8gb (both the EURO and NAM variants) were plagued with only supporting USB 1.1, so filling that valuable 8gb worth of memory took simply age, much less having to repeatedly do so when you are ready to swap out your content. It wasn’t the end of the world for managing your media, but it was certainly slower and more time consuming than going through the same process on the USB 2.0 equipped iPhone.

The other issue influencing higher capacity memory was the read/write speeds. When 8gb cards originally became available, you could buy them in speeds of Class 4 or the cheaper Class 2, neither of which really excelled in data transfer. It was only later that we started seeing Class 6 and Class 8 cards which made a visible difference in how fast data was transferred. Even now, the fastest 16gb microSD card available for mobile devices is only a Class 4, priced at almost double that of the Class 2 cards.


When you have more storage space on your phone, it’s supposed to save you time. In theory, it allows you to keep more media so you don’t have to waste time reorganizing your content to keep things fresh. For memory cards (of any type) you don’t have to continuously swap them out when they are larger. Having a single 16gb card of content is obviously more convenient than carrying 2 8gb cards to keep the same content with you (with the exception of the speed issues of 16gb cards mentioned above).

Now with the i8910 becoming more widely available, I can’t help but feel like the 16gb+microSD solution is a bit dated when compared to some of these newer devices (though, I was never able to fill the 16gb in the N96 I trialled). That said, when remembering the point to larger capacities in the first place, I don’t think it much matters. Here’s why.

To the best of my recollection, I can not recall a single video that I was able to transfer to a Nokia S60 device, without conversion, and have it play without additional 3rd party software. The game was always trying to find a conversion method to get a large video to play properly with Real Player or use a 3rd party alternative like DivX or SmartMovie (the former lagging during fast action scenes, the latter still requiring conversion). Also given that converting full length movies can sometimes take as long as watching the movie itself, depending on the original quality.

This is where the quality comes in. One of the best features of my (now very dated) Creative Zen Vision M was the larger amounts of video formats that it supported. Some videos still required conversion, but most of my standard avi files could be simple dragged and dropped into it and played back without a problem.

One of the key advantages of the i8910 is that it can also playback these same formats natively. This is important for me if for no other reason than to get back all of the time I used to waste converting videos on previous devices. In this regard, I would much prefer to have 16gb+8/16gb microSD card on a device that can play more formats without losing time with conversion than a device with 32gb+8/16gb microSD slot that requires all of my content be converted. If time is the real advantage, the difference in capacity doesn’t make much of a difference anyway.


Written by Jonathan

May 22, 2009 at 10:16 pm

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