Samsung appears ready to finally introduce the 'adoptable storage' feature that was first introduced to Android way back at the end of 2015 with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, based on recently shared images to the XDA Developers forum highlighting the company's current Android 9 Pie Beta. Specifically, the feature is said to have been discovered on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 running Samsung Android Pie CRK3 release of the test software. That should mean that the feature will show up in the final update to the Samsung Galaxy firmware, although it also currently appears to be malfunctioning for the time being. While the problem will almost certainly be fixed before the roll-out of the finished update, the process of mounting a microSD card crashes at around 40-percent completion.
Background: For clarity, both because the feature was added to Android so long ago and because not many OEMs ever took advantage of it, adaptable storage is a way to extend internal capacity by adding a microSD card. First, Android encrypts an SD card that has been inserted into a compatible device and then the system treats it as part of the internal storage itself. For example, if a user bought an Android Go edition phone that only shipped with 8GB of storage out of the box but allowed for adoptable storage, a 32GB card could feasibly be added to increase the overall storage to 40GB - minus the storage that's taken up by the OS itself. With that said, since its introduction, adaptable storage hasn't necessarily been enabled in many handsets and even less in premium flagships. That's in part due to problems with unmounting the SD card used, with difficulties in moving the data to a larger card or to a different device and partially because SD cards are typically slower than the flash ROM used in smartphones.
The former issue is only really pertinent if a user runs out of space despite using the feature or if the user wants to put the SD card in a different device. The second issue can crop up more frequently since inconsistent speeds between storage mediums can create bottlenecks in the execution of code on the read and write side of things. That results in lag for the smartphone's owner if the SD or microSD card chosen isn't high-end enough to at least begin approaching usable speeds. Regardless, many users have still wanted a way to expand on their handset's internal storage capacity in a way that's easier to accomplish than manually moving apps and files around. Chiefly, that's because manually moving apps presents entirely separate problems since even something as seemingly benign as a new update for an SD card-stored application - without adaptable storage enabled - can mean that the app will move back internal storage. So users often have to continually move their apps back to a card after updates, if no adoptable storage has been enabled, which becomes a bigger problem the more apps a user has installed.
Impact: It isn't immediately clear how many Galaxy-branded handsets will receive this feature initially with its version of Android 9 Pie - or if Samsung will choose to introduce it in the final version at all. However, it would have obvious benefits for budget-friendly offerings from the company and particularly for those devices that are being sold at the very bottom of the overall Android price bracket. In all likeliness, that's where it will have the most impact and where it would be used the most since flagships can ship with more than 128GB of storage. So it may not be too surprising to see the feature making an appearance this far from its initial introduction. Adoptable storage could be a great way for the Korean tech giant to set its products apart from those of its biggest competitors in the segment where it currently needs the most help.