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Froyo’s Apps to SD not enough for this user

October 11, 2010 | by Ed Clark

Android, Android Apps, Android OS, Paid apps

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One of the reasons I rooted my old G1 so long ago was that I would run out of internal storage so quickly. It was frustrating to pay for apps and then have to uninstall them because I ran out of space. The apps to SD hacks in those early ROMs made my life easier, and I could install pretty much anything I wanted. At one point, I had over 140 apps on my HTC Dream.

I have never rooted my Nexus One, partly because updates happened so quickly that Google stayed ahead of my complaints. Besides wowing the world with Flash 10.1 support, Android 2.2 offered a lot of “Dream List” items for users like me. Faster, smoother, prettier? Check. Tethering? Check. Apps to SD? Built in to Froyo… but wait. Yes, many developers have made the switch to external storage, and I have certainly saved a lot of space with the new “Move to SD card” setting.

(Here’s how: Home Screen: Menu: Settings: Applications: Manage applications: Press “All” tab: Menu: Press “Sort by Size”, select app.)

However, many of my “space hogs” remain: Skype, 13.2MB. Flash, 12.4MB. Maps, 9.3MB. Documents to Go, 8MB. Facebook, 5.1MB. This is partly because these apps use features that will break whenever you mount your phone’s SD card in your computer. A full rundown of what apps should and shouldn’t be allowed to install to the SD card can be found here:

I understand the reasons listed, but having 48MB tied up in “internal-only” apps isn’t going to make anyone happy, particularly when a phone has limited internal storage to begin with. When you take away all the space for OS files and built-in apps on the N1 (and many other Android phones), you have a limited amount of room for other apps. Long story short: the current apps to SD implementation is not quite good enough, and I find that I am uninstalling apps again. Including paid apps. Grrr. At the time of this writing, my phone reports internal available space of 19.8MB after deleting my browser cache. That will last me for a few days, assuming I don’t install anything new.

So what else can be done? I have some suggestions which may or may not be technically feasible. For example, my Browser app data fills up very quickly–it just went up to 40MB the other day and basically shut down my phone. Sure, one option would be to use a different default browser, but I like how well the default browser works with the N1 News/Weather widget. (Note: If you are running out of space on your N1, try checking the size of your Browser app data via the same settings path described above.) Similarly, my Calendar Storage is stuck at 4.77MB, and my Dialer Storage is at 2.88MB.

Does this data really need to live in my phone’s internal storage? I would prefer my Browser user data to be on the SD card, and it would save me a lot of hassle of deleting the cache every few days. Of course, there also should be an option to limit how big the Browser’s cache can get. Calendar and Dialer Storage could live on the SD card as well–after all, if I’m mounting the storage in a computer, I already have access to my Calendar and my Contacts.

Another suggestion is to allow for an actual application exit whenever you mount your card. In other words, we should see a warning along the lines of: “Mounting your card as SD storage will shut down Skype, Flash, Maps, etc, etc, until you run these applications again.” This may not be possible, but it sure as heck would be useful.

Finally, we need developers to enable installing to SD whenever possible. I love Devilry Huntress, Aldiko, and Astro, but I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be moved to my external storage. (Note that I am NOT picking on these excellent apps, but just using them as examples.) What do you think, Android developers–are these ideas possible? If so, let’s make it happen.