Samsung Focus + microSD

Prompted by the controversy over whether a Samsung Focus (and, thus, any Windows Phone, presumably) can utilize additional storage via microSD expansion, I decided to give it a shot.

You may recall that Microsoft said they would not support this upgrade, and that its own testing, verified by others, suggests that this upgrade is fraught with reliability and performance issues. But AT&T has said explicitly that the upgrade is supported and will work just fine. I guess it comes down to whom you trust.

The rules here are simple. If my upgrade works, this proves nothing because others may do the same thing and fail. If my upgrade fails, Microsoft is right, and AT&T is wrong. There’s nothing like a definitive answer. :)

I purchased a 16 GB microSD card that Patriot markets specifically for the Samsung Focus. Well, at least on Amazon. When you actually get the package, you can see that it’s a generic class 4 microSDHC.

microSD_01

microSD_02

Before wiping out the phone via the Reset function, I made sure all my phone pictures were downloaded to the PC. In Windows, I told the Zune PC software to “forget” the Focus, and then removed it from my allotments for both Zune Pass and the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Then, I removed the phone from the PC and shut it down.

Opening the back battery cover on the Focus, you can see the slot for the microSD card. Plugging it in is a fairly straightforward affair.

microSD_03

microSD_04

When you turn on the phone, it boots up normally and doesn’t “see” the microSD card. The About screen still reports the old storage amount.

microSD_05

So I did the reset. After a few “are you sure”-type screens, the phone reboots and comes up in its virgin state. I logged on with my Windows Live ID and headed back to the About screen. Voila. It now shows the additional storage, for a total of 24 GB (8 GB internal plus the 16 GB microSD).  Well, it’s 22.09 GB thanks to the wonders of PC/electronic device math, or 20.94 GB of available storage, thanks to the requirements of the OS.

microSD_06

As I write this, I’m re-downloading apps and games over the air, and I will sync it back to the same PC and see how things go. As you hopefully understand, it will take a while before I can be sure all is well. But I’ll report back if I have any issues, and over time, if I do not.

Wish me luck. :)

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71 Responses to Samsung Focus + microSD

  1. Daniel Aguilar says:

    Love to know if you get any performance issues. Well, hopefully you dont get any at all.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Right. I guess the nice thing about the phone is that, aside from any on-phone photos, you could be in the middle of a road trip and just wipe the thing out without worrying about losing anything. That said, I did wait until I was home for a few weeks before trying this. :)

  2. Jared S. says:

    I am very interested to see what happens on this Paul. I am planning to head to the AT&T store on Monday and was thinking about this aspect. It sounds like I can get the phone and then do the SD addition later as long as I have all of my setup done right.

  3. 123keith says:

    I am REALLY curious to see how this turns out. I hope boot times and app loading don’t slow down.

  4. romit says:

    I think you have mentioned this before, but if you reset, does Zune PC software know which apps to download since you had them on your phone before reset? Or I have to make a list of apps and keep it current in case I have to reset?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      My understanding is that apps you downloaded from the Zune PC software will sync to the phone automatically whereas apps you downloaded OTA will need to be manually redownloaded. I’m still doing some manual installs and will sync to the PC in a bit.

  5. kurtsh says:

    I’m wondering if someone – anyone – would start collecting information about microSD flash cards (brand, model, year) that are tested and function as extended memory on the Samsung Focus and don’t exhibit any negative symptoms post-installation. Obviously with the complete and total randomness of SD performance depending on brand, year of manufacture, etc. (we’ve tested numerous Class 6 cards that have been, upon review, slower than Class 2 or Class 4) it may be something that I think could only be crowdsourced but it’s and idea.

    Given the likely popularity of this particular model of WP7, I would think that this would be an interesting opportunity for someone to:
    1) Easily lobby manufacturers for “free test memory” units
    2) Garner a fair number of advertising hits/impressions from traffic

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      The issue is that, according to Microsoft, there are huge differences between individual cards of the same make and model.

  6. Brian says:

    Why would Microsoft allow so much confusion around storage on WP7. I assume this is partially due to not designing the phone themselves but I assume they were closely involved with the manufacturers. I am anxiously waiting your follow-up on this and appreciate you playing guinea pig for the us :)

    Did Microsoft’s market research tell them that 8gb would be sufficient for storage? I currently have an Iphone 3G 8GB and I am using just over half of that right now so I assume 8GB would be plenty for me then on WP7. Knowing I could upgrade the storage myself and if all goes well for you makes me feel a little more confident.

    I noticed you purchased Class 4 Micro SD. I see also Class 2 and Class 6. I don’t know anyting about these. Are the different classes related to write / access speed? Does WP7 support the other classes or just Class 4?

    • wixostrix says:

      Microsoft didn’t create this confusion. Their first public response said that WP7 would not support user accessible storage. If manufactures built phones with them it is up to them or the carrier to test the devices. Apparently, Microsoft was aware of the issues and is working on fixing something they never entended on supporting, or not yet at least.

      Also, Microsoft has no say in how much storage a device has except for the 8 GB minimum requirement. For most people, 8 GB is enough and they can leverage the 25 GB available on SkyDrive. They could have required 16 GB but you have to look at things from a manufacturing and resell standpoint.

      • Brian says:

        Microsoft didn’t create the confusion? Seems to me they are at the root of it. The fact that we are discussing it here is clear there is confusion as to whether or not this can be done and if so is it going to break something. When I buy and Iphone do I know or not know how much storage I have no question? You bet. Did Microsoft leave questions without a 100% official answer? You bet. As the company marketing the phone as a Windows Phone, you should not have questions like this.

        I agree with you, 8GB maybe enough for me and many others but when your competiors are not really offering anyting less than 16GB at similar price points (with contract of course) then maybe you should reconsider the requirements. And as for the manufacturers…this is not your first rodeo. You know how to make phones, you know people want storage. Why even go down this road of no upgradable storage???

      • wixostrix says:

        But they answered the question. Do the phones support expanded storage? The answer is yes but they will not be user accessible meaning the software will work with a memory card in place but is up to the OEM to put a card in the device. That was their answer. If the OEM does put a card in there it’s up to them to test it just like any other componet. However, OEMs like Samsung decided to make the MicroSD card slot accessible anyway and Microsoft made it clear that they did not recommend users add cards themselves because of how the OS handles data and performance issues. So how can any of this be blamed on Microsoft?

        Also, all of the US devices have 16 GB storage with the exception of the Samsung Focus, probably due to the exclusive SAMOLED display. A comparable iPhone 4 model and Android device is the same price, which contract, as the all Windows Phone 7 devices at retail.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        Microsoft has mishandled this from day one, sorry.

        Their communication around this issue has been late in coming, inaccurate when it did arrive, and ultimately unhelpful. Internally, they blamed me for “promoting” the fact that it was possible. Getting them to respond publicly at all has been like pulling teeth and when I finally did get to ask about it in a face to face, I was told it was the wireless carrier’s problem.

        Put simply, Microsoft has washed its hands of this issue. And to be clear, they’re the ones that made this feature possible, not Samsung, or AT&T, or anyone else. So let’s not mince words here or misplace the blame. This is a problem of Microsoft’s making, and they are not doing the right thing at all. If SD doesn’t work, don’t let it be used, and specify a different kind of upgrade. Or don’t allow upgrades, just like the iPhone. But do something, and support it, and be clear about it.

        That’s not too much to ask, is it?

      • Joe says:

        Paul you’re absolutely right. The idea that it’s the media’s fault for “promoting” it is such b.s., considering that AT&T promoted it and Samsung did too. I mean, hello: it’s right there on the product packaging and documentation!

        Microsoft can’t have it both ways, saying they’re taking more control of the hardware and working more closely with the OEMs first–and then waffling when it comes to a use case their OEM Samsung promoted presumably with their acquiesence!

  7. gpsarakis says:

    It’ll be hard to test performance wise I think since you have no idea if the apps are going to internal or the microSD card now. It could be random in it’s placement, if the thing came with a 8GB card from the get go and you swapped that out we’d get a clearer picture I think.

    Do you have to have the zune software forget the phone when you do this or was that just an extra step you did to make sure?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      You do this explicitly, and it’s something you should do, as each “instance” of the phone could be seen as separate phones.

      • gahbmwm5 says:

        Thanks Paul for this information as I too just purchased the 16GB Patriot Class 4 card…Am awaiting delivery soon. Twice the memory for a similar price of the so-call Windows Phone 7 certified 8GB Class 4 cards (none of the AT&T Corp stores in my area even have them yet, nor do they know when they will be getting them…lol!)

        I have been following a thread @XDA Focus Forums, and it seems *most* people with Class 4 cards @16GB, are now stating that they are *not* getting any performance issues or random reboots that some did prior to installing NoDo Firmware update…In fact I have spoke to three different AT&T Corp Store Managers who stated (as I’m viewing this with baited breath), that the NoDo update did in fact correct these SD card issues….They stated that they received *internal memos* to this effect?!? No official word as of yet But their *certifed* SanDisk 8GB class 4 cards @$32 +Tax………But I still see that some users are still having issues with various 32GB SD cards…after official NoDo updates…
        Enjoyed your blog coverage @MIXII conference, and as always keep up the great, informative posts!

  8. mooreshelby says:

    Samsung has also replied to the SD issue on Twitter stating several times:

    @danz32 @Samsungservice yes. you can choose class 2 or higher microSD card #WP7Focus

    @KewlGuyTexas our apologies. Samsung Focus supports class 2 OR HIGHER microSD #WP7Focus

    @LazyDonut class 2 microSD cards #WP7Focus

    @Daylater you can expand memory up to 32GB class 2 microSD #WP7Focus

    Not sure if that helps, or adds fire to the story. :-)

  9. Rob Keiser says:

    I’ve picked up 2 Kingston 32Gb MicroSD Class 4 cards and I’m testing them as I write this using H2testw to see how they perform. So far the first one came through without errors with a write speed of 4.38 MByte/s and a read speed of 14.4 MByte/s. Did you do any testing with your cards before you put them in the phone? I am planning on picking up the Focus on Monday and I’ll be putting the fastest of the two into it.

    Wish me luck…

  10. qjohnston says:

    Didn’t see it anywhere but do u have an in depth review of the focus? Thinking about getting one.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      No, not a specific Focus review.

      • qjohnston says:

        Thanks. I looked at the Focus today. It has a gorgeous screen and it is very light. However, it seemed to have all kinds of fingerprints on it. More noticeable than the iPhone I think. Has this been a problem for you at all, or maybe it was just because it was at the store with everyone touching it?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        No, it’s no more smudgetastic than other phones. Could be the harsh lighting in there too; the OLED screen might be particularly prone to showing that in such situations.

  11. Seon says:

    I am on Tmobile which means I am getting the HTC HD7 on Monday, now I know if I open it up my warranty is kaboot but since its only a limited 1 year warranty…and I have equipment insurance, if anything were to go wrong, I did just send it back in anyways or claim it was stolen..my 16gb ipod is full!

    • romit says:

      Btw, you don’t need to wait till Monday to get the HD7. My neighborhood TMo store was selling it yesterday (Friday) already!

  12. rburte says:

    Hey there Paul, for an interesting discussion of SD Card quality issues, see http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=918. As for ATT vs MSFTs take on this, I guess whoever is going to get the brunt of complaints/costs is going to be the most defensive…

  13. roberthleeii says:

    I went to the at&t store on Friday and they had the phones. I got to play with the HTC surround. I have to get a WP7 Phone it was great. the guy at at&t said they received 50 boxes of stuff to redo the store for Monday. That is not all wp7 but i guess we will see some big changes for wp7 come Monday.

    The guy knew nothing about the phones though. I wanted to ask him about if they would be offering memory cards for the focus but he informed me they all would be 16gig, so i just dropped the question then.

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  15. swarnock2525 says:

    After reading about this it seems that the 32GB cards are going to have the most problems. I remember Paul saying before he was going to put a 32GB in his focus but now he put a 16GB. Was there a reason for this or was that just what you happened to receive for testing?

    • BI_Tinkering says:

      Since I have to guess, it would be because the 16gb Patriot is tagged as being made for the Focus. If I take this leap I also am going to opt for a faster 16gb, but probably just a class 6. Class 10’s are there to be had, but at almost twice the price. The only real result of dropping size is that I’ll actually have to think about how much music I put on my phone.

  16. mikem4879 says:

    I went to the AT&T store today and they had the phones out for sale. I picked up a Focus. I couldn’t believe they were selling them a day early.

    • hashpot666 says:

      well we’ll find out today how many phones were actually available in our local stores :). Until yesterday, local stores in my area only had the Windows Phones stations ready – the phones weren’t setup yet and were not available to be looked at by consumers.

  17. twistontech says:

    I got my Samsung Focus at the AT&T Store yesterday. I bought a 16GB MicroSD from Best Buy – http://www.bestbuy.com/site/SanDisk+-+16GB+microSDHC+Memory+Card/9054337.p?id=1218012520281&skuId=9054337&st=Sandisk%2016GB&cp=1&lp=8

    That’s a Class 2 card for $60, which was the best price I could find around here at retail. I’ve been using it for almost a day now and I haven’t seen any speed or performance issues nor any other types of problems.

  18. humphreysr says:

    I put a Transcend 16G card in my Focus. Everything looked ok until I reboot – back to factory defaults. It would reset on every reboot. I look at the memory and it was showing 15G. strange. Took the card out and reset the phone and all is well. I tried two cards each had the same thing happen.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      See, this is what I mean by the possible outcomes: If my phone works fine with an SD card, it proves nothing. Even a handful of misfires like your experience demonstrates that something is wrong, however.

    • BI_Tinkering says:

      Sounds like your card is actually an 8GB badged as 16GB. I’d exchange it for one that is the capacity it says it is.

  19. bzibricky says:

    I’m going to pick up a Focus tonight and called Samsung to investigate a bit before hand. I was told that Samsung only supports 8GB Class 2 cards from Sandisk and I believe the lady may also have mentioned Gigabyte. She must have asked three different people for this information, so take it for whatever it’s worth.
    Looks like I have to return a 16GB Kingston card I bought from Amazon (glad I didn’t open it).
    Side note: This is ridiculous and highly annoying. It’s also sucks that it kinda takes the fun out of picking up my new phone, knowing I’ll have to reset when I get the memory.
    Brian

  20. Pingback: AT&T Warning Samsung Focus Customers to Not Install microSD Cards | PhoneNews.com

  21. psjohnson96 says:

    Thought i would add to the conversation…I bought my Focus this morning. Initially i used only the built in memory b/c an AT&T rep warned me not to put in a memory card until AT&T issues a “patch”. After about 4 hours acclimating myself to the phone (including downloading apps and familiarizing myself with the speed of the phone), I decided to take the plung.

    I installed my 32GB Kingston Class 4 microSD card (from Newegg). After reseting the phone my Focus accuarately read that I now had 40GB (minus a gig or 2 for the OS). As i have played with it since and downloaded many of the same apps i had before installing the card, it seems to run just as fast. I do not notice any extra lag. Not a scientific test, but just my experience.

    Hope that helps someone!

  22. nicholas1029 says:

    Hey Paul. It seems like you are liking the Focus, but I was wondering how the capacitive buttons were working for you? My main fear is that I might be in a game and accidentally tap a button and get kicked out. Have you had any accidental presses? Or is there some kind of “safety” built in to distinguish between full-on presses and accidental brushes?

    Aside from this one thing, everything else looks great and I intend to pick up a Windows Phone ASAP (most likely the Focus or the Surround).

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I haven’t had that issue in a game yet. I have, however, hit the “Bing” button by mistake several times, enough that I’ve noted it. And yes, it’s because it’s a capacitive, easy-to-press button. Definitely a bit of an issue. But I’m OK with it.

  23. Pingback: Warning, Will Robinson ATT lies to it’s customers about a known microSD card issue « DoGizmo.com

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  25. Practical suggestion: use Sandisk class 2 cards. I haven’t seen any reports of problems with Sandisk class 2 cards. I’m not advertising for Sandisk, just reporting what I have read in other forums. My Kingston 16GB class 10 card did not work in the Focus. My much cheaper Sandisk 16GB class 2 card worked. In other forums, people have been happy with their Sandisk 32GB cards. One report of an A Data class 6 16GB card working. Two reports of Kingston class 6 16GB card not working.

  26. johnmarkdyer says:

    I tried it with a 32gb class 4 kingston card. It was working fine with nearly 40gb of storage. I loaded it up with music, videos, podcasts, and apps. All of it was working flawlessly. I woke up today and everything was gone. Including my contacts, call and message history, and even the preloaded at&t apps. I can’t access the marketplace or the music + videos hub at all. I checked the storage and its telling me there is a total of 32mb (yes, mb). I tried reseting it with and without the sd card and nothing changes. It seems that my sd card is now useless as it shows up on my pc as an 8mb raw partition that can’t be formatted.

  27. fhilton says:

    I installed a 16 GB Transcend class 6 card right after I bought my Focus. I had a couple of crashes with The Harvest, which are probably due to the memory card being too slow (despite it being a class 6 card).

    Then when I rebooted it came up with factory settings (minus AT&T built-in apps) and saying that it had only 15 GB of memory instead of 22 GB. So I rebooted several times with the same result. Then I removed the memory card and rebooted and still no difference. Then I tried a factory reset without the card in and STILL no AT&T apps and the wrong size memory reported.

    Even worse, when I try to plug it into the computer now I get a driver error issue and it is not appearing in the Zune software at all. I think my phone is bricked and I’m going to have to return it. Let this be a lesson for all of you planning on installing a memory card: it can completely ruin your phone!

    • fhilton says:

      Correction: WP7 says my phone has 15.73 MB of total storage with 10.82 MB remaining. Not GB, MB like the previous post.

      • fhilton says:

        Okay I think I fixed it (at least got it back to factory settings without the memory card). I apparently wasn’t holding down the 3 buttons (down volume, camera and power) long enough during boot to get the Format screen. I held them down for several seconds into the boot process and got the message asking me to format the memory, which I did. Then when it booted it took my to the getting started screens. Now my phone is back to factory settings sans any memory upgrades and it’s going to stay like that until and unless Samsung, AT&T, and Microsoft get something figured out to make this work reliably.

    • johnmarkdyer says:

      The same exact thing happened to me with a 32gb class 4 Kingston card. I can’t figure out how to get my sd card functional again. It just shows up as 8mb of raw unformatted data and windows can’t format it. Let me know if you’ve had this problem as well and found a solution. Thanks.

  28. buckstermcgee says:

    Hey Paul with your Focus do you notice the screen turn bluish when you look at it from an angle? Looking directly on my screen is perfectly white, but as you turn it and look at it from an angle it gets a blue/cyan tint. It almost looks like it from an antiglare type film/coating

    Also, I heard that it’s only 16bit color atm, if that’s true any chance that will be updated?

    P.S. I love this WP7 keyboard :) In fact it might be too good. If I can keep typing this sloppy and have it fix everything so well then I’m afraid my typing will get even worse. ;)

  29. Hi Paul,

    I’ve noticed you haven’t updated this blog in a couple of days and I’m curious as to how this card is performing for you. Specifically, I would like to know how far north of 8G you have added to your Focus, and if you have experienced any performance hits.

    Should I drop one of these cards in my Focus?

    Thank you!

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      No issues so far. As noted previously, this isn’t evidence of anything working per se, but it’s not causing problems here.

  30. Thanks for the update, and yes, your results don’t actually prove anything. You do seem to be one of the minority as far as I can tell.

    I’m on an extended trip. I have both the Focus as well as this card waiting for me back in the U.S. From the reading I have been doing it appears that with several of the SD cards, the problems don’t manifest themselves until the device is filled with an amount of data which ensures utilization of the card. On the Focus, this would obviously mean north of the 8G the device shipped with. I can find few accounts from those who have used in excess of say 12G of space who remain completely free of problems with this device. Perhaps this is the card to use…….

    Thanks a million for your great review!

  31. vesolis says:

    I decided to take a chance and ordered a 16GB microSDHC card from Amazon. At first i was going to get the same one that Paul linked to, but I noticed one for $26 (http://amzn.to/flcRCO) and ordered that one instead. I removed my device from Zune and reset my phone w/the card installed. My available memory jumped to 22GB. I synced up some movies and music and rebooted my phone and all the remained intact. Guess I got lucky.

  32. jasonprahl says:

    I have a Samsung Focus with a 32gb microsd card made by SanDisk and I’ve been having random reboots. I haven’t been able to identify or see a pattern to it. I’m going to remove the sd card and reset to see if the reboots stop. Anyone else with a Samsung Focus experiencing random reboots? Sometimes when it reboots it comes up with no user information, almost like a completely new profile. I turn it off and back on and it comes up with my accounts and such. No idea if it’s related to the SD card or not.

    • darrickwest says:

      Yep. Your microSD does not meet the requires for use with Windows Phone 7.

      My Samsung Focus would occassionally randomly reboot and sometimes came up ‘blank': like it had just been configured; but, a power cycle would restore the phone and all its contents: it worked this way for 30+ days. But the last time it rebooted, I didn’t notice and acknowledged a settings request and I inserted the USB plug to charge it up immediately afterward. It seems a coincedence that after I did that, the phone would not recover without doing a system reboot: back to the oobe.

      Now my Samsung Focus will not even initialize the 32GB microSD SansDisk Class 2 card I purchased. I miss my 40GB of storage: not to mention I’m out $85!!!

      I hope a solution is discovered. 8GB is not enough!!!

      I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. Beware: Your microSD may become COMPLETELY useless: unless you have access to a Nokia N8 or know computer engineers with access to device porgrammmers.

      Your phone won’t be bricked: you just won’t have storage beyond 8GB. Note: This is ***not*** Microsoft’s fault.

      I still love WP7 and the Samsung Focus.

  33. jasonprahl says:

    Yeah, after removing the 32 gb ad and doing a hard reset I’m not having the reboots. I actually had another 32 gb card that I tried and it wasn’t rebooting but it was running really slow and having a hard time getting music sync’d to it. This one was a Kingston 32gb that was marked as a class 4. I do still love Windows Phone 7 but really wish I could get more than 8gb of storage! Maybe they’ll have an update that will address this issue.

  34. luaper21 says:

    Paul, I’m thinking of getting the Focus with the Patriot microsd. Have you had any problems with your microsd? slow downs? syncing Zune? and have you used up the 8 GB of internal memory yet?

  35. ericwentz says:

    Paul, Just picked up the Patriot 16Gb microSD for my Focus – I seem to be having performance issues, especially when copying music from the Zune software – comments?
    Also, after resetting the device, I went to re-download the Netflix app & couldn’t find it. Have you heard anything about this?

  36. smashingpcs says:

    Just joined the group and I’ve read all off the post’s on the SD card. One question I have, when you reset the phone after updating the card; do you loose all of your downloaded apps, in particular ones you’ve paid for.
    SMASH

  37. Pingback: AT&T apparently selling "certified" SD cards for Windows Phone now | Windows Phone Secrets

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