AT&T apparently selling "certified" SD cards for Windows Phone now

There are many reasons why the Samsung Focus is currently the “best” Windows Phone model in my opinion, but one of the big ones is that it supports SD-based memory expansion. Sell, perhaps “supports” is a strong word. It has SD-based memory expansion. But as we discussed to death before the NoDo delays issue consumed everything else in its wake, Microsoft wasn’t interested in supporting this feature at all, and it left doing so to the wireless carriers that originally demanded it.

A bit of background: A year ago, when I first contacted and then met with the Windows Phone team about their new baby, one of the things they made very clear to me (and, as with a few other things, this was completely miscommunicated, of course) was that Windows Phone would NOT support memory expansion. So imagine my surprise when the Windows Phone launch came around and there were a handful of phones that actually did have this capability.

The thing is, Microsoft’s stance on expansion hadn’t really changed: Yes, it bowed to wireless carrier demands (they DO love the up-sell, remember) and allowed hardware makers to build this capability into devices. But Microsoft refused to support it at all, because it’s own tests demonstrated that there was absolutely no way to really determine whether any particular SD card would actually work reliably in this capacity. That is, you could buy an SD card, stick it in the phone, reset it (a requirement), and then see if it worked. If it did, great. If not, the card would likely be hosed, and you were free to remove it (and reset) and possibly retry with a new card (again, resetting it).

I was lucky: The first SD card I purchased worked just fine and continues to work to this day. So my phone has 24 GB of storage—8 built-in plus 16 from the card—and I’m good to go. Others, of course, have been unlucky, and I’ve received far more email from people with failed SD expansion stories than the reverse.

Months have gone by since I blogged about these issues, and I still get email pretty regularly about this topic. The simple truth is that Microsoft will never support this functionality officially (simply stating this publicly should make the reverse happen, of course; cross your fingers). So they’ve left the ball in the carriers’ court, so to speak. If its going to be supported at all, it needs to come from AT&T and company.

Amazingly, that support could be here: According to Engadget, AT&T is now selling “certified” micro-SD cards for the Samsung Focus. Now, let’s be clear here: It’s likely that the failure rate for these cards will be as high as ever. But the point is, AT&T is supporting them. So if you buy one and it doesn’t work, take it back and replace it, and keep trying until it does.

Here’s how to test, I think: You need to fill up the phone with enough content so that you exceed the capacity of the built-in storage. So throw your whole music collection on there, or a bunch of videos, whatever. Use the phone for a few days and make sure it’s working properly.

The thing is, you will need to reset the device to get it to see the extra storage, so be sure to backup before doing this, download all your phone photos, and so on. Don’t be squeamish about this; it’s an all or nothing proposition. And be prepared to reset it again if doesn’t work.

And let me know if you actually do this. I’m actually somewhat tempted myself even though my phone is fine.

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17 Responses to AT&T apparently selling "certified" SD cards for Windows Phone now

  1. pstatho says:

    Are there any sites/wikis out there that is keeping track of cards that are known to work and, just as important, cards that don’t work?

    I would think this would be a good situation to use crowd sourcing.

  2. pyrochild says:

    In my experience, restoring the backup made my the updater will NOT work if the storage is not the same as it was when the backup was made.

    That is, if you made a backup without an SD card, you can’t restore it once you add one, and vice versa.

    Just something to keep in mind.

  3. Sheeds says:

    Paul, tempted….for more than 24GB? I have ~400Mb spare on my 8GB Focus!

    Today’s Windows Phone Radio (EP23) edition had Matt Akers of MS commenting on microSD storage. He indicated in his experience, 32GB cards failed to a very high rate. “Unofficially” he advised that he had been successful with a KINGSTON 16GB Class 4 card. Of course he advised that this was his personal decision – and reinforced that MS does not support it.

    Similarly, I spoke with Samsung Support Staff via LiveChat yesterday. The advised-by-Samsung card for my Focus was an 8GB Sandisk Class 2 card.

    I have the 8GB Sandisk card ready to go – and have ordered the 16GB card also. I aim to report on my site how I go – and also what (if any) impact the forced NoDo from the chevron tool has on the reset/add memory process.


  4. korn1699 says:

    I had originally tried a 32GB Class 4 SanDisk, which they didn’t even have listed on their site.. I bought it on Amazon, but the listing was for a Class 2.. It let me put data on it, but would look like it reset anywhere from a couple times a day to maybe every few days. Restarting it did bring everything back though. I heard from someone at Microsoft that thought it might be an issue with the contacts. I took it out and put it back in, and that stopped it from messing up about a week, although that could have just been a coincidence. After NoDo I actually got a screen that said that I had a bad card with the options to shutdown or make an emergency call. If I turned it back on, it would work fine for a while then do that again. I ended up getting the same 16GB Patriot you mentioned that you use, and I haven’t had any issues with that yet.

  5. timnfl says:

    Paul, the official Windows Phone Radio podcast discussed this process on thier latest podcast (during the first 5 mins). They also included the “use at your own risk” disclaimer because its not “officially supported”.

  6. Sheeds says:

    @pstatho XDA have the best thread/list going around in my experience: Cheers.

  7. wqwalter says:

    I have been using a 32GB MicroSD on a Focus since December. I have about 40GB and I keep around 30 – 32 GB full all the time. I have 30 webcasts with 3 active articles each. Many are updated daily. I have 9000+ photos, and I have thousands of Zune songs. I also have in excess of 100 Apps, Outlook synced with Exchange, hotmail, and google mail. The mail is synced back to the 1990’s. I have had no problems since December. I used the basic 8GB from the release date until the end of December and I did not detect any noticable change in performance or reliability after adding the SD.

    Bill Walter

  8. Tim Smith says:

    I’m still using the 16gb card I had in my Droid X and it works perfectly. I bought a 32gb card a while back for the hell of it to see if I could get lucky. Worked great for a week and then started rebooting more and more frequently. So I went back to the reliable 16gb one. I’m not too optimistic on any “certified” 32gb cards coming any time soon. So unless a phone comes with 16gb or more built in with an accessible sd slot, 24gb may be the max for now. Which is sad for those of us with huge collections. Maybe in a few years phones will catch up.

  9. cpdjoe says:

    Sorry if this is obvious, but by a backup do u mean to just sync with Zune software?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      That plus manually download your photos and music to the PC as well. Get anything off there you can, just in case.

      • Sheeds says:

        And make sure you check all your app and game purchase history in the Zune software, so you can remember what to put back on the phone that you had on/paid for previously.

  10. captiosus says:

    Microsoft refusing to support it and leaving the entire thing in the hands of the end user was a bungle that will come back and bite them later.

    Do you honestly believe it’s user friendly for users to have to essentially “format” their phones anytime they wanted to change a microSD card? Microsoft can make all the excuses they want, but they worked with OEMs where adding removable storage has been part of their bread-and-butter phones for the last 2 years so can Microsoft really be shocked that they (and the carriers) wanted to give users choice?

    Microsoft’s solution is to tell people they don’t support it, and you have to format/reload any time you want to change a card or try a new one.. That has been one of the biggest word of mouth negatives I’ve heard when people discuss the Focus. “It’s got an SD card slot, but you have to completely reset the phone to use it.”

    For a consumer based smartphone, Microsoft has REPEATEDLY dropped the ball on being consumer friendly – and then, in typical Microsoft fashion, blames everyone else.

  11. korn1699 says:

    Is there any way to backup app data too? I lost all mine with my last reset, but it would be nice to save it if I have to reset again.

  12. unndunn says:

    From day one, I’ve been rocking a 32GB SanDisk Class 4 MicroSD card in my AT&T Samsung Focus. I bought it at the AT&T store where and when I bought my phone (this was before they stopped officially supporting them for this purpose.)

    My phone reboots a lot, often dropping into recovery mode. But that is the only real problem I could attribute to the SD card. I’ve gotten used to it.

  13. techESC says:

    I got an expansion card to coincide with the new software update.

    What I am trying to find out is if I can somehow do a complete phone backup (to include text messages, games and other settings) and then install the new SD card, get increased storage space, update the OS and then restore from the backup.

    I will make sure everything I have access to is backed up like contacts, photos and music.

    From what I’ve read so far from limited sources, it looks like I will lose most everything when I slip in a new card, and I may have to resync or download all my apps once again.

    Can anyone confirm if the update can incorporate a new SD card in my ideal scenario?

  14. drewgreenwell says:

    Ive been using a kingston 32 GB class 4 since launch. My phone would slow sync every few times I plugged it in when i got over the 8GB threshold. I reset it before i installed nodo using the Zune Hungary vpn madness a while back. I only have 12GB of data on it now, but it’s still snappier than ever. Syncing has not slowed yet. (I put everything I wanted on it then stopped). Apps seem to install a lot faster now too.
    All in all I give Nodo 1.75 thumbs up as far as my gripes were concerned. It’s only working on my wifi about 20% of the time but it’s flawless at work so I attribute the lack of connectivity to my crazy multi netgear router setup and dream of better days when I feel like swapping it all out for something a little newer anyway.

  15. KeithK says:

    I ran out to the AT&T store on Saturday and bought the card (32 GB). I followed your path as outlined in your previous blog post. It all worked just fine. What I like best, is how everything just came back to the phone once I entered in my Live ID. And because I load my apps through the Zune software, they came back too. I loaded a movie on it and it plays beautifully.

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