Google Head Of Android User Experience Explains The Lack Of SD Cards For Nexus Devices

Google’s head of Android user experience, Matias Duarte is engaging Google+ users with some in-depth answers to pressing questions about the Nexus and Android experience. As of this writing, he’s still taking questions and there’s no shortage of discussion on the answers he’s already provided. So far, we’re taking a look at why there are no SD cards in Nexus devices and why on-screen buttons are consistent in Jelly Bean?

We’ll continue updating the post as more answers arrive.

Google+ Matias Duarte


Why did you make the system buttons and status bar consistent across all devices in Jelly Bean?

Consistency and usability are really important to us, and that’s something we strive to improve in every new version of Android. With Honeycomb we first introduced the idea of a completely onscreen navigation UI which gave us unprecedented flexibility in how that UI adapts and transforms – both when you turn the device in your hands and when the software changes and has different control needs. Now in Jelly Bean we’ve made the universal software navigation buttons and system bar consistent across all screen sizes.

This new configuration is based on usability research we did on all of the different form factors and screen sizes that Android runs on. What mattered most of all was muscle memory – keeping the buttons where you expect them, no matter how you hold the device.

Phones are almost always used in portrait mode, flip sideways occasionally, and never go upside down. As screen sizes get larger though, any which way goes. Imagine the frustration you’d feel if every time you picked up a tablet off the table ‘the wrong way up’ you found yourself reaching for a home button that wasn’t where you expect it to be? That irritation adds up and over time like a tiny grain of sand in your shoe and undermines the rest of your experience.

The Jelly Bean system bar always keeps the same 3 buttons where you expect them. This happens dynamically for every screen size, up until you get to small handheld screens where stacking the bars in landscape mode would leave too little vertical space.

The second thing we discovered was that there are almost as many different ways of holding our devices as there are people. In fact people love to use their Nexus so much that they use them for such long periods of time that having a single ‘correct grip’ is actually counter productive and increases hand strain. The Jelly Bean navigation buttons work equally well for left handers and right handers, one handed use, or two handed use, and for devices you’re carrying, resting on your knee, or putting on the table.

Last but not least, by unifying the design we are now able to put Notifications and Quick Settings right where you’d expect them, and only one swipe away.

Why don’t Nexus devices have SD cards?

Everybody likes the idea of having an SD card, but in reality it’s just confusing for users.

If you’re saving photos, videos or music, where does it go? Is it on your phone? Or on your card? Should there be a setting? Prompt everytime? What happens to the experience when you swap out the card? It’s just too complicated.

We take a different approach. Your Nexus has a fixed amount of space and your apps just seamlessly use it for you without you ever having to worry about files or volumes or any of that techy nonsense left over from the paleolithic era of computing.

With a Nexus you know exactly how much storage you get upfront and you can decide what’s the right size for you. That’s simple and good for users.

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  • animaleyezz

    That means Samsung tablets for me. Damn Google.

  • Anthony Miles

    I disagree with Duatre’s logic, the folks who know what megabytes are know where they put there stuff.

  • Jason Crumbley

    That’s a bullshit answer about the micro SD card. It sounds very much like something Apple would say.
    This is supposed to be a dev phone. How is a dev supposed to trouble shoot problems that people with micro SD card slots are having?
    I realize they are trying to push cloud services, but take a look at T-Mobile’s and other carriers coverage maps. They aren’t everywhere. Especially where I live (Las Vegas). Trying to stream music on edge doesn’t work.

  • Mark Williams

    The reason why Samsung sells so many phones is because they give the people what they want…end of story!

  • Jé Be (Here but Gone)

    BLAH ! I hate the way our society engages ! tell the TRUTH..we dont implement sd cards because we want to focus on CLOUD STORAGE…duh

  • AM3RIG

    Really? Look what happened to HTC!?

  • Wilma Flintstone

    This a a ridiculous reason. A 32GB version is what I consider the right Memory for me but it’s not offered here.

    • Wilma Flintstone

      Meego conference coming November 21-22. An Open Source OS with SD Card Support. That’s where I’ll be headed when they announce availability shortly after.

  • MK Terra

    I absolutely despise the new toolbar layout. Huge waste of precious vertical space, plus harder-to-reach buttons. I was hoping they’d bring the old tablet layout to the Nexus 7, not screw it over for *all* tablets.

    And they do this right after Apple publicly disses Nexus 7’s vertical-space problem! Way to play right into that one, Google! Ugh.

    I pray they change it back, and quickly, before non-Nexus tablets start coming out with the new JB and get stuck with it permanently, making UI fragmentation that much worse.

  • DH

    What a lame & insulting “explanation.” They just want people to use Google Cloud.

  • aurora

    comb over!

  • jaxgrim

    These SD cards confuse me. My mind is to simple to grasp how to save my programs and pictures to them. They just frighten me because I am just a caveman.

  • Josue

    “but in reality it’s just confusing for users.” you just simply inster the memory card into the phone…its not rocket science lol

  • john

    What was he thinking with that shrit??

  • Paul

    “…your apps just seamlessly use it for you without you ever having to worry about files or volumes or any of that techy nonsense left over from the paleolithic era of computing.”

    Instead I have to worry about how much space is being taken by my music, photos, videos, apps, etc.
    So you ASSUME I don’t need to expand my space? Hell, the Note 2 Camera app allows me to save my pics directly to my SD card by default.
    Surprising that Apple took this same approach, and the sheep follow.
    Also, it’s a huge factor as to why I won’t purchase a Nexus device. I’ll stick with Samsung in that case.

  • mikkej2k

    Even the Jitterbug is offering a smartphone with microSD capability. How confusing could it be?

    • John

      Best retort by far. +1

  • BSMatiasDuarte

    What a effing cop out on this guy’s part about SD cards… I call BS… As a software tester for over 10 years, there are many ways around this. Total Cop out and I call bs!

  • jwicks82

    What did he say when he was asked “why are you wearing that shirt?”

  • Cumstain

    All I can say is no sdcard is why I didn’t go with the htc one along with no removable battery. I bought the nexus 7 without even reading up on it first. Only thing I knew was it gets os updates first. I still love it not really using it for anything my phone (sgs3) has music games pictures and apps. Hopefully they do add it in the future

  • David12031

    Matias Duarte and Google are both full of s*it on the confusion issue. It’s not about confusion, it’s about Google’s true intention to gather, use and possibly $ell your data. Tablets are possibly the exception but cell phones should have SD card slots, for the user to load ring tones, save photos or use the additional memory for whatever purpose they like.Phones like the Nexus “whatever” or the HTC One or any phone without a SD card slot are unacceptable for purchase, in my opinion.

  • guest

    Comment boards to not represent the majority of consumers. SD card issue is a non issue, buy a different phone. This phone is GREAT for how much it costs, yet people are crying like the world is ending

  • Environ Mental

    Let me just run that through my bullsh*t detector……. “We are having to pay Microsoft too much money on ex-Fat licensing fees and it is cheaper to avoid that by having no sd card. If HTC or Samsung wants to pay the fee and put in an sd card then more power to them but these nexus devices don’t sell well enough to make it worth our while.”

    Thanks for the clarification pal, I get it now

  • Black Irish

    I always know whats on my phone and whats on my sd card, wtf is he yapping ’bout? Just say you’d rather promote cloud services.

  • Zombie Killer

    Well, that’s a complete nonsense answer. The internal storage is already divided into the data partition and fakesdcard partition, so just DON’T OFFER a fakesdcard partition — slip in a hard to see microsdcard in a metal cage under the battery — that makes it effectively “built in” storage, but upgradeable if the user needs more space.

  • Jay Badman

    sounds like an “apple” type of answer

  • Jason Shayer

    Saying its confusing for customers is pretty insulting. What a noob! You all are looking way to far in to it. More storage translates into a more competitive device against other android or apple devices. The mass doesn’t care how, they just want it to work. Thus the success of iPhone….I am by no means an apple user as my daily but got to give em credit.

  • Wicked1

    That answer to the sd card question was ridiculous & makes no sense, haha. There is nothing confusing about using a sd card, hahah. Especially when they aren’t being like Apple and making 32GB & 64GB versions of the phone. My 32GB iPod is full, my 32GB sd card + 2GB internal memory for my phone is basically full. 16GB or actually probably like 14GB of memory is not enough for me. Plus, no LTE, and no really next gen specs-May just go with the S3 now