Smartphone Basics

Can’t move an App to SD Card? Know why!

Since the time Android rose to power and an era of smartphones began, users have been dealing with a serious and sometimes annoying issue. Limited internal storage capacity has been a matter of concern for the smartphone users since time immemorial. Many have a SD card slot to expand the storage. SD cards are inexpensive and can be easily moved from one device to another. However, android apps are downloaded by default to the internal storage, which can fill up quickly.

Once it is full, you will start seeing an annoying “low storage” notification and the situation may also slow your phone down. Your best bet is to move your apps from your phone’s internal storage to your SD card. You can move apps to the SD card by going to Settings > Applications Manager, selecting the application, then tapping the “Move to SD card” button.

You all must have tried moving apps to external storage and noticed that Move to SD Card option might be greyed out for some apps. Ever wondered why some apps can be moved to SD card and some can’t? Let us explore the reasons behind this.

System Apps

Apps that come pre-loaded with your phone cannot be moved to the SD card. System apps cannot be moved to SD card due to being ‘protected’ system apps.

App Developer Choice

Developers of Android apps need to explicitly make their apps available to move to the SD card using the “android:installLocation” attribute in the <manifest> element of their app. If they don’t, the option to “Move to SD card” is grayed out. Why would many developers not enable this button?

An app just cannot run from an unmounted SD card. Android OS cannot read the contents of the SD card once it is unmounted as it releases all the permissions and controls over the SD card. Moreover, some apps need to run in the background to work perfectly when you launch them from the app drawer. Therefore important apps like contacts, alarms, Email apps cannot be moved to external storage to prevent any loss of data or functionality in future.

Widget Support

Widget support is another big reason apps may be prevented from running on the SD card. If an app is installed on the SD card, the widgets from that app become unavailable to select. The device must be restarted for the widgets from the app to show up as an option again. To provide you all those beautiful widgets sitting proudly on your home screen, Move to SD Card option is disabled and it appear greyed out.

Widget Support

Android is all about customizing the smartphone to your heart’s content and widgets is one important aspect of this customization. Refer my previous post ‘Mobile Widgets | The unsung Hero’ to understand more about Widgets.

Syncing, Service, or Account Interface

If the app handles background syncing, runs as a service, or utilizes an account, the app will not fully function from an SD card while it is mounted.

Efficient & Effective Apps

App designers want their apps to run efficiently and effectively. It’s more efficient and effective to keep data on the internal memory. Security is the another important factor. If an app needs access to personal information or can update this information it needs to do it via the internal memory. An SD card can be removed – accessed without permission – lost – corrupted.

For the same reason apps like Facebook and WhatsApp are continually connected to your account over the server and keep syncing so that your messages get delivered instantly. Other apps like alarm, dialer, contacts etc. are important services that run in the background even when you are not using them.

Move App to SD Card

Gaming apps are the first to be moved to the SD card. Games typically don’t have to run in the background or handle any important tasks on the device throughout the day. They also typically take up the most space, making them perfect candidates for an SD card install.

Now you know why the “Move to SD card” button is grayed out for many of your Android apps. Still have questions? Comments? Leave one in the comments section below.

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