While SanDisk is well known for their consumer memory products — SD cards, microSD cards, USB flash drives, replacement SSDs, and so forth — a major (and under-appreciated by the general consumer) part of their business is actually in selling embedded flash storage to device manufacturers. Embedded flash is the storage that's built into your phone — the 32GB in the new Samsung Galaxy S6, for instance — and SanDisk says that they "work with all of the leading manufacturers and the major chipset manufacturers" on using their storage products. There's a strong chance you either have a phone with SanDisk storage in it or have had one.
SanDisk knows that memory speed can be a bottleneck for the modern smartphone. We have bottlenecks at the processor and radio, but the speed of the storage isn't something we always recognize. It can make a difference though. Think about downloading a large app — you get a few hundred megabytes onto your phone through a speedy Wi-Fi connection, and then it takes a minute or more to actually install.
Or you've taken a slew of photos using your phone's multi-shot mode, and now you're waiting for them to write to the memory. New imagery applications like 4K video and RAW photographs are also pushing the limits of flash memory. SanDisk says that imagery is actually the most consistent heavy stressor on memory than any other application.
That's where SanDisk's iNAND 7132 embedded flash storage comes into play. This storage, currently available in sizes up to 64GB, includes an engine to accelerate the write speed when under heavy load. Under most situations it will idle along at a more normal speed, but when hit with huge write requests, it boosts speeds up to 1Gbps in sequential write burst speed. In the real world that simply means that you'll be able to install large apps faster and take faster and longer burst photos (10-15% more, they say) on phones equipped with the new storage.
To really best demonstrate the capabilities of the new 7132 iNAND flash, Sandisk built an app that saves RAW image files direct from the camera. The app leverages a new RAW photos API that was added in Android 5.0 Lollipop (for their part, HTC's said that RAW support will be coming to their phones as well, but they've not said when). The benefit of RAW photography is that it doesn't suffer from any of the compression of standard JPG images and retains the data of how much light was received, so you can balance an image to bring out details hidden in shadows or blown out in bright areas.
Using a reference device with the new burst-speed capable memory installed (looked like an LG G3, stripped of branding), SanDisk showed off shooting in RAW at 3 photos per second. Each of those raw files weighed in at around 25MB, so that's a lot of data getting dumped onto the flash storage in short order.
If you're interested in that app, SanDisk is unsure whether it'll see a release into the Google Play Store. We got conflicting answers on the state and future of the app (currently it's only for internal purposes, but they might change that), so for now the best answer we can give is "maybe". If you really want a RAW photography app for your Lollipop-powered phone, let SanDisk know.
But you might want to wait until these phones equipped with the faster iNAND 7132 embedded flash storage arrive. Else you'll be waiting a while for those enormous files to save.
In other news, SanDisk also has a new version of their Dual USB Drive in the coming: this time with the much-awaited reversible USB Type-C instead of Micro USB. Right now that means you'll only be able to use it with the new smaller USB connector (like the Nokia N1. The other end is still a standard full-size USB Type-A plug (compatible with the kind of ports you'll find on your computer), and between the two is a shared bit of 32GB flash storage.
SanDisk was hoping that the Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9 would ship with the Type-C USB connector (and to be honest, we kind of were too — smaller, faster, and reversible would be fine by us), but in the meantime they're pretty much set for enabling easy computer-to-phone-to-computer file transfers in the coming Type-C future.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.