8 things to know about the Galaxy Note 7's SD card slot

Note buyers have spoken: they wanted an SD card slot back in their phone. Samsung listened, and the Galaxy Note 7 brought back the SD card slot just like the Galaxy S7 did — hiding right in there next to the SIM card.

Things mostly pick up right where they left off with the SD card slot on the Note 4, though the software and capabilities have changed a bit. If you have a Note 7 or are getting ready to pick one up, these are the things you should know about expanding the storage in your phone.

No 'adoptable storage' option to be found here

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

Perhaps the biggest thing to note right off the top is that the Galaxy Note 7 doesn't support Marshmallow's "Adoptable storage" system as we've seen implemented on other phones. Adoptable storage is an optional system that phone makers can use that lets the SD card be completely consumed by the phone, in effect becoming just another part of the internal storage — this lets the phone freely move apps and files between the SD card and internal storage, but it has some downsides as well.

The Note 7 skips the feature altogether for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being issues with performance, stability and user confusion. That means the SD card in the Note 7 simply acts as a separate, mountable piece of storage that has no special tricks associated with it. You can just load data on it, put it in the phone and the phone will be able to read the files. The phone can also write to the card, but not span data across from the card to the internal storage.

Not every app can be moved to the SD card

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

One of the downsides of not using Adoptable storage is that you're still dealing with the "old" way of putting apps on your SD card, if you feel the need to. To move apps over to the SD card on your Note 7, you simply go into the settings, find the application settings and go to each app that you want to move. Not every app can be moved to the SD card, though, as some have certain permissions or performance requirements that make them only run from internal storage.

Going a step further, many apps that you think have moved over to the SD card may have only moved part of their assets to the external storage. For example if you install a large game and want to put it on your SD card, you may find that the game has offloaded some of its media assets to the SD card, but kept the core of the game and any additional downloads on the internal storage. Because of this shortcoming you may want to just keep all of your apps locally on the Note 7's internal storage, and just use the SD card for other types of media instead.

Removing your SD card also removes the SIM

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

This is probably the simplest of tips, but it's important to remember where the SD card lives and what that means for it. The SD card shares a slot with the SIM card tray, meaning that if you want to remove one, you're going to remove the other.

If you remove the SD card to move media back and forth between your phone and computer, that means your SIM just came out of your phone — and chances are you're going to want to reboot when you put the SIM card back inside. On the opposite end of things, if you ever have to remove your SIM card (which won't happen nearly as often), you'll lose access to your media and apps on the SD card until it's replaced and re-mounted in the phone.

Pictures and video save to the card by default

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

When you put an SD card in your Galaxy Note 7, the phone will start to utilize it right away. And since you can't move all of your apps over to the card, it makes sense to start putting pictures and videos you take there, so that's what the camera does by default. When you first launch the camera app after inserting an SD card you'll see a warning letting you know of the change, and if you don't want photos or videos saved to the SD card it's a simple switch in the camera settings.

If you choose to keep that default setting, you'll notice that the Gallery app creates a separate folder for those images in the "Albums" area of the app, which is separate from any other photos or videos you took before you put the SD card in. The difference is noted by a little SD card logo in the corner of the album, which is a little confusing at first. If you just stick to the "Pictures" tab of the Gallery you won't notice any difference, as all of the photos — SD card or not — will show up in the regular photo timeline.

SD card photos may be odd to handle in third-party apps

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

There is one notable downside of storing images and videos from the camera on your SD card: the only guaranteed way to delete those files is from the app that created them, which in this case is the default Camera and Gallery apps. If you prefer to use another gallery app, you may not be able to properly move around and delete photos that are stored on the SD card. For example in Google Photos, and many other popular gallery apps, you'll be able to view and apply extra edits to the photos but you can't delete the original files from within the third-party app.

This becomes particularly bothersome in a cloud-based gallery app like Google Photos where you can delete photos remotely and have those changes sync back to your Galaxy Note 7 — in this case Google Photos will never be able to delete those local files on your phone, you have to do it manually from within Samsung's Gallery app. If you use another simple gallery app without any cloud functions (and using an older permission model or a workaround) it may be able to manage those SD card photos just fine — but it's something to be aware of if you run into odd behavior when deleting.

You probably don't have to worry about performance

SanDisk extreme SD card

External SD card storage will definitely be slower than the internal storage on your phone, but thanks to the overall increase in SD card speeds in the past couple of years this isn't really something to get worried about. Chances are that the only real slowdown in this configuration is the actual connection from the card to the phone, rather than the card itself, and even that isn't that big of a bottleneck.

Most of what you're doing with an SD card is pretty small, relatively slow and consistent movement of data. Taking a few pictures, reading HD video or MP3 audio, or maybe saving some documents. None of these things require a super-fast SD card, and you won't notice any difference in performance when comparing to doing the same functions with internal storage.

Find good deals on SD cards

The biggest reason to not buy an absolutely bottom-of-the-barrel SD card is that you can get really good cards for a great deal all around the internet. Sure a super-fast 200GB card is going to set you back a few extra dollars, but if you just need to add another 64GB of storage you can get a great, name-brand SD card for less than $30 and know you're getting a good product that's going to do everything you need.

Use caution when buying the cheapest of the cheap cards out there, and be sure to read the specs and reviews before you buy.

You can encrypt the card for your own safety

Galaxy Note 7 SD card

So your Galaxy Note 7 is pretty secure, locked up tight behind a fingerprint or maybe even your irises. Even if someone has your phone in their hands, they can't access your data, which is an awesome thing. But if they have a SIM tray removal tool, they can pop out your SD card in just a few seconds and have access to every file on that card when they plug it into their computer.

For this reason, you should seriously consider encrypting your SD card if you put any sort of personal information on the card. You can do so by heading into your Settings > Lock screen and security > Encrypt SD card. How long it'll take depends on the amount of data on your card — it could be anywhere from a handful of seconds to several minutes or even an hour for a completely full 256GB card. If you ever need to decrypt the data, it'll take just the same amount of time from the same settings screen — you don't lose any data in the process.

By encrypting the SD card, you're ensuring that the only device that can read that card is the phone you encrypted it with. Now of course this has a few downsides: you can no longer quickly take out the card to transfer data to another device, and if your Note 7 is ever damaged beyond repair you won't be able to recover your own files off of the SD card. Both may be worthy trade offs considering the extra layer of security you're adding.

Well, maybe you don't need an SD card

Galaxy Note 7 storage

So that's everything you really need to know about the SD card in the Galaxy Note 7 ... well, there's one more thing: maybe you don't even need an SD card in your Note 7. With the latest generation, Samsung bumped up the internal storage to 64 from 32GB, meaning you'll have somewhere around 50GB of space free to do anything you like on the phone.

For most people, 50GB of space will be plenty for everything they need — and for that reason, you should probably consider buying your Note 7 and using it without an SD card for a while to see how close you get to maxing out the internal storage. If you can fit all of your needs into the internal storage, it's far preferable to managing a new volume of storage on a separate SD card. It'll also save you a few dollars.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

95 Comments
  • Do the powers that be really think that Adoptable Storage is "confusing" to customers?
  • You never know what these people might be capable of.....
  • After being on a help desk when I first started in IT, yeah, people can be dumb
  • Seriously, people who don't regularly interact with the general population with regards to technology just do not understand.
  • I still get asked, which is the power cord, or what does the phone cord look like. Honestly, no excuse not to know the answer of either of those. Especially when power cords have probably been around before Thomas Edison.
  • Probably. And they're probably right too. Don't let your own knowledge skew you, there are still a great number of people who would have trouble changing their ringtone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good point
  • I can change the ringtone?
  • It is possible to change a ringtone. Whether or not you personally are actually capable of changing yours is a different matter lol. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well, first the ringtone has to WANT to be changed.
  • True, just true.
    I already had people asking me to help change their ringtone.
  • I think it is for the masses, but then again they probably wouldn't know how to flip the switch anyways. Cannot tell you how many times I have talked to people and they had no idea they could even use a card in their phone. Bottom line I think it is complicated for the average Joe. Samsung has the average Joe locked up sales wise. Easier to do it this way with less headaches. Posted from Nexus 6
  • Also a good point
  • Tell me a little more about this card? So I can stick my credit card in my phone? Do I have to tape my credit card to my phone since there is no removable battery?
  • Not sure where you are going with this. Posted from Nexus 6
  • Not all all! All you have to do is give us the card number and the 3 digit code on the back and we'll get that added straight away! Also, if you're willing to do some light banking I happen to know a Nigerian prince that may want to speak with you!
  • Awesome!
  • Just give me the card, I'll take care of it for you
  • Possibly. Maybe not adoptable storage itself, but customers may be wondering why a certain app is so slow (if that app is running from the SD card is stored on the SD card rather than internal storage).
  • I think it's confusing to anyone who has used an SD card in a phone before and had it work entirely differently. But of course, the "old" system is also confusing in some ways. It's really a lose-lose situation there. This is why some manufacturers just skip the SD card altogether.
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • If does not help when the SIM and SD are on the same tray... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I know, right? You can choose whether to use it as adoptable storage or the old way and the descriptions are pretty clear. The killer feature of marshmallow was adoptable storage and it's infuriating that Samsung users have been hung out to dry on that
  • Short Answer: Absolutely Android treats expandable storage the same whether it is a microadcard slot or USB 'OTG'. If you attach a Flash drive via USB OTG on a Nexus 6 and choose to use it as Adoptable Storage things get broken if you move over 'core' apps . Especially if Nexus 6 still has stock encryption enabled. People go to charge phone, removing Flash Drive, and then wonder the apps went. Sometimes the only way to get 'core' apps Restores is to reflash ROM/Factory Image. Which then resets/breaks the encryption associated with the USB Flash Drive that was used as Adoptable Storage...thus the flash drive needs to wiped. (Nexus with encryption enabled on Adoptable Storage on dev previews is just a mess since going from preview build to Factory image public builds changes the encryption keys)* Since my Samsung Galaxy S6 does not allow for Adoptable Storage over USB 'OTG', I assume Samsung chose to avoid the complications of having users move Core apps over to the Sim+ micro-SD tray or USB 'OTG' (flash drives or HDD) and not having a pleasant experience. Now if Android implements Adoptable Storage as hot-swappable and thus working like a quick-toggle (hotspot/airplane mode/do not disturb) so that there is a script that ensures core apps are restored and thus Adoptable Storage is safely disconnected : then I can Samsung utilizing Adoptable Storage. (Then the gates would be open for Bluetooth/NFC/Modules to also implement Adoptable Storage having the apps installed on the peripheral rather than Phone/tablet)
  • you underestimate the stupidity of the "average" user
  • Yes. People who are used to just popping the SD card out of their phone will wonder why a bunch of their programs disappeared.
  • "hiding right in there next to the SIM card" perhaps?
  • Well in the States I bet half have never popped open the sim tray. Posted from Nexus 6
  • Perhaps, along with the author (and editor?), you can re-read the original sentence.
  • Yeah. Where's a copy editor when you need one? Good article for the non-technical, though.
  • I was obviously just so excited about the return of the SD card slot that I subconsciously thought the Note 7 had TWO SD card slots. But seriously, good catch. Should be much clearer now :)
  • Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Slow news day
  • Not quite, it's the actual release date for the Note 7, so readers are going to want to read this type of information.
  • Adoptable storage, a combined sim / sd slot, coupled with years of many people just taking out the sd card instead of hooking up to a pc ; plus not understanding that the card is now a part of the OS would cause havoc for many people stepping up the Samsung ladder over many years. (I think that was a sentence) So, good decision imv.
  • Other than the fact that note 7 has 64gb on board, remaining points are same as galaxy iteration. Posted via the Android Central App on my GS7 edge
  • Basically the same as the GS7. but yeah, there are even fewer people who will need an SD card considering there's 64GB of storage on board.
  • I bet you can enable easily enough in a similar fashion to the S7, though I would wait for that to be confirmed. Edit: re Adoptable storage.
  • Probably going to go with no sd since I have 64gb of onboard storage. The only thing I don't like about the sd card is not being able to delete pics from Google photos after they are already synced to the cloud.
  • I definitely agree with what you said about Photos. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sad part is keeping it simple just keeps the simple people stupid. The world is getting dumbed down.
  • We are on here beating our chests. It's actually no big deal. I wouldn't use it myself for adoptable storage, only media. Posted from Nexus 6
  • Or you are just too edgy and possibly smug :)