In July 2016, the industry’s first removable Universal Flash Storage (UFS) cards were announced. Much of the excitement centered on the blazing-fast 170 MB/s write speeds for photo and video applications. Not to mention the amount of storage space is astounding – currently up to 256 GB!

But buried in the buzz are some hidden gems for everyday smartphone use (at least for Android phones). For one, if you store photos, videos, or music on UFS cards, your phone will feel faster and snappier as compared to using an SD card. What’s more, UFS cards will also give you more freedom to decide the app power in your smartphone. Let’s look at these two points in a little more detail. 

Less waiting, better user experience

“With UFS cards, you should see big boosts in speed and responsiveness that will add up to a better user experience,” says Mika Kuulusa, Research Manager and flash memory expert at Tuxera’s R&D facility. “Things you used to wait for will now feel more instantaneous, such as scrolling through your photo and video gallery. The thumbnail images will pop up more rapidly on your screen – faster than with SD cards. Also, any app that uses photos, videos, music, or other files stored on the card will feel faster than ever before.”

The reason? It’s mostly in the IOPS, or inputs/outputs per second – which simply means how fast files can be written to or read from the card. Most of what we do on phones requires a lot of simultaneous jumping around between small, randomly scattered bits of data stored on the memory. These random operations are the most time-consuming to handle.

When it comes to random reads, the 256 GB UFS card boasts 40,000 IOPS. That’s below some mid-ranged laptops (around 70,000 IOPS), but still super fast. Essentially, on the card the size of your thumbnail, you get nearly the memory power of a laptop. That means less waiting as your phone finds the randomly scattered bits of data. But it also leads us to another point about UFS cards – more app capacity on your phone.

More space + fast cards = more you can do

In the past, the Android operating system could only run apps from a phone’s internal memory. This limited the number of apps you could install. For higher-end Android phones, that typically wasn’t a problem. But on lower-end Androids, running out of space was certainly a limiting factor. All that changed with the Android Marshmallow update in 2015.

Developers can now make apps that run from removable memory cards too. That said, they’ve been reluctant to do so because memory cards have been too slow – until now. Because UFS cards have the memory performance near to that of laptops, this is now a workable option.

That means more power over what you can do with your phone. If pricing is a constraint, you can now run apps and games from a UFS card on a lower-end Android phone – provided it has a UFS card slot. You can add as much additional space as your budget affords. And for higher-end Android phone users, this could mean more powerful apps and more immersive gaming because developers are no longer constrained by internal memory alone.

At the moment, this all remains a good story. We haven’t seen any removable UFS cards yet on the market, nor any phones with UFS card slots. It seems the world will have to wait until the end of 2017 or early 2018 for UFS cards to hit the stores.

We’re working to get you the most from UFS technology

For our part, Tuxera is a member of the Universal Flash Storage Association (UFSA) and JEDEC, the organizations in charge of developing and setting UFS standards. This gives us the opportunity to influence UFS standards, but also insight into emerging UFS technology.

Although UFS cards have amazing speeds, your phone needs high-performance software to access data on these cards. For nearly a decade, Tuxera has brought file system software to your devices that adds fast, secure, and reliable support for removable memory cards. And we’re now working with the big players in the industry to help devices get even better performance from UFS cards.

If you’re an OEM or ODM developing a device that supports UFS cards, we’ll help you find the right file system software!

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