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Why Is Tablet Storage Limited?

Monday, June 13th, 2016 by | Filed Under: Android, I've Always Wanted To Know..., iOS

Many tablets offer the option to expand storage, but usually not a lot. A reader asks: “Do iPads and tablets limit the added memory to 16 GB because opening and running too much stuff would overload them?  With all the large memory available these days, it seems a shame to limit them so much.  Times sure have changed.  I remember emailing a chip manufacturer  to ask if I could use my camera chip the other way and store files on it.  The answer was they didn’t know, but it would not hurt the computer to try.  How’s that for eons ago??   They must have tried it themselves because within months they were selling them as memory chips…all 8 MB.  Bottom line…I like the tablet you’re selling, but it would need to hold more.  Hopeless to wish for a regular USB port to print?  (I’m not set up for Bluetooth.)”

Tablet Security

First. let’s clear up the difference between memory and storage.  I think what you’re talking about is expandable storage. Meaning that many mobile devices allow you the option of using a micoSD card to add additional storage space to the device.  This isn’t referring to memory (RAM) in the way that you would for a PC, where you can actually add extra RAM to speed up your PC.  No tablet that I know of allows you to do that.


Many tablets do allow you to expand the storage space with a microSD card. Interestingly enough, the very popular iPad is not among them. Apple expects you to store things like photos and music in their cloud.

This is why mobile devices tend not to have a lot of storage. They are internet appliances designed to interact with the cloud. Your music, your images, your apps, your eBooks, and your documents are meant to be stored online and only downloaded to the devices as needed. For example, while I have over 1,000 books in my cloud Amazon library, there are only a few of them actually on my Kindle.

Expandable storage does come in handy if you have a whole lot of apps, take lots of photos, or just want your music available for listening when a WiFi connection isn’t possible.


You aren’t limited to 16GB of expandable storage on all devices. Many have a limit of 16GB or 32GB, but there are some that hold more. Part of that is to keep the weight of the tablet down, but also because tablets are designed for accessing things, but not really for storing a lot of files on them.  Companies like Google, Amazon and now Microsoft want you to become a user of their cloud services, not be tied to one device. The idea is that you’ll be able to access all of your content from multiple devices and also that you’ll get used to using their app stores and storage services.

One alternative for those looking for more storage space is a wireless or Bluetooth external drive.

Some Windows tablets, like the Surface, do offer full USB ports. But it’s unlikely that you’d see them on Android or Apple products just because they would add quite a bit of weight to devices and not really add any new functionality.

The good news is that you don’t need Bluetooth to print from a tablet. There are apps that will print to wireless printers.  You can also upload anything you wish to print to the cloud and use your PC to print it.

Hope this clears things up.

~ Cynthia


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3 Responses to “Why Is Tablet Storage Limited?”

  1. Andy Anderson says:

    Great advice young lady.

  2. stephen johnson says:

    My first tablet was the toshiba thrive (and I still have it), it is one of the only tablets that came with a full size usb and a full size hdmi port. Also one of only a couple to have a replaceable battery. It has come in handy for many things.

  3. steve johnson says:

    I have a older toshiba thrive tablet that has a full usb port as well as a full hdmi. Also has a replaceable battery. has come in handy many times.

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