One of the strongest advantages Android phones have over other phones is not just the expandable memory, able to take up to a 32GB MicroSD card with the release of Android 2.2 Froyo, but also it’s ability to act as a plug and play external hard drive, recognized by the computer when you plug it in and without the need for installing software on the computer itself to manage the information on the phone.
To begin with, mounting the phone as an external hard drive is easily done in a few basic steps. Connect the phone to the computer via the included USB cable, which will bring up a screen giving you options such as “Charging” and “Mass storage.”
Choosing “Charging” will not mount the phone as a hard drive, but will instead leave the phone functional as a phone while charging the device via the USB cable.
Choosing “Mass Storage” will allow you to mount the phone, but will also disable certain features of the phone and in some models, you will not be able to access your home screens until you dismount the phone as a drive. Always be sure to un-mount the phone before disconnecting the device.
Once the phone is connected to the computer, you can navigate to the SD card via My Computer and open it as you would any other external hard drive. You can create folders, copy files to and from, and in some cases, even run portable applications from the phone on the computer.
Portable apps aren’t the same as apps downloaded to and run on your phone. These are programs meant to be installed on a thumb drive and plugged into and used on any computer. They can be found at portableapps.com, and include such things as a portable version of Firefox browser, which is handy if you want to load your favorite bookmarks on a portable browser and use it on any computer. Also available are a portable office suite, a database manager, email application and games. These are meant to be run from an external hard drive on a desktop and laptop computer, and thus can be installed on your phone’s SD card and run from the phone while it is plugged into a computer.
At the moment the largest sized microSD card that can be installed into an Android phone is 32GB, as long as the phone is running Android 2.2 or higher. It is expected that that will go up to 64GB when SanDisk releases the newest MicroSD cards some time later in 2011, but Android phones will need a system upgrade to be able to use them.
Because your phone is always with you, it makes sense to take advantage of its use as an external hard drive for transferring files and bringing needed applications with you. There is virtually no end to what can be done, thanks to portableapps.com and the continued advancement of phone memory.