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How to Install Android Apps to SD Card

written by: Daniel Kolobaric•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 12/7/2010

The Android ' 'Froyo' release has brought apps to SD card support to the platform. This much requested feature lets you clear up a lot of space on your phone for installing more applications. Read on to find out how to properly use the feature and how it works.

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    Android's Moving Apps to the SD Card Feature

    With Android version 2.2, or ‘Froyo’, the mobile platform has gained the possibility to install applications on the SD card thus saving precious space on your internal memory for more applications. Many users have been eagerly awaiting this feature, which has now finally been enabled.

    Although a great improvement, there are limitations to the method. First of all, it is up to the developer to approve of the feature. Unfortunately not all do and therefore not all applications can be moved. When moved, a part of the application still remains in the internal memory. How big this part is differs for each application, but sometimes there is hardly anything gained by moving the app. A last limitation is that of the SD card itself. Fast applications like games that do support the feature will slow down and stutter if the SD card is not fast enough to process the data throughput. Upgrading to a faster ‘class’ will avoid this behavior.

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    Proper Use of the Apps to SD Function of Android

    For unrooted, unadjusted Android devices the process of moving apps to the SD card is fairly simple. The only precondition is obviously that an app must support the feature. With ‘Froyo’, Android developers have gotten a choice to decide how an app behaves in regards to the applications to SD feature.

    InternalOnly will make an application install on the internal storage exclusively. PreferExternal will make the Android system install an app by default on the SD card. Apps like Angry Birds make use of this feature. The third and final option is called auto and lets the Android system decide what is best, based on available storage on the phone. If apps that do qualify for being moved to the SD still get installed on phone, there are a few easy steps to correct this. These steps are:

    1. From the Android home screen, select the ‘Menu’ button and click on settings.
    2. In the settings list navigate to ‘Applications’ and click on it.
    3. Select ‘Manage Applications’
    4. Select the desired application in any of these tabs: ‘Downloaded’, ‘Running’, or ‘All’.
    5. Select the ‘Move to SD Card’ button.
    6. See the application be moved to the SD card.

    If the button now says ‘Move to Phone’ the procedure has worked. To double check this, go back into the ‘Manage Applications’ screen and select the ‘On SD Card’ tab. Here a list is shown of all apps currently installed on the SD card. Your newly moved application should be listed here as well.

    Select Applications in the Android Settings Screen Select Manage Applications Selec the Move to SD Card Button to Move an App to the SD card 

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    Alternative Apps to SD Methods on Android

    Alternative methods do exist to force all applications to move to the SD card by default. The most commonly known method is the Apps2SD method that is incorporated into many ROMs for rooted devices. This feature will move all apps to the SD card without leaving a trace on the phone.

    Although restricted, the new moving apps to SD feature of Froyo is indeed a great step forward towards better app management on Android. It is now up to developers to start embracing the feature and improve its relevance. Until then, careful application selection will still be the way to go for many.