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Guide to Memory Cards

Sunday 1st March 2009 by Andy Simpson in Buyers Guides, Mobile Accessories.

Without doubt the one accessory that we can’t be without in our phones these days is a memory card. Whether its for music, photo’s or video’s we all need one – and the bigger the better, but not all cards are the same. They might look the same on the outside, but how do you know which type to go for and what do all the letters mean? Hopefully this guide will help you to understand memory cards.

The first thing to consider when choosing a memory card is the size that you need, and by size I mean the amount of storage it offers, not the dimensions of it!

The table below gives you a rough idea on you how much data you can hold on each size card. The amount of images that you can store depends on the number of megapixels your camera has. The better the quality, the less you can store.

  1GB 2GB 4GB 8GB 16GB 32GB
3MP Photos 904 1808 3616 7232 14464 28928
5MP Photos 595 1190 2380 4760 9520 19040
8MP Photos 290 582 1164 2320 4640 9280
Songs 190 380 760 1520 3040 6080
Minutes of Video 68 136 272 544 1088 2176

Over the years there have been a number of different types of memory card. Listed below is a breakdown of the different memory card formats.

SD Memory Cards

SD:
One of the earlier formats of memory card SD only normally hold a small amount of data (upto 2GB) Very few mobile phones still use this format, although it is still found in some digital cameras, MP3 players and photo frames. An adapter is not needed for it to be used in a card reader as SD is the standard size of most memory card readers. SD cards will work in SD HC devices. SD cards are sometimes referred to as MMC.

SD HC Memory Cards

SD HC:
SD HC is a newer version of SD cards and stands for Secure Digital High Capacity. As the name suggests, these cards hold much more data – currenty up to 32GB. These types of memory cards work differently to MMC cards and they are not backwards compatible, so you can’t use these in SD devices. An adapter is not needed for it to be used in a card reader as MMC/SD is the standard size of most memory card readers.

Mini SD Memory Cards

Mini SD:
Another older format memory card, not used so much now, but a few devices still take them. As with SD cards, these have a maximum capacity of 2GB. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Mini SD cards can be be used in Mini SD HC devices.

Mini SDHC Memory Cards

Mini SD HC:
Despite being a less common memory card format, Mini SD is also available in high capacity format, although these tend to max out around 4GB. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Mini SD HC cards cannot be used in Mini SD devices.

RS MMC Memory Cards

RS MMC:
Along with Mini SD, RS MMC is almost extinct in the way of memory cards now, a few mobile phones took them, but the fiddly adapter made them unpopular and were soon dropped in favour of the Micro SD card. RS MMC are available up to a maximum 2GB. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. RS MMC cards can be used in SD devices when used with an adapter

Micro SD Memory Cards

Micro SD:
Without doubt the most popular format of memory card. Its almost the standard format now with phones from just about every manufacturer taking them. Micro SD are available upto 2GB, and smaller cards are normally bundled in with most phones. They are the smallest memory card available, and an adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Micro SD cards can be used Micro SDHC devices and can be used in SD devices when used with an adapter. Micro SD cards are sometimes refered to as Transflash.

Micro SDHC Memory Cards

Micro SDHC:
Micro SDHC are pushing storage capabilities to the limit. Currently available from 4GB to 16GB, with a 32GB version due later this year. Micro SD HC cards are not compatible with devices that take Micro SD as the format is not backwards compatible. If you try to use a SD HC card in an unsupported device you could lose your data, or your device may only recognise the first 2GB of storage. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Micro SDHC cards will not work in Micro SD devices.

Memory Stick Memory Cards

Memory Stick:
This format is pretty much exclusive to Sony devices, although the memory itself is made by multiple companies. The original Memory Stick is not really used so much any more, but can still be found in Sony Cameras, Laptops, PC’s and TV’s. An adapter is not normally needed for it to be used in a card reader.

Memory Stick Duo Memory Cards

Memory Stick Duo:
Memory Stick Duo was a smaller version of the Memory Stick and was needed for smaller devices such as mobile phones, PSP’s and camcorders. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Memory Stick Duo can be used with Memory Stick devices when used with an adapter.

Memory Stick Micro M2 Memory Cards

Memory Stick Micro M2:
Not wanting to get left behind by the Micro SD format, Sony shrank the Memory Stick Duo again to create the M2. These are available from 1GB to 16GB. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader. Memory Stick Micro cards can be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo devices when used with an adapter.

Compact Flash Memory Cards

Compact Flash:
Compact Flash cards are not found in mobile phones, their main use is in high end digital cameras. They normally offer faster read and write speeds which is ideal for photography. Capacity of compact flash cards is upto 16GB, with a choice of read/write speeds (known as classes.) An adapter is not needed for it to be used in a card reader as Compact Flash is one of the standard sizes found on most memory card readers.

xD-Picture Cards

xD-Picture Card:
Another camera only format, and one that is also not that common. xD-Picture Cards currently top out at 2GB. An adapter is needed for it to be used in a card reader.

If you’re not 100% sure which format your phone takes, have a look at our memory card compatibility chart.

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