External Memory and Emulation: Smartphone Life Hacks

Chris Price

Your touch-screen phone is a lot smarter than you’d think.

In the age of ever increasing innovation and unending technological updating, it’s fairly easy to buy the latest gadget without realizing why it’s superior to the out-of-date version. The mere assertion by manufacturers that “this one is better,” is often enough for consumers to upgrade, without investigating and exploring the newly offered possibilities.

Nvate Emulation Emulators External SD Card Memory Secure Digital smartphone hacks storage memory touch-screen phone

Credit: Amazon

This issue is most prevalent among cell phone buyers, which includes, frankly, anyone and everyone who wants to be a functioning individual in our capitalistic and fast paced technologically based society.

The question is, how much better is the average smartphone than Strowger’s 1890s rotary dial? Are text messaging and camera capabilities the only things separating these two vastly different devices? Or, grandiose in stature as they may be, what can these so called ‘smartphones’ actually do?

Well, this article will discuss two life hacks, the first being easier to understand, and clear-cut in functionality.

No. 1 External SD Card Memory

In short, although your phone comes with a certain amount of Secure Digital, or SD, card storage memory, it is possible to surpass that amount, to some degree, infinitely. Here is a list of the 10 most common smartphones in the world as of 2014, which I will be referencing.

• LG Optimus 3D P920 by Android
• HTC One (M8) by Android
• OnePlus One by Android
• LG G2 by Android
• Samsung Galaxy S5 by Android
• Sony Xperia 72 by Android
• Google Nexus 5 by Android
• iPhone 5s by Apple
• Sony Xperia 71 Compact by Android
• Motorola Moto G by Motorola

I own an earlier version of the Samsung Galaxy, which comes with a little under 2GB of total device memory space for applications and about 11.3GB of USB storage for pictures, video, music, downloads, etc. But I also have two microSD cards.

The first card is 16GB and the second is 64GB. The maximum removable storage that my Samsung Galaxy S2 can properly use without partitioning—easing the burden of internal storage of a device by using external storage—the card is 32GB. But still, with only 16 GB—plus internal memory—I’m able to have all 60-plus purchased episodes of my favorite television show right on my device, which are accessible without Internet service. There is also over 10GB of free space for other things.

The first thing I would recommend for anyone who either has, or is about to purchase a smartphone, is that they also look up the external memory storage limit of that specific phone, and purchase an external memory card as well. They are fairly cheap on Amazon, especially, which is where I bought my 64GB external memory card for less than $15. You can purchase brand-specific microSD cards, but more times than not, prices skyrocket for the same quality product, meaning you pay 3 times as much for just the name.

If you noticed my previous statement about my phone’s external storage limit being 32GB, but that I have a 64GB microSD card I wasn’t making a contradiction. It is possible to extend the limit to a certain amount, which would require knowledge of partitioning that can be fairly difficult to grasp. This will not be discussed here, but the possibilities of purchasing multiple cards to expand memory—and keeping them handy—or owning an external hard drive for all of your content and occasionally using a computer or laptop for transferring desired content to a phone, are ways to get around limits without techy difficulty.

For of those of you would like to explore partitioning, there is a tutorial on “Tutorial for Newbie.”

Learning to utilize as much memory as possible is important for the next phone hack—emulation.

No. 2 Emulation/Emulators

Believe it or not, yes there are better games you can play than “Flappy Bird” on your smartphone. But the reason most people aren’t aware of them, is because emulation isn’t as simple as 1-click app purchasing.

Nvate Emulation Emulators External SD Card Memory Secure Digital smartphone hacks storage memory touch-screen phone

This is a screenshot of a smartphone’s Nintendo DS-style emulator. The touch screen capability shows “buttons” to be created just about anywhere.
Credit: forums.ppsspp.org

In short, the word “emulate” literally means “copy” or “replica,” and in contemporary tech jargon, the word “emulator” refers to the setup of a gaming system that’s playable on a different computer. And by “computer,” I mean a device that has hardware, software, uses CSS and HTML, and so on. This includes smartphones.

That’s the key. Once you break through the common delusion of technology being obscure magic, where only its sorcerers and wizards—the developers—are able to properly handle it, you then become able to recreate, explore and play with things that no one will bother telling you if you aren’t looking for it yourself.

Let’s put it this way, a laptop, a desktop computer, a smartphone, a gaming console, a camera and an mp3/mp4 player are all different devices. They are different because they are constructed to specialize in specific areas. But just because one device is built to specialize in one area versus another, doesn’t mean it can’t do the same thing as another, on a limited scale.

The bridge between a smartphone and a camera, as well as a smartphone and the average iPod video player, is clear to most consumers. Everyone knows you can play music and video, as well as take pictures on a smartphone. But the bridge between the touch-screen smartphone and the gaming console is not well known.

If you’re someone who likes to keep quaint nuggets of the past for mere nostalgia’s sake, or someone who just likes being able to play old games you’ve grown up with; that smartphone in your pocket has the potential of being a Nintendo DS, Nintendo Gameboy, Nintendo Gameboy Color, Nintendo Gameboy Advance and Sony PlayStation all at once, among many other things.

There is an overall fairly simple process that may seem quite difficult to understand at first. Android and Apple users, whether using the Amazon app store or iTunes, have available to them a direct download of different versions of each of those gaming systems.

Nvate Emulation Emulators External SD Card Memory Secure Digital smartphone hacks storage memory touch-screen phone

Credit: androidcentral.com

This is the basic platform on your touch screen, which is perfectly legal, almost like having a PlayStation controller and system magically shrunk down in size and shoved into your smartphone. But what good is a game console without any games?

Here is the next step, which is where we also have to address ethical and legal considerations. Technically, it is possible to have any professionally manufactured game in existence from one of those platforms stored on your phone whether you paid for a copy to own one or not. Just like it is possible to walk into any grocery store, and walk out with a candy bar whether you paid for it or not. But it doesn’t make it right, if not owned legally.

Technology’s innovative capabilities often become the source of misuse and piracy, with the digital music industry being a prime example. And the ease of misuse—as well as the likelihood thereof—is probably one of the reasons why, although manufacturers want you to buy their phone, they don’t tell you everything it can do.

More information on the legalities of emulators can be found on the Nintendo website.

Apart from that short detour down Copyright Street, the next step in emulation is playing the actual games. You can download what is called a Read-only memory, or ROM, file/image from basically anywhere off of the Internet if you Googled it. Ethically and legally speaking, again, you should only do this for games you have purchased in the past. The ROM—similar to the ISO file—is basically the digital version of a game, just like how you can purchase a digital version of a CD called an mp3, or a digital version of a DVD called an mpeg-4 or mp4.

After having the correct emulator—in the form of an app—and downloading the legally-owned ROM file, you can plug your smartphone into your computer. Next, drag-and-drop the ROM file downloaded into any destination on your smartphone’s memory card, which will show up as “SD” or “extSD.” Then, after safely ejecting the USB drive, you are good to go. Just open the app, and direct the source file to the specific game you want it to emulate.

The biggest problem that may occur will probably have to do with the ROM files. It’s a simple process, but if you haven’t done it before, it can be rather frustrating. Nonetheless, just like cooking, cleaning and riding a bike, the more practice you have, the easier it gets, and the more fun you have. Well, except cleaning, that’s never fun.

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