Samsung’s new microSD cards could make on-device AI easier

An image showing the Samsung logo on an abstract background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Samsung says its new, faster microSD cards will help enable on-device AI, allowing people to use more data-heavy AI-related apps.

In a press release, the company explains it began sampling its 256GB SD Express microSD card and started mass production of the 1TB microSD card. The 256GB SD Express version will be available later this year, while the 1TB UHS-1 microSD will launch in the third quarter of 2024.

Samsung says the 256GB SD Express microSD card can read data up to 800MB/s, “1.4 times faster than SATA SSDs (up to 560 MB/s) and more than four times faster compared to traditional UHS-1 memory cards.” But because faster speeds from SD Express cards can hit temperatures of up to 96 degrees Celsius, Samsung introduced dynamic thermal guard technology that helps maintain optimal temperatures for the cards.

Demand for on-device AI, where users can perform generative AI tasks without doing an API call through the cloud, has risen in the past year. MicroSD cards could ideally let companies expand phone memory to perform more data-intensive AI tasks on mobile devices. In less portable settings, AI services like chatbots or text-to-image generation rely on the storage capacity of large data centers or cloud services.

Companies like Samsung are promising wide availability of “AI phones,” but what exactly on-device AI means is still vague. On phones, it can look like speech recognition and real-time call translation using data-heavy large language models or photo editing software that relies on algorithms and doesn’t require as much power.