What Are TF Cards (And How They Differ From SD Cards)?

There is a confusing variety of memory cards in use today. There are SD cards, there are microSD cards, there are miniSD cards, and there are SDHC cards.

In this whole lineup of SD card variants lies a curious outlier – the TF card. With a completely different naming scheme than used by most memory cards, it begs the obvious question:

What is a TF card and how is it different from a standard SD card?

Why Do SD Cards Have So Many Names?

Let us first tackle the question of why there are so many types of memory cards in the first place.

As you might know, SD cards (or Secure Digital Cards) are storage devices developed by Secure Digital Association (usually shortened to SD association or just SDA). Formed as a joint venture between SanDisk, Panasonic, and Toshiba, SDA is tasked with developing semiconductor flash memories (like SSD hard drives).

But as the technology evolved over the years, these flash memory cards started being used with all sorts of devices, from MP3 players to iPhones. As a result, newer versions of the SD card got larger capacities. These capacities were denoted by suffixes like HC (High Capacity), XC (eXtended Capacity), and UC (Ultra Capacity).

As this includes all cards with storage space in excess of 2 GB, most SD cards you see in use today will have one of these suffixes attached to their names. MicroSDHC cards are the most prevalent, with the top-capacity versions being SDXC cards.

TF Card: SD Card for Mobile Phones

As mobile devices grew more and more popular, it became clear that the future of computing had to target that segment. But SD memory cards, even miniSD cards, were too large for the rapidly shrinking cell phone. So a new standard had to be developed.

SanDisk and Motorola worked together to create T-Flash cards, boasting capacities up to 512 MB in a size smaller than a fingernail. A trademark dispute with T-mobile led to the name becoming TransFlash card, which was often shortened to just TF card.

As the first Motorola phone rolled out with the brand new TF card, interest rose in the technology. The SD Association ultimately acquired the standard, rechristening it to the MicroSD card.

This resulted in the release of the world’s smallest memory cards, suitable for use with gadgets of all kinds. Apart from Android and iOS smartphones, microSD cards were adopted by things like video game consoles and dashcams.

So Are MicroSD Cards Different?

MicroSD cards and TF cards have the same functionality. Most of the SD cards in use today are actually microSD cards, thanks to the popularity of smartphones and digital cameras.

A TF memory card is simply an older version of the microSD, with generally lower capacity. They use the same SD card slot – any card reader (including internal card readers in laptops) that accepts a microSD card will accept a TF card as well without any issues.

MicroSD cards will usually demonstrate better performance than TF cards, just because they are still being continuously developed by SDA. Be it storage capacity or read-write speeds, microSD cards have come a long way, leaving the older TF cards in the dust.

Can You Still Buy TF Cards?

It is very difficult to find an SD card without the official microSD branding today. The introduction of HC and XC memory cards completely transformed the market, and most memory cards you can buy today have storage capacities in excess of 8 GB.

As such, there’s no reason for any manufacturer to continue selling outdated TF cards, which were released before high-capacity memory cards were a thing. The only way to get a TF card today is if you already own one from its initial launch.

How Do TF Cards Differ From an SD Card?

TF cards are just the name of an early iteration of the microSD card. It uses the same slot, works the same way, and even has a similar form factor.

The only difference lies in technical specifications. This is because microSD cards have continued to get updates by the SD association, while the only TF cards in circulation are the ones sold in the early days.

If you still possess a TF card, you can continue using it with any smartphone or card reader without any hassle. Keep in mind though that their performance is not going to be on par with any modern microSD card, and it would be a good idea to upgrade.

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