File systems are a topic no one really likes to talk about since they’re technically complicated and not really worth knowing about; as long as you can find your files and folders why should you care if the partition on your hard drive is using NTFS or FAT? With that out of the way, let’s talk Android. Before version 2.3 Gingerbread started shipping, the file system Google went with for their mobile operating system was called YAFFS, which stands for Yet Another Flash File System. The problem with YAFFS is that it’s single threaded, meaning all those new super smartphones expected to ship in 2011 that have powerful dual core processors would not be able to make file read/write performance shine under the old system. Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s a smartphone, why would I need to have insanely high performance levels when writing to a memory card? When you start putting 14 megapixel camera sensors inside your device, and have hardware that can enable 1080p video playback and recording, you start caring about how much speed you can squeeze out of those little flash storage chips soldered on the motherboard.
Another reason Google switched to ext4 was the improved handling of data loss. Why data gets lost is itself a complicated topic and I’ll defer you to this article on LWN.net, but the gist of the situation is that the Linux operating system manipulates so many files that some of those said files are not written to permanent memory. In the event of a power loss, or an unexpected system crash, your data is gone. That’s going to go away now, the data loss that is, not your Android phone rebooting because you installed beta software.
Open source software geeks are jumping in their chairs right now, but people like you, me, and your mother, really couldn’t care less. That being said, anything to help make our lives easier and reduce stress is always a good thing.