How much RAM does your Android phone really need? We explain everything you need to know.
It has become one of the most studied aspects when deciding to buy a new mobile, and it is no wonder. As mobile operating systems have advanced, and applications have become increasingly complex and resource-thirsty pieces of software, RAM memory has become a decisive element, in which everything – or almost everything – the world is fixed when buying a terminal. But, Is it really that important?
There are many unknowns that exist around RAM memory in our mobile devices. So our intention is clarify the main doubts and answer the big questions about RAM.
What is RAM and what is it for?
Before going fully to answer some of the main questions, it is necessary to understand what is it really this component that includes each and every one of the smartphones on the market. The random access memory or RAM memory – for its acronym in English – is a type of memory that devices – whether mobile phones, tablets, computers or Smart TVs, among others – use to store data that will be necessary in the short term.
The RAM is ultrafast memory, since both reading and writing on it must be done almost instantaneously, something that would be impossible in the case of using other types of memory such as the devices used as internal storage. In addition, they are called “random access” memories since, regardless of the position in which you want to read or write, the waiting time will be the same by not using a sequential access mode.
Sequential vs random access, what’s the difference? | When we talk about sequential access applied to computing, we are referring to a type of access that follows a predetermined order when accessing elements before reading or writing to memory. It is a type of access that is slower than random, since to get to a specific point in memory you must first go through the previous elements.
In our Android mobiles or tablets, the RAM memory acts as follows: the operating system – more specifically, the kernel or kernel – is in charge of managing the access of applications and other elements of the system to the RAM memory, so they can read or write only when the kernel allows it. Thus, these applications can temporarily store data, which can be accessed instantly when necessary.
This, translated into the use that we give to our devices on a day-to-day basis, means that, once the operating system, its processes and other elements have used part of the RAM they need to function, the remaining space is free for applications can store data. Once the mobile is turned off and back on, RAM memory is freed and the process starts again, with the applications fighting to try to occupy its position in RAM memory.
Unlike internal storage, RAM is “cleaned” every time we restart the mobile.
It is also necessary to keep in mind that, like the vast majority of modern operating systems, Android includes integrated RAM management, which is in charge of dynamically granting empty spaces in RAM memory to the different applications as they are needed, until completing all the available gaps to take full advantage of the RAM memory capacity of our device. Hence, commonly, it is said that on Android, unused RAM is wasted RAM, and that closing apps manually to save memory is not a recommended practice.
What does it mean that your mobile has 2/4/8 GB of RAM?
Now that the most basic concepts of how RAM works have become clear, it is necessary to answer one of the questions most frequently asked by smartphone users: What does it mean that my mobile has 2, 4, 6 or 12 gigabytes of RAM?.
We have already explained that RAM is a type of memory like any other, which differs from the rest by the type of access –random– and by the speed –which, by the way, it is measured in megahertz-. Therefore, as with the rest of the memories, one of its most important features is the capacity, which is precisely the aspect to which these GB of which I spoke before refer.
That your mobile has a specific amount of RAM memory, only means that both the applications and the operating system itself have more or less space when storing your data to access them later, so that those phones with more RAM allow keep more apps in the background . On the other hand, if the memory capacity is reduced, only a few applications will be able to store data –the system reserves a space for its processes, which the apps cannot occupy–, so that data must be loaded from scratch every time it is run, and therefore access to them will be slower.
As we have changed | The HTC Dream was the first Android in history to go on the market, and it had 192 MB of RAM. Today, there are already mobiles like the ASUS ROG Phone 3 with 16 GB of RAM, or what is the same, 84 times more than the HTC model.
If an app or a process requests RAM from the operating system, but due to low memory capacity there is no space available, the kernel will be forced to free memory using a technique known as swapping. There may also be a situation where the kernel have to kill a process stored in memory to make room for a new one. These calculations are made based on different factors, such as the time that has passed since the app was opened It remains in the background, so that the end of a process to leave room for another does not affect too much the normal performance of the device.
Swapping, the technique that uses internal memory as RAM | When we talk about swappingWe refer to a technique that is based on using free space on the hard disk to store temporary data, thus reducing the use of RAM. In Android, this data must be compressed before being stored on the disk, and then decompressed to be able to access it.
Of course, on Android there is also the possibility of free RAM manually. By doing so, we can close the processes that the applications keep open so that we can access them later as quickly as possible, thus leaving room for new processes. However, as I said before, it is usually better let the operating system itself manage memory usage as you see fit.
More RAM is always better, is it really so?
Another of the most widespread doubts among smartphone users is related to how much RAM does an Android phone really need to function well. Taking into account the aforementioned, it would be easy to conclude that the more RAM, the better. But the reality is not so simple.
Like any component integrated into the devices, RAM memory chips consume power, and the consumption is higher as the memory capacity grows, since more are carried out refresh cycles. This is explained by Park Ju Hyung, one of the developers of the Android Paranoid ROM platform:
Higher RAM capacity increases power usage due to refresh cycles, so bigger is not always better.
I’m not familiar with how RAM boost on OxygenOS works, but if it’s done correctly (like how Google pins several system services related files to RAM), it could make sense. https://t.co/UAABluaBb9
– Park Ju Hyung (@ arter97) May 21, 2019
In addition, it is necessary to take into account that, although applications consume more and more RAM memory of our devices, there are still few that exceed the figure of 1 GB occupied. A table prepared by AndroidAuthority It shows how common applications like WhatsApp or Spotify hardly ever exceed 300 MB, while heavier games like PUBG Mobile reach figures close to 1.15 GB.
How do I know how much RAM my mobile has? |: practically all smartphones on the market reflect the amount of RAM they include. However, you can check the memory of your mobile, as well as the space occupied and available if you access the developer options of your mobile, within the section “Memory usage”.
Taking all this into account, the most recommended is find a figure that suits our way of using mobile, always keeping in mind that, today, 8 GB of RAM are a number that has been shown to be capable of offer good performance in mid-range and high-end terminals alike. Therefore, if you are one of those who spends hours playing some of the most resource demanding titles, or you use your mobile or tablet almost as a substitute for a computer and multitasking is the most important thing, it may be choose a mobile with 12 GB of RAM be a good idea. If, on the other hand, you don’t usually play games, nor are you too demanding with the number of applications you use simultaneously, 8 GB should be more than enough.
Types of RAM memory and their differences
In the same way that there are different types of cameras, processors or screens, in the market we can find several different types of RAM, they usually differ from each other by its speed and energy efficiency.
Today, the most common type that we can find in Android smartphones is the LPDDR4X RAM, where LP it means Low power, and DDR4 refers to Double Data Rate or Double data transmission speed, while number 4 corresponds to the version. Finally, the X indicates that it is a version derived from the LPDDR4 technology.
This type of memory offers a data transfer rate up to 4,266 Mbps, the same as LPDDR4 technology, although it supports capacities ranging from 8 GB to 96 GB, a considerable increase over the 32 GB maximum limit of LPDDR4 technology. In addition, it bases its operation on a single 16-bit channel, and they are manufactured in a 14 nanometer format.
But two years after the launch of LPDDR4X, a new technology arrived that this year we have begun to see in the first terminals, such as the OnePlus 8 Pro or the Galaxy S20 Ultra, by the way, two of the phones with the largest memory capacity RAM on the market. It’s about the LPDDR5 technology, faster thanks to a speed of up to 6,400 Mbps that translates into transfers of more than 50 GB per second, while improving efficiency, reducing energy consumption by up to 30%. Today, this type of memory is not very widespread among smartphones, although it is expected that it will gain ground in the coming years.
The phones with the most RAM memory on the market
As application requirements and user needs have evolved and increased, Manufacturers have chosen to equip their phones with increasing capacities of RAM. Currently these are some of the phones with more RAM than you can buy of some of the main brands:
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