Why don’t we start from the beginning? RAM stands for Random Access Memory. That is not that much important to keep in mind, as what it is used for is why we are here. Over the past few years, smartphone RAMs have increased in size at an incredible pace. Unlike the early 2010s, where most smartphones boasted a 2GB of RAM, most smartphone companies have stepped up their game and now offer RAMs of 3GB, 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 10GB, and 12GB. Wait, 10GB? Yes, the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition comes with 10GB of RAM, which is just as confusing as it sounds for many of us out here. Let’s now get back to business.
Know About Smartphone RAM
RAM is a temporary digital data storage in computers (your smartphone is a computer, too), and it stores temporary information during operations such that it can be accessed with ease. Someone may wonder why their smartphone needs RAM storage when it has like 64GB of internal storage. The reason is that RAM is fast. Superfast! Even the snappiest hard drives and storage devices are slow when your smartphone needs to read or write information ‘right now.’ As a result, you find that even the CPU of your smartphone has some cache memory to store information being used at the moment, and it is mu h when running on multitasking apps.
How your smartphone uses RAM
There’s this component in your smartphone known as the OS kernel. It is based on your smartphone’s operating system and acts as a traffic cop by regulating everything that interacts with the various smartphone hardware components. For instance, when gaming on your smartphone, the game might want to draw a new screen. During that process, the required data goes into the RAM, from where it is parsed by the Operating System, processed by the CPU and GPU, then sent off to the display. This whole process is done to ensure that the right color dots land on the right spots on your screen. Well, that’s a little complicated, but it can be summarized in these three points.
Importance Of RAM
- RAM holds data for a short period.
- The information stored in your smartphone’s RAM can be read and written extremely fast.
- RAM is erased after you switch off your smartphone.
- When you open an app for the first time, your smartphone pulls the OS and app data from the internal (main) storage and temporarily store it on the RAM for ease of access.
- After you’re done with an app you’re currently using; the RAM stores the app and all the data you were using if you have not cleared it from the ‘recently used apps.’ That is why an app resumes right where you left it off when you click it back after some time. That is what we call multitasking. If a smartphone is efficient in multitasking, it means that it has made good use of its RAM or, maybe, it has plenty of it.
- If smartphones never had RAM, they would be re-opening apps like they never used them before and thus causing operational delays here and there.
You can now see the importance of having RAM on a smartphone. RAM is not just enough, and you need a good amount of RAM to keep things going smoothly. If that’s the case, then how much RAM do I need?
How much RAM do you need?
Every Smartphone comes with a fixed RAM amount, which is not upgradable like we see in laptops. It is, thereafter, imperative that even when your smartphone selection is guided by other specs, you love to have, RAM should be the key consideration. The world has hundreds of smartphone models with different amounts of RAM, but here are some popular mentions and their RAM sizes. The Google Pixel 3 has 4GB RAM, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (128GB) has 6GB RAM, the OnePlus 6T has 8GB, while the McLaren edition comes with 10GB, and finally, the Lenovo Z5 Pro GT comes with 12GB of RAM.
As you can see, the list starts from 4GB RAM, which is considered the minimum efficient RAM size for smartphones. Let’s have a look at more features these phones have to understand how effective RAM is.
From the total installed RAM, Huawei Mate 8, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and Google Pixel 3XL show up at least 50% of the default installed RAM for your use. The OnePlus 6T and Galaxy Note 9 show up more than 50%, making them arguably perform faster than the rest.
It is interesting to note the RAM amount the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) choose. The Note 8, for instance, is configured to use 2.5GB of swap, while the Mate 8 is configured to use only 0.5GB. The OnePlus 6T is confident enough not to require swap space.
The Google Pixel 3XL is designed to hold at least five standard mobile apps in its memory without swapping. That means you can navigate through Spotify, WhatsApp, YouTube, Candy Crush, and Google play at ease. However, if you start other mobile apps, the Google Pixel 3XL will start using the compressed space to free up space. That means that you will comfortably operate eight standard apps, and they will be stored in the RAM and Swap memory altogether. If we take this RAM scenario on a linear scale, it is evident that you can open close to 10 standard mobile applications comfortably on smartphones with 10GB and 12GB of RAM.
Swapping isn’t openly noticeable. Switching to an app that had been previously swapped out swaps it in again. Often, processes that run in the background are first to be swapped. On the other hand, if you exceed the total number of standard apps your smartphone RAM can hold, the first swapped app is removed from memory. What happens when the app is removed from memory?
When an app is pushed from memory, it means that it will reload again upon re-opening. However, there are claims that smartphones as expensive as the Google Pixel 3XL should include more RAM.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and 9 both have 6GB RAM, with around 2.5GB usable to you on the Note 8 and 3.5 available to you on the Note 9. With more than 2GB swap space, both smartphones allow for the concurrent running of around two user-intensive apps and five or more standard applications without experiencing any problem. Moreover, when you open additional apps, these smartphones start using the Swap space. That will result in a higher number of memory-resident apps.
Phones with 6GB RAM and above can comfortably switch between a dozen mobile applications, including the usage-intensive ones, without experiencing any loading issues. The 6GB RAM mark is the beginning of the RAM ‘paradise,’ as most apps tend to get held up in the RAM, and switching between different apps is mostly a seamless experience.
If you’re running on 8GB RAM, then you’re pretty much sure that your phone is lag-free, even after opening a good number of standard apps. From the state of RAM, you are free to open intensive applications like Google Photos and PUBG. Switching between the applications is seamless and more fluid than you can experience on 6GB RAM. (Of course, you can’t tell the difference, but with multiple apps running in the background, you can feel the difference.) The other thing is, you won’t be mostly using all the power-intensive apps on your phone. So, the phone is, at most times, quick and snappy!
The OnePlus 6T comes with 8GB RAM but without Swap space. However, since the average user can barely tell the difference between 8GB without swap space and 6GB with swap space, the smartphone is as quick and fluid as the rest of the >8GB RAM space phones.
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Do you need more than 8GB RAM?
When an ordinary smartphone is loaded with more than 8GB of RAM, it sounds like a waste. Why am I saying this? With a 4GB RAM smartphone, you can perform all smartphone operations just perfectly and efficiently as with 8GB RAM, but be careful not to overload your smartphone on multitasking. I still use my 4GB RAM Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, and it feels so much convenient that I’d not opt for a more expensive smartphone to go after a bigger RAM volume. 4GB RAM is sufficient, 6GB RAM is workable, and 8GB is satisfying. 12GB RAM and 16GB RAM feel more than enough, and maybe something smartphone companies are using to squeeze an extra coin from their customers’ pockets. You can hardly tell the difference between 8GB RAM and 12GB RAM.
Besides, the speed or fluidity of operations on a smartphone doesn’t solely depend on the RAM; the Operating System and the internal storage state also play a huge role.
If I were asked about my views concerning smartphone RAMs, I would advise OEMs to act rationally and target more on the other useful areas of a smartphone and stop the over-stressing on a smartphone’s RAM size. Having a huge amount of RAM does not mean the smartphone is of outstanding quality. As a fact, every smartphone’s operating system is completely optimized to work with the provided RAM without experiencing glitches. Other factors like the Camera and other hardware specifications can also be used to determine a smartphone’s quality.
Do we have the same view on this? Feel free to reach out.
Image Source: PixaBay
I am a seasoned IT strategist from India managing projects and products across different verticals and industries for business owners and individuals from all across the world. These blog posts are intended to bring the best and most useful aspects of the gadgets around us.