Are there phones without RAM

How much RAM does my smartphone really need?

By Adrian Mühlroth | December 30, 2020, 6:29 p.m.

Cell phone manufacturers like to brag about technical numbers when it comes to sales - one of them is the working memory or RAM. Some models now have 12 gigabytes of RAM - but do I really need that? TECHBOOK explains how much RAM actually makes sense in smartphones.

In recent years, the size of the main memory (or “random access memory”, or RAM for short) in smartphones has increased rapidly. This is practically the “memory” of the mobile phone: All files currently required by the smartphone are stored there briefly so that the processor has quick access to them at any time. The RAM size determines, for example, how fast and how many programs can load at the same time.

The introduction of the OnePlus 2 with 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM in 2015 at the latest has led smartphone manufacturers to want to outdo the competition with ever higher numbers. The OnePlus 3 reached the 6 GB mark for the first time in 2016 and exceeded it again the following year with the OnePlus 5 and 8 GB RAM. The current front runners are the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the One Plus 8 Pro or the Oppo Find X2, each with 12 GB of RAM. The Mi 10 Ultra from the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi even comes with 16 GB. But how much does today's average device actually need to function properly?

4, 8 or 12 GB of RAM for my smartphone?

Apple has traditionally been reluctant to increase the memory size of iPhones, and for good reason. The iOS operating system uses significantly less RAM than Android. The current iPhone 12, for example, has “only” 4 GB. This is because Apple has more influence on its operating system and the software is therefore better tailored to the hardware. Smartphone manufacturers who rely on Android have to equip their devices with more memory. The reason for this is that more manufacturers use Android, but equip their devices with different processors, user interfaces, etc. and the system has to be flexible in this regard. The Android operating system alone can claim up to 1.1 GB of RAM, which of course leaves little scope for apps to load their content into the much sought-after cache. Android devices with little RAM therefore often have to struggle with loading pauses.

Due to new functions such as picture-in-picture, which can be found on more and more smartphones in recent years, the RAM requirement has increased significantly in comparison. While Apple relies on a maximum of 6 GB of RAM, the golden ratio for Android smartphones is now 8 GB. These 8 GB are also often necessary in order to be able to use memory-intensive apps such as Gmail or Google Maps at the same time. The 12 GB of many new high-end devices, on the other hand, are not really necessary in today's scenario. This memory size is therefore at most a safeguard for the future - and of course for a small showing off by the manufacturer.

More RAM is not necessarily better

Important fact: Unused RAM is a power hog! The explanation is that the memory doesn't care how it's used. Whether it is full of data to the top or completely empty, the RAM always consumes power. This means that it doesn't make sense to buy a smartphone with huge RAM that will never be exhausted anyway. This puts unnecessary stress on the battery and shortens its service life.

You should also avoid manually freeing memory. Unlike with a laptop, for example, it is no longer necessary to empty the memory in smartphones. On the contrary: By removing inactive apps from the memory, they have to be reloaded when they are used again, which leads to longer loading times. Today's operating systems are also intelligent enough to put unneeded apps into standby mode in the background. This saves memory and protects the battery.

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