6 Gigabytes of RAM — Do Android Devices Really Need So Much?

I was on a vacation to my home recently where I uncovered a piece of ancient technology — a desktop PC dated to 2001. The one that my father had purchased when I was hardly ten years old and the one I went around bragging about, it apparently being a home PC with the best possible configuration in the world.

The configuration, a ‘whopping’ 128 MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive. And guess what it had the latest Windows ME in it, which supported USB, you could connect something called a ‘pen drive’ to it.

The answer lies in the hardware requirements — what once could be done with lesser specifications, can be done today with greater ease, comfort, details and speeds. With time, technology evolves; we got better hardware to run the same Windows ME with more RAM and more memory to store data-let’s call it the Gen2 for reference. So, the developers at the software end saw this Gen2 as an opportunity to create something that will utilise the new and better hardware to its full capacity in order to deliver a better experience-let’s name the better software V2.0. This development led to hardware designers creating a device that will run the V2.0 software in a better fashion, say Gen3 - which in turn again led the software developers to create a software that will demand more resources and give an even better user experience.

This circle of technological development has been going on and on and hasn’t stayed limited to computers. This trend is now a vital part of smartphones. Smartphones today aren’t even phones really. They are basically super-compact computers capable of much more than what the best PC was 15 years ago.

However, there’s still a small catch here. Smartphones today are capable of getting things done — by today’s standards — in just 2 GB. Even the iPhone 7 doesn’t have more than 2 GB of RAM, and yet is amongst the best devices out there. Even most of the Windows phones don’t need so much memory for a picture perfect running.

So, the question arises:

“Why do Android devices need so much of RAM to function properly?”

The answer lies in the fact that all the three major phone operating systems, the iOS, the Windows and the Android use totally different approach while coding them for use. While iOS and Windows have no such thing have been crafted very carefully and in a mature way so as to optimise the user experience in minimum resources, Android is like a spoilt child spending a lot to get things done only the grand way. This is seen in the way Android works. It uses something called garbage collection, whose job is to go through all the memory allocated to a process, see what part is still being used by the process and clear up whatever is not useful. Now, this seems very good to read, however, this cannot be done before the application/process is closed and all the while an application is running actively, the memory isn’t freed. This is a big reason why cleaning out background applications is essential for an Android device. And since we live in the era of multi-tasking where closing background apps is mostly off the table, we need huge amounts of memory for the device to keep running smooth.

But the question still remains — Why six Gigabytes when two are enough? The answer lies in looking a little deep. Which phones incorporate that much RAM? The answer is the ones that have an equally strong processor and since the software developers always tend towards making full use of the device’s capabilities, there are applications, such as Modern Combat 5: Blackout, or the plain Facebook app eat up a lot device’s memory. On top of that, since Facebook is used several times a day, it usually isn’t cleared, leaving lesser room for other applications. This is the exact reason why we need more RAM.

Devices with 3 and 4 GB RAM are a common sight, mainly due to the fact that with improvement in the computing ability of our devices, the software demands have increased too. And when the time comes that 6 GB of RAM will be necessary and we’ll start laughing at 4 GB devices the way we do at the PC from 2001, we’ll already have a device that is ready to take on the challenge and you won’t have to get a new device on the new standards.