How much memory does a phone need?

Smartphones have penetrated our lives like no other invention in the entire history of mankind; well, maybe except for ‘the wheel’. But that was not just millennia ago, the number of people that benefited from the invention was very small (because the population was small too). Also, technology would spread very slowly around, and it could take decades for something invented in China to reach Egypt.

This was overturned by the time we had reached the information age, when the first Apple smartphone, the legendary iPhone was invented, people in Japan knew the second it was revealed in the United States. Not long ago, in the 70s, documented data had a rate of doubling, like every 30 years or so. Today the documented data doubles every single day. And most of that is owed to consistent and non-stop postings by more than half of the world’s population through different social media channels; and this is contributed by the very first word of this article — the smartphone.

image source: Google

Smartphones have become such a big part of lives, that most of us can’t even imagine a life without one. On an average, we check out phone every once 6 minutes or so. That frequency increases in the evening and even more when we aren’t busy. So the question is,

“How much do we know about our smartphones?”

I’ll try to explain the use of RAM in our phones and how much of this Random Access Memory is needed really in order to run our smartphone perfectly. Let’s take a look at what RAM actually is.

What is RAM? How does it work?

RAM is an abbreviation for Random Access Memory. This is the part of any computing device, be it a desktop, laptop or phone, which is used to access data about the program(s) being run in the foreground/background. A chunk of the data occupied by a program in the storage memory is drawn to the RAM, the very moment you start an application. e.g. You open WhatsApp — what the phone does when you open the app, is that it takes a part of what is stored in your phone’s memory and loads it into the RAM. All the while you’re using WhatsApp, this data will be accessed from the RAM instead of the memory card; this allows for faster access of information to process the data and commands.

Source: Google

Let’s try to understand this from an analogy of a worker at a workshop, say a carpenter working on carving a piece of wood. Here, the cupboard in which all his tools are stored can be assumed as the ‘storage or hard drive’. The process of carving is the program being run. And the rack on which he’d be keeping all the tools on the workbench can be considered as the RAM, tools being the data. Now, going to the cupboard every single time is not just time consuming, but also will consume the energy of the workman. What he can do with the rack, is that he’ll get whatever tools he needs and put them on the rack, and will reach out for them whenever he needs one. This way, the rack helps him — 
1. Organize his resources
2. Access them faster
3. Save time carving
Once he’s done, he can put the tools back where they were in the cupboard.

This is how RAM works, required data is pulled from the secondary memory, used while the task in running and then copied back to the memory. This RAM is volatile memory, i.e. it cannot store data permanently. The moment an application is closed, any unsaved data will be lost.

How does a RAM help you multi-task?

Let’s day our carpenter has to work on two jobs on the same day. He’ll need either the same of different tools for both tasks. If he has a small rack, he may not be able to bring all the necessary things to the workbench — result? reduced efficiency. To counter that problem, and be able to work on both his tasks effectively and simultaneously, he’ll need a bigger rack on his workbench. Same goes with RAM, when you have more RAM, you can allocate some memory to one task and some to another. The more the RAM, the more tasks you’ll be able to perform without any problem of resource allocation.

How much RAM do I need then?

Most of the devices don’t need much RAM for effective working. Even 2 GB are enough, to get through, as most of the applications we use are not ‘memory hogs.’ However, what you can notice that a part of RAM is always shown used by your phone.
To see how much RAM is free, go to
Settings>>Memory>>Memory Used

screenshot of my ZenFone ZE552KL

Some devices may show in the memory section directly. This will show all the statistics of the RAM being used by the device. What you’ll notice is that a lot of memory is already used up. This is because of the vital processes that run in the background; as our operating systems are getting more and more advanced, we’ll be needing more memory to keep the device going. There was a time when the HTC Wildfire S, running the Android v2.3.5 Gingerbread worked perfectly well with just 512 MegaBytes of RAM.

But what you can see here is that the 2 GB is slowly becoming not enough for the Android v7.0 Nougat. I have 4GB RAM of which 3.5GB is user available, of which some portion is occupied by the system UI, approx. 0.5 GB used by system vital processes. I have approx. 1.1 GB of RAM free when I use my device normally.

The point is, as we are advancing through the technology, we will be running stronger applications, which would require not just more computing power, but will also need more resources, one them being the RAM.

How much RAM should I ask for?

Most Android devices today come with 3GB RAM or more. However, in my opinion, 4GB is the optimum amount of memory you must ask for in your phone.

Why?

Because this will let you have a buffer for at least a couple of years. As better apps and operating systems are coming up, you’ll have 2–3 years to use your phone without having to worry about possessing a device with inadequate memory. Although we already have devices such as the OnePlus 3, OnePlus 3T with 6GB RAM; Heck! they already launched a phone with 8GB RAM (read OnePlus 5), that time is still far away when you’ll need that much RAM to run effectively. Just having a huge load of RAM is not necessary only yet.

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

The time will come when you’ll need that much. But that time is not now. As of now, 4GB are most than just sufficient; that much is good for at least next two years.

Footnotes:

Sources of information:

  1. Trusted Reviews
  2. Android Authority
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