With Android, RAM has always been a favorite conversation topic. Before Android world haphazardly transitioned to 64 bit computing specs like 2GB RAM were reserved only for upper mid-range devices and today 3GB RAM is increasingly becoming common even in under 10k smartphones. If you are deciding between phones and it all comes down to choice between RAM on the two, let’s help you decide how much of a difference it will make.
RAM or Random Access Memory is basically a faster memory compared to your internal storage (6 to 10 times faster). This is where your processor keeps App codes when an App is running so that they can be quickly fetched when needed.
How your RAM is used, how much RAM you need and how much of a difference RAM makes to overall performance are all depended on a number of factors – a primary one being your Operating System.
You must have heard the iPhone argument. “iPhone had been doing just fine on 1GB RAM till iPhone 6 and clearly that won’t make the cut even for half decent Android experience.” iOS doesn’t cash apps in RAM like Android does, which translates to not-as-efficient multitasking but sustains smooth performance over a period of time. Also Java based Android apps are plagued by inherent issues with garbage collection, etc. But let’s get back to Android for now.
How RAM works on Android
Let’s say you have Google Chrome and your Gmail cashed in the RAM. What it actually means for you is you can switch between the two seamlessly. You can check your mail, send a reply and continue reading from the exact same spot in your browser when you switch back to it.
If you have insufficient RAM, the moment you switch back to Chrome, you will see that annoying app loading circle, once chrome is loaded your page will load again and you will have to scroll down to the precise point where you left, again. This breaks your continuity and ruins your Android experience. More RAM allows you to multi-task between many apps conveniently without going through the trouble of apps loading and reloading, which is not only annoying but also affects battery life adversely.
You don’t need RAM only for multitasking. Background processes like a file downloading in the background, divining high resolution displays and applications like slo-motion video recordings make generous use of RAM.
So more RAM means faster performance?
Not necessarily. For instance, if your usage requires 2GB RAM, then presence of 3GB RAM won’t make things any faster. This would however translate to durable performance in the long run. After a period of usage (say 6 months or an year), your smartphone performance will be well maintained.
However, if your usage commands 2GB RAM and you are stuck with 1.5GB, adding more RAM (which is practically not an option) will give you a performance boost as recent Apps won’t be booted out of RAM frequently and your phone won’t have to cache them again and again.
Point being, more RAM allows your phone to do more things at once, but it doesn’t necessarily improve the speed at which your phone does all those things. Lenovo K4 Note, for instance, has 3GB RAM, but the MT6753 chipset prevents snappy performance. Apps and webpages take their sweet time loading. On the other hand Nexus 5X manages smooth sailing with just 2GB RAM.
However, better quality of RAM will improve your Android performance
Also Read: LG G5 Will Flaunt An ‘Always On’ Display
What you won’t find on the RAM spec sheet
Besides the amount of RAM the quality of RAM is very important. Ideally, you would expect your RAM to have the same speed as your processor, but that is not the case in practical life. The efficiency of RAM communicating with your processor is an important factor too, crucial to your smartphone performance. So how do I choose better quality RAM? Well, since RAM details like RAM clock speed, bandwidth, read-write speed, etc. are never advertised, it narrows down to your choice of LPDDR4 vs LPDDR3 RAM at consumer end.
What is LPDDR4 RAM?
LPDDR4 RAM is short for Low power Double Data Rate RAM. 4 represents the evolutionary generation and Low Power means they have been optimized for use in mobile devices (smaller bit bus for communication between Processor and RAM, but consumes less power)
If you are familiar with basics of digital electronics, you would know that semiconductor devices execute instructions based on clock cycles. Double Data Rate RAMs are faster because they can communicate with your processor on both up and down clock.
Another way of improving communication between RAM and processor is by increasing the number of communication channels. LPDDR4 RAM is uses a dual channel architecture (2 x 16bit) and thus aims to be twice as fast as LPDDR3 RAMs. Not all chipsets support LPDDR4 though. For now Snapdragon 810 and Exynos 7420 are the only popular chips supporting LPDDR4 RAM, but that shall change in the near future.
Yes, LPDDR4 RAM does make a difference. How much? Samsung demonstrates in the following video.
RAM Compare: LPDDR4 v LPDDR3 v LPDDR2
Should I go for a UI with baked in RAM Cleaner?
On Android, Apps you frequently use get cached in RAM memory. When more RAM is required, android removes least used apps. Memory cleaner aren’t in line with Google’s Android vision. You don’t need to deal with ‘Tap to clear’ options in the ‘Recent Apps’ pane and you don’t need to clear recent apps list either (It is present in all custom UIs). There is no option for the same in stock Nexus 5X or 6P and in time we used these devices, not once was it required.
Modern RAM cleaners are smarter than they used to be a couple of years ago, but it is still better to locate and uninstall the rogue app when you run into RAM management issues. In our experience so far, RAM cleaners can’t make up for lack of RAM on Android devices.
So what should I keep in mind while buying a new phone?
All that we have discussed above should convince you not to put too much faith in a particular number.
- You should rely on reviews to gauge practical performance.
- Also, more of RAM is always a good thing and gives you assurance of performance holding up well even in the long run.
- Go for at least 2GB RAM for decent Android experience