Recently, an Oppo phone with a whopping 10 GB of RAM made rounds on most tech publications. That is, undoubtedly, an incredibly excessive amount of RAM. But it raises a good question: how much RAM does your Android phone really need?
How RAM Works on Android
First, we’ll need to take a closer look at how RAM works on Android. If you’re familiar with Windows computers, you know that more RAM is usually better and having free RAM is a basic necessity for a well-performing system.
With Android, however, it works a little differently. Android is based on the Linux kernel, which operates under an entirely different set of rules than that of Windows-based computers. And when it comes to RAM, one statement applies across the board: free RAM is wasted RAM.
So, on Android, there’s no need to clear out RAM for other apps to be loaded—this process happens automatically and fluidly. RAM isn’t something you have to think about on most Linux-based machines.
That said, too little RAM is always going to be a problem. If the system doesn’t have enough RAM to work with, then things start to become an issue—apps running in the background will close prematurely (or when you don’t want them to).
Famously, this issue became very prominent on Android devices when Lollipop (5.x) was released, as it featured much more aggressive memory management than previous versions of the OS. Since most phones back then were limited to 2 GB of RAM, this became an apparent problem. For example, when using a phone in the car with Maps in the foreground and Music in the background, the latter would often get shut down by the OS, killing music playback. If Music was in the foreground and Maps in the background, then Maps would get killed. It was exceptionally frustrating at the time.
The solution moving forward was more RAM.
“Too Much” RAM Isn’t a Bad Thing; It’s Just Needless
At a time when many laptops are still shipping with 8 GB (or even 4 GB in some cases!), you have to question why a phone would need 10 GB. The answer is a quick one: it doesn’t.
While having this much RAM is excessive and honestly just kind of silly—it’s one of those “doing it just to be first” sorts of things—that doesn’t mean it really hurts anything. Will you ever use that much RAM? No, at least not right now.
That said, some phones will need more RAM than others. Case in point: a Pixel phone vs. a Galaxy phone. Samsung tends to include a lot of extra (read: superfluous) features on its phones. This leads to a heavier operating system that simply needs more RAM to function at a high level. Pixel phones run stock Android, which is cleaner and lighter than the Samsung Experience. Thus, Pixel phones can get away with less RAM than a Galaxy to provide a similarly fluid experience. There’s even a specific version of Android designed to efficiently run on as little as a single gigabyte of RAM.
So, there is a reason when more RAM is warranted in an Android phone. Again, maybe not ten gigabytes of RAM, but more. The current standard is 4 GB, though we’re currently in a transitional phase where 6 GB will start to become the norm. Manufacturers like Samsung and OnePlus have already been embracing 6 GB (or even 8 GB) in many of their flagship phones, a number that will likely continue to rise in the coming years.
So really, all this is to say one thing (or maybe two?): there’s no such thing as “too much RAM,” and manufacturers are certainly going to keep pushing that number to silly levels. Whatever—better more than less. I’ll take it.