How Much RAM Does a Smartphone Need Today?
Updated: May 19,2022
Phone manufacturers tend to increase the amount of phone RAM with each new model because this spec is seemingly easy to grasp. Most buyers believe that the bigger the RAM, the better the phone. But is that really so? We’re here to tell you how things truly stand.
The Optimal Solution
The short answer to the question from this article’s title is: 6 GB of RAM is more than enough for the needs of a vast majority of smartphone users. No matter what you do - listen to music on your smartphone, browse social media, watch YouTube videos, play mobile games, or even stream TV shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime - this amount of RAM can handle it all with grace.
And the long answer? Well, it requires a bit more explaining. To appreciate the logic behind our answer that 6 GB is enough, you need to understand how cell phone RAM works and what is stored in RAM.
What Is RAM Anyway?
Random access memory or RAM is a special type of memory that temporarily stores frequently loaded data, pre-loaded files, and any information you might need in the near future. Retrieving the data stored in the RAM is much quicker compared to retrieving the data stored in your phone’s internal memory, but there’s a catch - you’ll always have significantly less RAM storage space at your disposal than internal storage.
RAM is primarily important for multitasking, for situations when you have opened multiple apps but are, at the moment, using only one. The moment you decide to resume, let’s say, playing a game after taking a photo, you’ll notice that the game loads much faster, and you can pick up exactly where you’ve left off. That’s because the game was stored in the RAM while you were taking that photo.
The amount of RAM smartphones have keeps increasing. The first iPhone had a measly 192 MB of RAM. Today, you can easily find a 12-GB RAM phone, while top-of-the-line phones such as the ASUS ROG Phone 5 can have as much as 18 GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s not the amount of hypothetically available RAM that determines whether you need a phone RAM upgrade or not - it’s your RAM usage. So let’s discuss some commonly used apps and how much RAM they need to run.
Most apps we use every day, such as Google Play, Slack, YouTube, WhatsApp, Alexa, or Twitter, take up between 130 MB and 400 MB. They don’t heavily tax your phone’s system, so if you mostly use them, you definitely won’t have to upgrade your phone RAM.
More demanding apps require anywhere between 400 MB and 900 MB: Gmail and Maps need 500 MB, Instagram and Kindle - 700 MB, and Chrome with three tabs open will need 900 MB. This still means a phone with 6 GB of RAM can easily handle multiple apps at once.
Generally, the most demanding apps are modern mobile games. Your 4-GB phone will do just fine for playing games like Candy Crush, which only needs 375 MB of RAM to run. However, if you’re an avid mobile gamer who wants to play games such as Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (which requires 1,152 MB) on their phone, choosing a 6-GB or 8-GB RAM phone will ensure a smooth gaming experience even with several other apps running in the background.
Currently, the most demanding game for smartphones is ARK: Survival Evolved. The iOS version needs 2 GB of RAM, while the game for Android phones requires 3 GB of memory. So, if you’re wondering, “Is 4 GB of RAM enough for a phone?” the answer would be: For playing this game, it’s just barely enough, with degraded in-game performance.
The Impact of Your Operating System
We’ve mentioned that different versions of the same game or app require more or less RAM depending on the OS. In general, iOS devices need less RAM to perform equally well as Android devices with more RAM. Why is that so?
The reason you don’t need the highest-RAM phone to get iOS working well lies in the fact that the engineers developing it don’t have to worry about their software being compatible with a broad range of devices. IOS only runs on iPhones, so developers can focus on efficiency.
It's an entirely different situation with the Android operating system. Since Android runs on many devices with different configurations, this OS often needs double or quadruple the amount of memory compared to iOS to translate large amounts of code required for the proper functioning of apps.
That’s why flagship Android phones have as much as 18 GB of RAM, while iPhones have never had more than 6 GB.
The habit of keeping multiple apps open has a huge impact on your RAM usage. Studies show that, as our smartphones get stronger, we burden them with more apps.
In 2018, for example, an average mobile user had 87 apps installed, with a fair number of them running in the background and affecting the phone’s performance. That number increased to 110 in 2020, during the first lockdowns, which, in turn, caused an increase in phone RAM usage and the need for phones with more RAM.
Minimum RAM Requirement
We’ve stated earlier that 6 GB of RAM is enough for an optimal all-around experience. But if you don’t intend to play resource-intensive games on your phone, even 4 GB will suffice. With it, you’ll be able to enjoy streaming videos, use social media, and play simpler games. A phone with 4GB of RAM is also a great choice for a smartphone for seniors, who’ll be able to enjoy all the features of today’s smartphones without experiencing any lags. They’re also suitable as a kid’s first smartphone.
The Most Popular Option
Recent research done by mobile news outlets tells us that 8-GB RAM smartphones are the most popular models among customers, with 31.70% of buyers opting for this amount of RAM. Models with 6 GB of RAM are a close second for the phone with the best RAM. These mobile phones are usually more affordable than phones with more RAM and can still run even the most resource-draining apps and games.
You might think that having more RAM might affect battery longevity. However, an increase in RAM has a minimal impact on the battery.
All things considered, 6 GB of RAM is the winning ticket right now. This amount of RAM offers excellent app speed for social media users, video streaming and editing, and gaming fans. And while devices with 8 GB of phone RAM are for customers looking for cutting-edge performance, you probably shouldn’t go below 4 GB if you want to ensure lag-free performance at all times.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this amount of RAM is enough to run even the most demanding apps at good performance levels.
Models with 4 GB of RAM are a decent enough option. They will handle just about anything except media editing tools and the most demanding game titles.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.