Everyone has a topic that can’t be avoided when buying a mobile phone, that is, what kind of configuration to choose. With the development of technology, the processor, memory, storage space, camera and charging speed of mobile phones are constantly improving. Most of these enhancements are needed and welcomed by consumers. However, the memory is a bit special, and the “configuration war” that vendors are doing in this area may be ridiculous.

In the early days of Android, the phone at that time was usually 512MB of memory, and the larger one might be 1GB. Time goes by 2014, most high-end models have 3GB of memory, and by 2016 and 2017, 4GB of memory has become mainstream. Then the memory war began, first 6GB, then 8GB, then 10GB, now the highest-end models are already equipped with 12GB of memory, even more than the memory of many people’s computers, then we really need so much memory?

What is memory?

To figure out how much memory your phone needs, you need to understand what the memory is? When a user launches a new application on Android, the Linux kernel creates a new process, which is an execution unit with its own virtual address space (mapped to physical memory). The Linux kernel manages the resources required by the process, including the time it runs on the CPU, the input and output of data (I/O), and physical memory (RAM).

The more applications the user opens, the more busy the CPU and I/O will be, but the work will still be done, but the speed will be slower. But the memory is different if there is not enough memory, even waiting for a long time will not help. Therefore, when there is not enough memory, the system will kill the current process in memory and make room for the new process. The system kernel performs various tests and checks to determine which processes can be killed to free up memory. For example, if you open Weibo a day and turn it off after a short while, and never open it again, then when there is not enough memory, the system will kill Weibo to release the memory to ensure that the currently open application is running normally.

Although this memory management mechanism sounds cruel, the Android system is designed this way. All applications receive a full warning before they are killed, telling them that they are about to be terminated, which allows the application to save current status information in advance. When the application is reloaded (more time consuming), they read the last status information and then return to the state it was when it was turned off.

How much memory does the Android phone need in 2019?

Obviously, if the memory of the mobile phone is too small, the system will frequently kill the background application, and the user will need to spend more time when opening the application, which will greatly affect the user experience. Is that the bigger the memory, the better? In theory, but in fact, if the application killed by the system has been open for a long enough time, the user will not even notice that the application is killed. At this time, the increase in memory only increases the cost of the device, and the improvement of the user experience is already small.

So how big is the memory? The foreign media Android Authority has done statistics on this. The RAM space used on the phone depends entirely on the running application. They divide the application into three categories:

  • The first “standard” application. Such apps typically consume between 130MB and 400MB of memory, such as apps like YouTube and WhatsApp, and games like Candy Crush Saga.
  • The second “media-intensive” application. This type of application loads a lot of images, so it uses more memory. This application includes photo albums, Weibo, etc. It usually uses 400MB to 700MB of memory.
  • The third is the “huge” application. This kind of application is mainly high-end games, such as “Need for Speed”, eating chicken mobile games, etc., such games generally use between 800MB and 1152MB of memory. It is worth mentioning that the Chrome browser also belongs to this category (opens 3 tabs).

Figure out how much memory the app uses, and how much memory your phone has. The main point here is the available memory, because the system will take up some memory, and some pre-installed user-level services will also use memory, so there is not much memory available on the spec sheet.

For example, the Pixel 3 XL has 4GB of physical memory and the available memory after reboot is approximately 1740MB. In theory, five “standard” applications can be run simultaneously. However, Android also has a SWAP mechanism, which is disk swapping technology. Simply put, when the memory is insufficient, the system temporarily transfers some data to the disk, thus alleviating the memory pressure. Pixel 3 XL’s SWAP space is 1023MB. Considering SWAP, Pixel 3 XL can run 8 “standard” applications at the same time. If you open a new application, one of the 8 applications will be deleted from memory.

Samsung Note 9 has 6GB of physical memory, of which 3.5GB is available memory and SWAP space is 2GB. This means that users can open a “huge” game, a media-intensive application and five standard applications, and have not yet used SWAP space.

In short, a mobile phone with 6GB of memory is already able to provide users with a seamless multitasking experience. This is especially true for phones with 8GB of memory, and even most users have difficulty distinguishing between the 6GB memory phone and the 8GB memory phone in terms of multitasking experience. And more than 8GB, it is no longer necessary, just increased the cost of the user, the improvement of the experience has been minimal. And ironically, even if there is enough memory available, some domestic manufacturers’ systems will actively kill the background application, which is called “optimization”, “power management”, etc., so the increase of memory is even more meaningless.

to sum up

Previously, there was a media report. The supply chain reported that 10GB of memory will become the mainstream configuration of the flagship Android machine in 2019, but this does not mean that 10GB of memory is necessary. Of course, in many cases, this is not something consumers can choose. We believes that vendors can spend the cost of memory on other places, such as better cameras, larger batteries, and faster processors. Give up memory wars and do more meaningful things.