How much RAM do I need in my phone in 2022? We have the answer


The most popular phones offer a wide range of RAM sizes. At one end you have ultra-premium devices with up to 12GB or 16GB of RAM. At the other end are budget phones, some of which have variants with just 4GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the middle ground is full of many devices with 6GB and often 8GB of RAM.

In general, cheaper phones tend to have smaller amounts of RAM, while high-end flagships offer more. The question is how much RAM do you need when buying a new phone? What is the ideal amount of RAM for an Android phone in 2022? How much do you need to add some durability? Let’s find out.

RAM vs. Swap Space: Memory Management Explained

Gary Sims/Android Authority

Every computer, including your phone, uses random access memory (RAM). Your running programs, their data, and the operating system are all stored in RAM while the computer is running. About ten years ago, Android devices had 512MB or 1GB of memory. However, the average amount of RAM in devices has grown rapidly. In 2014, many high-end devices had 3GB of RAM, and in 2016 and 2017, 4GB became the de facto standard. 4 GB is now considered the bare minimum for a new device.

No matter how much RAM your device has, it’s a finite resource that needs to be managed. When you start a new application on Android, it must occupy some memory. Simple apps and games will use a few hundred megabytes. More sophisticated games can use up to a gigabyte of RAM, and more demanding games can use up to 1.5 GB of RAM.

With 4GB of RAM, there’s enough room for multiple mid-sized games or apps, as well as the operating system, to live together. However, at some point, there will be no more free RAM.

No matter how much RAM your device has, it’s a finite resource that can run out. This is where the exchange space comes in.

To handle this eventuality, modern computers use a technique known as swapping. The oldest and least used pages of memory are written to swap storage and the memory they occupied in RAM becomes free. If this swapped memory is later needed, the saved memory pages are read back from storage and copied back to RAM (swapped). This dramatically increases the amount of memory available to store apps and data, but the tradeoff is that it’s much slower compared to RAM.

To verify: The best phones with 16 GB of RAM

Desktops, laptops, and servers use external storage (hard drives, SSDs) as swap space. Android uses a slightly different technique. Instead of writing the pages to storage, Android compresses the data and writes it back to RAM. This is known as zRAM, following the Unix/Linux tradition of using “z” to denote compression. If we assume a 50% compression ratio, 128 KB of RAM can be reduced to 64 KB, freeing up 64 KB. The Linux kernel views zRAM exactly as it would view traditional swap space. Compressed memory is not directly readable, so if it is needed, it must be uncompressed and recopied, just like traditional swapping.

However, swap space (especially zRAM) is also a limited resource. If Android is running out of swap space, it needs to get more aggressive and start eliminating apps that are already in memory. This means that an app you wanted to return to may be forced to close, as Android needs to make room for the new app you want to start.

If Android is running out of swap space, it needs to get more aggressive and start eliminating apps that are already in memory.

All of this means that the more RAM you have, the more apps you can keep in memory at once without Android killing old apps. Less RAM means Android has to remove apps from memory more frequently. With that in mind, what is the optimal amount of RAM?

Test to find the ideal amount of RAM

Three android phones running three games with wooden panel background

Gary Sims/Android Authority

To determine the optimal amount of RAM, I tested three phones: the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with 12GB of RAM, the OnePlus 9 Pro with 8GB of RAM, and the Pixel 3XL with 4GB of RAM. The Samsung and Google devices run Android 12, while the OnePlus runs Android 11. On each phone, I noted the amount of free RAM and the amount of swap space used. I then ran a game, noted how much RAM the game used, and looked at the changes to free RAM and swap space. I repeated these steps until Android had to kill an app already in memory.

See also: Android 12 review – It really is all about you

Here’s a list of the games I’ve used, along with the average amount of RAM they take up:

  • Subway Surfers – 750 MB
  • [1945AirForce-850MB[1945Arméedel’Air-850Mo
  • Candy Crush — 350 MB
  • Brawl Stars – 500 MB
  • Minecraft — 800 MB
  • Asphalt 9 — 800 MB
  • Shadowgun Legends – 900 MB
  • Elder Scrolls Blades – 950 MB
  • Genshin Impact – 1.4 GB
  • Chromium — 2.2 GB

Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 3XL reviews

These two devices are at the extremes of the spectrum. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has 12GB of RAM, while the Pixel 3XL only has 4GB. Below is a graph showing how the devices performed in my test. At the bottom is the list of games in the order I launched them. The blue line shows the amount of free RAM available and the green line shows the amount of swap space used.

As you can see, the S21 Ultra offers an almost classic example of memory management. As the amount of free RAM decreases, the amount of used swap space increases. With 12GB of RAM, the S21 Ultra was able to keep every game in memory starting with Subway Surfers, then 1945 Air Force, through Minecraft, Elder Scrolls Blades and finally Genshim Impact. No apps were deleted. To push the S21 Ultra to the brink, I fired up Chrome and when I had 12 tabs open and Chrome had used 2.2GB of memory, Android was finally forced to kill Minecraft. Pretty impressive. A more in-depth analysis of what happened can be found in the video.

The 12GB Galaxy S21 Ultra offers manual memory management and can hold many active apps at once.

Things were quite different on the Pixel 3 XL. It was capable of simultaneously holding three games in RAM: Subway Surfers, 1945 Airforce and Candy Crush. When I launched Brawl Stars, Subway Surfers was killed and deleted from memory. As we expected, this smaller amount of RAM means swap space is required with far fewer apps, and only a handful can be kept in memory at a time.

Looking back: The history of Android – the evolution of the world’s largest mobile operating system

OnePlus 9 Pro trial

The OnePlus 9 Pro used for testing has 8GB of RAM and includes the company’s RAMBoost feature found in many of its devices. RAMBoost tries to make memory management smarter. It analyzes your usage and tries to remember apps you use frequently and kill apps you don’t use often. It will even try to preload certain apps if it determines that you will be using them soon. To properly test the OnePlus 9 Pro, I tested it with RAMBoost on and RAMBoost off.

The first thing to note about the test with RAMBoost enabled is the free RAM spike when launching Candy Crush. This happened because Subway Surfers was killed, even though there was still plenty of free RAM and swap space available. I restarted Subway Surfers and continued. Brawl Stars started without issue, as did Minecraft. When Asphalt 9 launched, Android killed Candy Crush and 1945 Air Force.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is quite aggressive in its memory management, terminating apps as long as there are free resources left.

When RAMBoost is disabled, Android behaves differently. I was able to start every app, from Subway Surfers to Minecraft, with nothing killed along the way. When I launched Asphalt 9, Subway Surfers was killed.

What is strange in the two tests run on the OnePlus 9 Pro is that the applications are deleted while there are free resources. The OnePlus 9 Pro has 4GB of swap space available, but only about 1GB is used when apps start dropping. It seems that the OnePlus 9 Pro is quite aggressive in its memory management, especially compared to other phones I’ve tested.

So how much RAM do you need on your Android phone?

Galaxy S21 in split view

Gary Sims/Android Authority

Obviously, 4GB isn’t really enough for an average amount of multitasking. Only the three or four most recent matches will remain in memory. Productivity apps tend to be smaller than games, so you should be able to run five or six smaller apps together before some of them reload when you return to them. 6 GB of RAM will help alleviate this problem.

The 12 GB of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is very robust and well managed. At least 15 games, including some large ones, can remain in RAM simultaneously, including active Google Chrome pages. I doubt any user has reason to complain or be disappointed with this level of multitasking capability.

8GB-12GB of RAM is ideal, while 16GB just seems like bragging rights.

While the OnePlus 9 Pro is aggressive in its RAM management, long-term use of RAMBoost should help Android use its 8GB better. But my guess is that 8GB on other devices will be better utilized than on OnePlus.

Based on the results, our recommendation is to aim for 6GB of RAM when buying an expensive smartphone. For high-end or high-end devices, 8GB will provide a good multitasking experience and some durability. What became clear during our testing, however, is that the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 12GB RAM is clearly a sweet spot and should provide an excellent overall experience for even the most demanding users. Right now, 16GB of RAM just seems like bragging rights.

Following: Best phones with 12GB RAM — what are your best options?


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