How much RAM does a phone need? If you're on the hunt for a new phone and are browsing everything from the latest iPhone 14 rumours to the latest and greatest mid-range phones, you've likely asked yourself the same question.
Specs like RAM get thrown out there by phone companies, with the general impression that more is always better. And that, broadly speaking, is true. But when it comes to how much RAM a phone needs? Well, then things become a little more nuanced.
In this handy little explainer, we'll tell you exactly what RAM is for in your phone, compare Android with iOS, and give you a rough idea of what the minimum amount of RAM your phone needs might actually be. Then you can decide for yourself whether that flagship handset that costs 1000 bucks is worth it or not.
What Does A Phone Use RAM For?
First and foremost, why does a phone need RAM in the first place? Well, as anyone who uses a smartphone can attest, a phone is now used for far more than sending texts and making calls. In fact, many modern phones pack more computing power than a PC from a decade ago.
And Random Access Memory (RAM) is basically a computer's short-term memory. In your phone, it will be used to support any apps that you might be running, allowing them to store their data and access it quickly and easily.
This is where having more RAM can be advantageous. In very basic terms, the more RAM your phone has, the more apps you can have running at once without the phone slowing down. This is what the kids call, 'a good thing'. A portion of your phone's RAM will always be allocated to run your phone. Whatever is left is then available for supporting apps.
And this is where things may start to get a little more complicated. Because the amount of RAM your phone uses to run will vary depending on what OS it uses, and how much it needs to do in the background. A really good phone will run very efficiently, minimising the amount of RAM it needs. This will then dictate how much is available for your other apps. And this will depend entirely on how you use your phone.
iOS And Android Compared
Comparing Apple and Android is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. If those oranges were an operating system developed by Google. Apple controls its ecosystem extremely tightly, while Android is used by multiple brands, who often add their own 'skin' on top of stock Android.
Consequently, iOS devices tend to use less RAM to run than their Android brethren. The difference is not insignificant; an iPhone 13, for example, comes with about 4GB of RAM, while a 13 Pro offers about 6GB. An equivalent flagship Android device, such as the recently launched OnePlus10 Pro, offers up to 12GB of RAM. But it is by no means twice as fast or twice as efficient as the iPhone.
Overall, an iPhone is reckoned to use somewhere in the region of 40% less RAM on average to hold the same number of apps as an equivalent Android device. And in general, an iPhone will use less RAM to run a specific app, compared to the same app running on Android.
The point here is that even if an Android device has more RAM than an iPhone, it doesn't automatically mean it will be better.
So, How Much RAM Does A Phone Need?
Hopefully, by now you've realised that as your father used to tell you, size isn't everything. When it comes to how much RAM a phone needs, there are really two main things to consider. Firstly, how efficiently does the OS utilise the RAM? And secondly, what are you planning to use your phone for?
If you are a user with very simple demands - maybe some web browsing, checking emails, and perhaps some social media, say - then your needs will be very different from someone who wants to play graphically intense games on the go, watch videos, or have dozens of apps that you flick between constantly.
Ultimately, it is these two factors that will dictate how much RAM you need. Any RAM you aren't using, won't really enhance your experience. It will just sit, waiting until it's needed. It's also worth remembering that as apps are continually updated, the demands they make on your RAM may change. So if you want to futureproof yourself, then having some extra RAM may not be a bad idea.
Which brings us back to our opening question: how much RAM does a phone need? As much as you need to run the apps you want to use. But the more you can get, the more confident you can be that it will meet your needs, both in the short term and in the future.