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Why Android phones need 3GB of RAM and iOS gets by with 1GB of the stuff

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Why Android phones need 3GB of RAM and iOS gets by with 1GB of the stuff
One of the great mysteries of life, right up there with Stonehenge and the JFK Assassination, is how an iPhone can run so smoothly on 1GB of RAM while Android handsets need at least 2GB, or 3GB of the sweet stuff, to run just as smoothly. According to Quora, a website that answers your questions, the difference has to with the fact that Android apps use Java.

Along with the use of Java comes a process called garbage collection. Once an Android user closes an app, the garbage collection process recycles the memory. The problem is that the garbage collectors require four to eight times the memory that it is using in order for the job to be done quickly. If the required amount of memory is not available, things slow down. Because iOS does not use these garbage collectors, Apple can get away with putting 1GB of RAM in the iPhone, and match or surpass the performance of Android phones. 

So this should clear up one of those mysteries that have you scratching your head every now and then. And just in case you are curious, the answer was posted on Quora by a Glyn Williams, who received 2700 upvotes for his response.

Garbage collectors are fast if they have enough memory

Garbage collectors are fast if they have enough memory


source: Quora via RedmondPie

270 Comments
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posted on 16 Nov 2014, 07:59 63

1. aBoss (Posts: 105; Member since: 15 Sep 2014)


lollipop can run on devices with 512mb of ram smoothly.

Apple is just smarter and can sell devices with 1gb ram, dual core, 8MP for $1000 to the masses

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:23 24

8. Ziggy (Posts: 79; Member since: 03 Oct 2014)


Thanks for pointing out that one of the most important and newest updates of the android platform finally fixed this issue.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:30 27

17. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1484; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)


That's exactly what I thought. Kit Kat is optimized to run even on 512mb ram. So that means google actually found a solution? And Moto E and G were pretty smooth with a GB of ram.(personal experience).

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:39 7

29. shamashu9 (Posts: 142; Member since: 10 Jun 2013)


How many months before the kit kat on 512mb lags, big time?

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:41 8

32. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1484; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)


Well i can't tell on 512mb ram because I didn't used any vanilla Android with 512mb ram. But more E & G doesn't lag. I can assure you that.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:42 12

34. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Not a single hint of lag is present on the Moto G. The X flies through everything.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:52 17

116. sgodsell (Posts: 3898; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


What blows my mind is how Android and iOS both work. Everyone seems to forget how they work or don't even know. First of all Android is hardware agnostic (uses a VM). It doesn't care about what CPU you have (unless you use native code). Whereas iOS is not hardware agnostic and relies on Apple's CPUs and only Apples. Its funny Apple is working on swift and it will allow both native code (objective-c and swift code to be run within a single program (Llvm). This started with xcode 6. The other funny thing Apple is following in Androids footsteps, because low and behold Android has been doing this since day one.

posted on 05 Oct 2015, 08:44

269. SteveS (Posts: 28; Member since: 15 Oct 2013)


You mention LLVM as if this is something new for Apple and that Apple is somehow following Android here. That's complete nonsense. Apple has a long history with LLVM. They used it with the transition to Intel in 2005 and they've used it with iOS since day 1. Seriously, do a little research. What you are referring to in your timeline is when they removed other options and made this the only path. That's far different than what you've written.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 15:00

156. rangoj (Posts: 46; Member since: 29 Mar 2014)


Moto G is incredible ✆ - it works smoothly as nexus 5 or iPhone 5s and it costs around 160€. I can wait to see how new moto G behave on lollipop...

posted on 15 Apr 2015, 05:46

267. krishna_eyunni (Posts: 1; Member since: 15 Apr 2015)


lollipop on moto g got f**ked up coz its bit laggy coming to animation circle animation got f**kedup too !!! i think 1gb is not enough for lollipop to run smoothly ?

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:16 4

79. Shubham412302 (Posts: 431; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


in my brothers old galaxy s only 200mb ram is used in idle in cm11

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 09:01 35

55. techperson211 (Posts: 1236; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)


The reason why they have enough ram android that is, is because they have true multi tasking feature and the latter is just a phone who barely launch apps, also a lot of Android phone that have 512mb runs in kitkat smoothly, the reason why android flagship phones have 2-3gb ram, again they have "true multi tasking"

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 13:24 1

146. elitewolverine (Posts: 5188; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)


You can have true multitasking even in 512mb or less phones. You can simply use a section of ROM instead of RAM, it just wont be as fast. As well the OS has to support that type of write/read. Windows core already does this in windows using a pagefile like system.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 20:17 2

191. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 10681; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


NO YOU CANNO> It would stutter, have memory errors and more. Try running Windows XP on 512MB of RAM an see what happens. Sure you can make apps that are 256MB total and they will be crappie as they wont have more options just text to read.

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 06:11 2

222. djbtwcny (Posts: 1; Member since: 17 Nov 2014)


You don't know what you're talking about. XP ran fantastically on 512MB of RAM, and the default hardware config for most of the cheaper desktops was 256MB.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 15:06 2

158. dmakun (Posts: 321; Member since: 06 Jun 2011)


Good one.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 09:31 11

66. EC112987 (Posts: 896; Member since: 10 Nov 2014)


Agreed my daughters motoG runs very smoothly, even when playing games.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 17:04 2

171. cheetah2k (Posts: 1598; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)


Garbage collection doesn't only recycle memory, but it recycles used sectors on the internal and external storage. Garbage collection is even a necessity for SSD drives on a PC because you cannot use defrag (the mechanical drive equivalent to Garbage Collection).

Without Garbage collection and as the storage is filled beyond 50%, the OS (both Android and iOS) will start to over write used sectors and eventually over time access and write times will be affected so the device will feel like a bucket of S**t.

Eventually iOS will have to incorporate garbage collection, especially if they expect the iPhone to get the most out of a true 64bit OS.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:53 1

89. infinitymurano2012 (Posts: 26; Member since: 13 Sep 2014)


Speaking of which, has anyone received the lollipop OTA update for Nexus 5 yet? it was rolled out Friday but haven't received it yet....

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:02

90. Awalker (Posts: 1577; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)


I think most of the people who visit tech sites have flashed it themselves.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:26

103. infinitymurano2012 (Posts: 26; Member since: 13 Sep 2014)


Oh i realized that, just wondering if anyone outside the U.S has received the OTA yet...

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 07:50

226. kabhijeet.16 (Posts: 811; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)


ART has fixed it..

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 09:00

228. medicci37 (Posts: 1288; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


Then why the lag on the new Nexus 9?

posted on 18 Nov 2014, 06:47 1

232. DBounce (Posts: 155; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)


Do you own a Nexus 9? I ask because since the initial update that was pushed to all new devices on launch day there has been no lag one the Nexus 9.

posted on 18 Nov 2014, 11:59

237. medicci37 (Posts: 1288; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


Should have gotten it right before they sold it. & As a long time Android user I seriously doubt they fixed the lag. I was in best buy looking at the 9 & it's made like crap. For $400 could have done a much better job.

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 09:32 2

229. JackSmith151 (Posts: 1; Member since: 17 Nov 2014)


Right, let's just ignore that iOS devices have had memory related crashes for the longest, and how even the iPhone6 and 6+ have been found to have these problems.

The recent problem was discovered because Apple used a company that produced a lot of faulty NAND memory chips, which led to the revelation that iOS uses NAND storage as RAM when necessary....

Which is why these devices with faulty NAND chips were crashing multiple times per day. So yes, Apple can get away with only 1Gb of RAM, because they'll use NAND to substitue.

posted on 21 Nov 2014, 03:25 1

248. tacarat (Posts: 786; Member since: 22 Apr 2013)


I love this post. I've played with computers for a long time and didn't think about phones having swap files. Your tidbit led me to this post in XDA and I have a new tool in revitalizing old androids.

Thanks!
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1659231

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:24 6

10. anirudhshirsat97 (Posts: 408; Member since: 24 May 2011)


i dont really care if my device has 1 gb 2 gb or 3 gb ram as long as it works without hiccups, which apple devices do. Only fault about low ram apple devices is you cant open too many tabs at once in the browser which is freaking annoying..

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:27 21

15. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)


It's a shame my 6 Plus that has 1GB of RAM can totally blow the G3, Z3 and even the M8 out of the water in terms of performance since everyone wants to claim how the Plus is so terrible.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:31 30

22. haikallp (Posts: 204; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Ehh, I don't think so.

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