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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 62

1. aBoss (Posts: 103; 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 23

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 26

17. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1372; 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: 1372; 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 11

34. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; 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: 3257; 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: 13; 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: 430; 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 34

55. techperson211 (Posts: 1171; 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: 5090; 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: 8478; 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: 313; Member since: 06 Jun 2011)


Good one.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 09:31 10

66. EC112987 (Posts: 526; 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: 1507; 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: 1400; 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: 800; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)


ART has fixed it..

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 09:00

228. medicci37 (Posts: 1271; 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: 144; 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: 1271; 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: 727; 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: 10436; 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: 187; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Ehh, I don't think so.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:35 13

25. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Lmao facts are facts buddy. My 6 plus runs laps around all three phones, especially the G3.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 09:37

70. EC112987 (Posts: 526; Member since: 10 Nov 2014)


Im not to educated on device speed or all the technical stuff but i own both a M8 and IP6 and both devices are awesome. Only reason I'm getting the nexus is because of the screen size. Personally the iPhone for me is a lot better for work stuff like email organization and calendar.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 09:48 4

74. PhenomFaz (Posts: 1235; Member since: 26 Sep 2012)


Yup. exactly like how u run laps around around a fence...lol!

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:43 3

112. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Show me where the Z3 out performs the A8 chip. I'll wait.

posted on 18 Nov 2014, 08:56 4

233. buccob (Posts: 2512; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)


battery life... and total ammount of apps opened at the same time...

3GB of ram is there for a reason... go on and open many tabs in Safari and switch between them to see if they are all loaded...

With the Z3 the apps will be cached in the background, and a lot of tabs will be there ready and loaded too...

THAT IS REAL LIFE PERFORMANCE, not useless benchmarks

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 18:05 6

177. joey_sfb (Posts: 5359; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


Unless you own an iPhone 6 plus, a G3, Z3 and M8. Use it on a daily basis otherwise I don't know what kind of basis do you use to say iPhone 6 plus is superior to them.

iPhone 6 plus is a capable phone but its not that great a different compare to Android flag ship phones which already has three times more memory than iPhone 6 Plus.

Android true multitasking feature really shine with 3GB ram.

If you want to know Apple version of multitasking read the below article, remember Android has no such problem.

http://betanews.com/2014/06/16/ios-8-multitasking-whats-the-holdup/

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 20:41 4

199. Fazz1977 (Posts: 153; Member since: 15 Oct 2014)


My G3 ran laps around the iPhag 6+ all day knackers. PS Uruguay ;)

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:39 4

30. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1372; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)


It's obvious isn't it? They have one of the best processor out there in the market and they are light OS and optimized very good. And for the weak performance of latest android flagship is because of lazy Qualcomm. They are really slow. They should have already released snapdragon 810 by now but they didn't.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:44 1

37. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


If the N4 had a 810 I would have had my friend who works for AT&T hold one for me and be at the doors as soon as they open. Partially the reason why I skipped it (for now) was because I wanted to try something different. There isn't a WP on AT&T (besides the 1520) that I'd try.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:36 5

84. darkkjedii (Posts: 19807; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


Instead of just saying "Ehh, I don't think so", how about explaining why? Most of us have already seen the YouTube vids supporting Smurfs claim.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:16 16

98. tedkord (Posts: 10291; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


We've also seen YouTube vids of the Nexus 5 running rings around the iPhone 6. All devices have their strengths and weaknesses.It's not too hard to tailor a test that gives the result you want.

Look at the sites that are Apple sycophants, they point out the parts of test suites that the iPhone 6 wins, but ignore that it loses those tests in the overall category (antutu, 3dMark, etc...)

The fact is, if you pick a flagship from any of the major OEMs (Apple, Samsung ,LG, Moto, etc...) you'll be getting a great device that does everything you need quickly and well. Heck, even many non flagship devices today are more than good enough. A co-worker has a Galaxy Rugby (for some reason it's important to him to have a milspec phone, it's all he buys). It gets him through the day with no issues.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 21:32 2

209. Thedefenitionofawesome (Posts: 51; Member since: 04 Sep 2014)


Why not ask Smurf to back his claims on the superior speed of the ip6+? There too are plenty of videos that claim the ip6+ is slower than quater 1 Android flagships.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:48 15

42. UnlimitedSkye03 (Posts: 81; Member since: 27 Apr 2012)


Oh.. Can your 6plus do real multitasking or tons of tabs on browser around 5-10 or so without any hiccups? Just wondering..

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 08:52 3

46. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


You know the answer. the only phones that come close to matching the 6 Plus but not entirely are the N4, Moto X PE and N6.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:21 15

81. livyatan (Posts: 867; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)


Even the Z3 beats iPhone 6 plus in multitasking

http://youtu.be/jLPwVG7RUs4

And the Note 4 beats it overall

Can't believe you went from a Samsung fanboy to Apple fanboy.
I love them both and I give credit where it is due, but fanboyism makes me sick.
You talk about facts? Face the FACT that Note 4 is objectively better, more versatile and more capable device.
GSMarena is the only site that bothered to go through objective and complete comparison and the results are there. End of story

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:46 3

113. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Fanboy? Lmfao oh man you people on this site are hilarious. Please enlighten me because if I never got the Plus I would have had the N4 in my hands as we speak.

FACT is the A8 Chip in the 6 Plus OUTPERFORMS almost everything at all benchmarks. That's a FACT. What an OPINION is what you wrote.

End of story.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 13:02 5

136. Taters (banned) (Posts: 6474; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)


IOS has a lot to do with it though. Especially the safari browser vs chrome.

Run an actually fair javascript test not designed to raise Apple shares like say chrome vs chrome on sun spider and Android flagships crush your 6 plus.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 13:23 5

145. erikiksaz (Posts: 170; Member since: 22 Apr 2010)


That's nice. The rest of us buy 800 dollar phones because they're REALLY good at running synthetic benchmarks.

I mean, what else really matters, right?

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 17:10

172. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10436; Member since: 14 May 2012)


I can easily flip this 64GB 6 Plus for $1200 on eBay and grab another one through AT&T. Can you do that with any other phone? Nope.

posted on 21 Nov 2014, 12:43

250. reckless562 (banned) (Posts: 1153; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


yea, im gona buy a phone with the intention of using it for a month n then sell it the next. get another, use it, sell it. then get ANOTHER, use it, sell it.

most ppl dont buy a phone for this reason. n if they do, they Deserve to have it stolen.
its NOT a car ppl. its a tool, thats suposed to make ur life a lil easier.
....but apple charges like their phones a damn car so go figure

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:55 4

118. darkkjedii (Posts: 19807; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


If the note is the overall better device, and I think it's the best overall device out at them moment, what does that prove? People are gonna buy what they want/need. The 6 plus is actually the phone that suits me best due to the camera, and my deep vestment in the Eco system, there really is no absolute best phone/tab, it comes down to the users needs/wants/budget. Outside of multi window, pop video, and S-Pen, what does it do that no other flagship can that's really that important?

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 21:35

210. Thedefenitionofawesome (Posts: 51; Member since: 04 Sep 2014)


If you want the camera, why not buy a N4?

posted on 17 Nov 2014, 05:58

219. darkkjedii (Posts: 19807; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


Became de the iOS experience is better, at least compared to the N3 I had. It's not all mega pixels my man.

posted on 21 Nov 2014, 12:44

251. reckless562 (banned) (Posts: 1153; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


looks like ur finally having the Commonn sense Beat back into you huh, by us adnroid "Fanboys" huh?
................."Outside of multi window, pop video, and S-Pen, what does it do that no other flagship can that's really that important?"

NEVER MIND!!!!!!!

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 19:10

183. -box- (Posts: 3991; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


You're forgetting the Lumia 1020, 1520, 930, and Icon.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:42 1

86. darkkjedii (Posts: 19807; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


I have 20 tabs currently open with no issues. I've also opened as a test, over 40 apps with minimal stuttering, and no crashes. The 6 plus is hella capable, 2 gigs would be better than 1 though. Also code for multi window is written into iOS, but Im sure copywriting issues are part of the hold up.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 13:05 6

137. Taters (banned) (Posts: 6474; Member since: 28 Jan 2013)


They aren't technically open....lol they are closed actually.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 21:37 1

211. Thedefenitionofawesome (Posts: 51; Member since: 04 Sep 2014)


Ooh... 20 tabs , eh? That means we android users are running about 50 to 75 without stutter and over 60 apps without stuttering.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 10:51 1

88. darkkjedii (Posts: 19807; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


Currently running 46 apps, and 20 tabs with no issues. 21% RAM available. Now the pain in the a$$ will be closing all these apps, since there's no kill all switch lol.

posted on 16 Nov 2014, 11:19 10

99. tedkord (Posts: 10291; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


But I think that's kind of their point - you don't have 46 apps running, since iOS suspends any app that isn't in the foreground other than a select few. Not that I can see any situation where one would need 46 apps running simultaneously.

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