UFS 2.1 explained: the storage technology in today's top Android phones

Inside each and every modern smartphone reside two quite important memory chips. One of them, known as RAM, holds memory that can be read and written rapidly, but can't be stored if power to the chip gets cut off. RAM is where active apps and operating system components are loaded so that they can be manipulated quickly. Needless to say, your phone's RAM is a vital component, but it rests outside the scope of this article.

Your phone also has a chip for storing data in the long term – apps, photos, music, as well as the operating system itself. This chip isn't as fast as RAM, but can preserve information indefinitely, even when the device is turned off. Of course, without this chip, your smartphone will also be nothing but a shiny paperweight.

Now let's involve the OnePlus 5 for a moment. During its's announcement, it was pointed out that the phone uses UFS 2.1 storage technology, which was cool not only because storage type rarely gets mentioned during such events, but also because that's the fastest kind of storage on Android today.

But what is UFS, anyway?

In the simplest of terms, Universal Flash Storage (UFS), is a storage technology standard. It dictates how a device's UFS-compliant storage chip connects to and interacts with the rest of the system. UFS 1.0 was announced back in 2011, and 2013 brought us version 2.0 of the standard, which was up to 4 times faster than the previous. But it wasn't until 2015 when UFS made its smartphone debut on the Samsung Galaxy S6. Today, the latest UFS 2.1 is used not only on the OnePlus 5, but also on high-ends like the Galaxy S8 and the HTC U11

How fast is UFS?

UFS is intended to be a replacement for eMMC – an older and still widely used storage technology. While eMMC is cheaper and easier to implement, it is considerably slower – both in theory and in practice. 

Quite conveniently, it was recently discovered that Huawei's flagship smartphone, the Huawei P10, comes with either UFS or eMMC storage inside – depending on what kind of component the assembly line had on hand at the time of manufacturing, apparently. That is why we now have a real-life example of how the two technologies compare. On the left are the results produced by UFS 2.1, and a UFS 2.0 benchmark is in the middle. The benchmark results on the right are from a P10 using eMMC storage. (In read/write tests, greater numbers indicate better performance. In SQLite tests, lower results are better.)

One of the reasons for UFS storage's speed capabilities is the way it communicates with the rest of the device's hardware. eMMC can only have data read from or written to it at any given time. UFS, on the other hand, allows data to go back and forth simultaneously, which is definitely of help when the device is under load. 

It is also worth noting that UFS 2.1 on the OnePlus 5 operates in dual lane mode, meaning that there are two lanes for data reading and two more lanes for data writing (vs 1 read and 1 write lanes in the OnePlus 3). This upgrade alone lets the OnePlus 5 storage perform up to 26% better than in the previous OnePlus flagship, according to its maker.

What's the practical benefit of UFS?

Naturally, faster storage translates to better performance, and while eMMC is still fast enough for general use, it could prove a bottleneck in more resource-intensive use cases. Think capturing bursts of high-resolution photos or recording high-bitrate 4K videos. As apps are getting bigger and more complex, storage speeds can also affect their launch times and responsiveness during use. And I trust all Android users know that feeling of their phone grinding to a halt when a bunch of apps are being installed or updated. The need for UFS and its greater throughput capabilities is only going to become more apparent as new technologies evolve and demand for higher-res media grows. VR, AR and 360-degree media are all evolving, while 5G is right around the corner. 

Does my phone have UFS storage?

If it is a recently launched high-end model, then yes, it probably does. As mentioned above, Samsung made the switch to UFS in its top phones with the Galaxy S6. LG's G5, G6, and V20 sport UFS storage as well. So do the HTC U Ultra, HTC U11, and the Google Pixel. In Sony's camp, we have the Xperia XZ Premium rocking UFS 2.1 storage. 



1. Subie

Posts: 2446; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

I like these kind of articles, thanks Nick!

10. bucknassty

Posts: 1399; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

I know this may be a stupid decision to say this... But this is a MAIN reason why iphone has a more fluid flow over android, you get what you pay for. fast storage allows your phone to whip around that interface as fast as your finger, unless you have some garbage memory chip in there *samsung interface for some reason still hesitates (rarely) but i guess if it was more stripped down like the oneplus it may not

23. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

One plus is fast for many reasons -Bigger storage 64 and up. -Lighter animation and lower resolution display 1080P Amoled even lower than 1080P IPS. - Almost stock android UI. - More ram than android phone around including fast chipset. If Samsung only strip there touchwiz UI there phones going to be fast might be even faster than one plus!.

15. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Exactly. Straight to the [point. Explain the tech, its benefits and no bias BS. But 2.1 is faster than eMMC...and that's not a theory. That was the only downside to the article. It is a proven fact. UFS is a fusion of speed capability of SSD with similar benefits including dual data paths. Speed and wear will be slower vs with eMMC. There will be lest wear because the storage is faster, allowing the data to be found faster, thus less wear. With phones having more RAM, most apps can be stored in ram, which means less reads and writes to the Internal Storage, which also means less wear.

2. shieryar

Posts: 24; Member since: Jun 03, 2012

So OnePlus 5 operates in dual lane mode. What about other phones like Galaxy S8 or HTC U11. Do they operate in dual lane or single lane?

3. nh1402

Posts: 138; Member since: Oct 30, 2013

UFS 2.1 is inherently dual lane, Oneplus were just advertising it.

4. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

Thanks Samsung for bringing UFS to the masses and onto phones with the Galaxy S6. Always improving and furthering tech than most companies out there.

5. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

it is considerably slower – both in theory and in practice. It can't be both. It's slower period as a proven fact. So it isn't a theory. Gosh....its amazing the use of words when you bastards speak of anything that is a benefit on Android. But if this was apple with UFS, you would be on your knees praising them.

6. kiko007

Posts: 7525; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

You are the King of whataboutism, you realize that I hope.

12. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Apple wouldn't use UFS since it's a step-down. Apple uses a special NVMe controller that is a lot faster than UFS. Hence it usually wins in the let's open a bunch of apps and see which one is faster comparison tests.

14. bucknassty

Posts: 1399; Member since: Mar 24, 2017


16. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

a First off, you have no idea. Just because they didn't use it, because they found a faster solution sooner. If that faster solution wasn't available, then Apple could have and would have used UFS, because it would have been the next fastest thing. So quick to say what Apple would or won't do. You work for them? NVMe came first and this Apple jumped on that. If UFS had came and NVMe had never come, what other option would they have had? Oh that's what I thought. It's easy to say someone won;t do something, after the fact that they don't have too. But if it is the only option, it is most likely they will.

18. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

What kind of logic is that? Of course, if NVMe wouldn't exist, they would use something different. But NVMe has been around for some time, Samsung even has some of the fastest NVMe SSD's around and still, they use UFS. It's quite a feat that Apple managed to use NVMe in their smartphones.

19. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

@Rebel Yeah, but isn't NVMe only faster at read and write operations? Meanwhile UFS 2 is faster at random ops... Hey, I'm inclined to say that UFS 2 is all aroound more important in a smartphone than NVMe, because randoms ops is the bulk of read wand write, which is what happens mostly in day-to-day usage of a smartphone... and that's why UFS 2 matters the most, IMO.

26. cocoy

Posts: 464; Member since: Oct 30, 2015

In the comparison between sony xzp vs iphone 7plus, the Iphone losses on sony. See youtube channel phone battles.

7. Anchor

Posts: 160; Member since: Jun 16, 2017

So what about us the Mid-rangers, what do we get eh?

8. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

How to check my S7 storage model???

17. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Haha...you don;t know?You can use AIDA64 or you can just read it on GSMARENA. All the Galaxy S7's use UFS 2.0

9. abdoualgeria

Posts: 928; Member since: Jul 27, 2015

Toshiba make ufs too , not only samsung ...

11. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

eMMC still isn't going anytime soon, though. UFS 3.0 inbound!

13. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Does the One plus 5 suffer the ufs lottery like the Galaxy S8?

21. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Nope. One plus 5 64GB UFS 2.0, One plus 5 128GB UFS 2.1 that's what I came to know lately, but don't know made by Samsung or Toshiba?!.

22. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

In case of S8 only S8 Exyonse comes with UFS 2.1 unlike SD 835 UFS 2.0 and 2.1.

20. chenski

Posts: 789; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

It's faster yes, innovative yes, but nothing revolutionary

24. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1605; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

Samsung makes UFS storage cards, but I've yet to see compatibility with them on a single device. It's meant to replace micro sd cards with something much faster, but no one seems to want to make a device that supports them.

25. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

Sorry but the storage in the ifone (most likely made by Samsung) is much faster than UFS 2.1. The ifone 7 128GB can write more than 300 MB/s. UFS 2.1 is only 200. That's a shame.

27. alexvoda

Posts: 39; Member since: Jan 11, 2013

Yup. As others said. Nice article.

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