Some iPhones are slowing down and you can blame Apple: 4GB vs 6GB RAM iPhone test

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Some iPhones are slowing down and you can blame Apple: 4GB vs 6GB RAM iPhone test
I was typing out a Tweet on my iPhone 13 mini the other day when I went into Safari for literally a couple of seconds to fact-check my info (yes, I fact-check my Tweets, because I’m a responsible time waster). A few seconds later, I switched back to the Twitter app to see it get reload - my iPhone decided to kill it. My long tweet (approaching the 280-character limit) went bye-bye! I had to go back to find the tweet I was replying to, and then do the whole thing from scratch. Frus-tra-ting.

The same has been happening with Spotify on my iPhone 13 mini for a while now - I’d be taking a walk; leave the Spotify app for a split second, to then go back to it and see it reload (luckily, without interrupting my podcast, which is a bit weird?). Meanwhile, I haven’t noticed such issues with my iPhone 14 Pro, which (of course) is a newer, more premium device but runs on a chip that isn’t that much faster than the one in my iPhone 13 (mini) - the two chips are only a generation apart and built on the same manufacturing process.

Now... The tech nerds amongst you might already sense where the RAM management issues are coming from but as a long-term iPhone (and Android) user, I can’t help but put slightly more effort into debunking this controversy, which has led me to believe Apple might be slowing down your iPhone. Or least Apple is the reason your iPhone might be slowing down.

Now, I’m not saying Tim Cook & Co are going out of their way to slow down your iPhones - not at all, but… Let me explain!

If your iPhone is getting slow, then you deserve to know exactly why - this is the secret Apple and iPhone reviews won’t tell you

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First of all, as it turns out RAM matters. Even on iPhone! And I say “even on iPhone” because there used to be this “assumed rule” in the smartphone that “Android phones need a lot of RAM to run fast, and iPhones… don’t”. While I still believe iPhones don’t need nearly as much Random Access Memory (don’t confuse RAM with storage) to match Android’s performance, today, the story has changed a little…

As I explained in the beginning, my iPhone 13 regularly decides to kill apps running in the background, and I already figured the reason might be that the vanilla iPhone 13, just like the iPhone 12, iPhone 11, and iPhone XS, only comes with 4GB of RAM (older iPhones have 2-3GB of RAM). But, of course, I had to put my theory to the test, which went like this…

iPhone 13 vs iPhone 14 Pro RAM test shows why older iPhones might be slowing down - but is Apple slowing down your iPhone on purpose?

The obvious way to test RAM performance is to start opening apps, and then start reopening them to see if the iPhone killed any of them. So, I opened a mix of 20 popular apps on my iPhone 13 (apps everyone uses), and my iPhone 14 Pro at the same time.

Then, I attempted to open the apps again to check if the iPhones will close them because of lack of RAM. I also went the extra mile by opening 10 more apps, but this time I left the two iPhones aside and came back to them 30 minutes later to launch the same apps again, which perfectly replicates real-world use.

Here are the results…

Is Apple slowing down your iPhone? Yes and... no!

As you can see, my iPhone 14 Pro was able to keep more apps running in the background compared to my iPhone 13. But let’s answer the question everyone might be asking right now - is Apple slowing down your iPhone?

First of all, it must be clear that this isn’t the “Batterygate” type of scandal some might be looking for - in case you didn’t know, Apple was “caught” throttling the performance of older iPhone models to preserve the condition of their batteries without giving users a choice (which was the real problem); the legal dispute ended with a $113M fine for Tim Cook & Co.

“RAMgate” - if you want a bit more drama in your life, is a design decision that went into the making of cheaper iPhones to bring down costs - Samsung, Google, Motorola, Huawei, etc., also tend to equip their cheaper models with less/slower RAM.

So, to answer the question - yes, your iPhone with less/slower RAM might be getting slower over time but that’s not because Apple is going out of its way to slow it down. You can think of it as part of your iPhone's ageing process, and we all know that memory retention tends to decrease over time. In fact, mine is already poor, and I’m in my 20s.

Should you buy a Pro iPhone? Apple’s Pro iPhones will stay faster for longer; choose iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro over the vanilla models if money isn’t an issue

Now, that begs another logical question - should you buy a more expensive iPhone, with more RAM if you want it to stay faster for longer? And the simple answer is… Sure.

You might want to consider this when picking between a vanilla and a Pro iPhone 

Although the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro run on the same A15 Bionic chip, the Pro model comes with 6GB of RAM, or 2GB more than the vanilla model, which can make the Pros faster when opening and closing apps during your day. I don’t have an iPhone 13 Pro, so I can’t tell you if that’s really the case.

However, you might know that last year Apple chose to set apart the vanilla iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro by giving them two different chips (A15 Bionic for the iPhone 14 and A16 Bionic for the iPhone 14 Pro). The interesting thing here is that despite running on two different chips, both the vanilla and Pro iPhone 14 come with 6GB of RAM, which means they should perform similarly.

What you might not know is that the vanilla iPhone 14 uses LPDDR4X RAM, just like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, because it’s using the same A15 Bionic as them. Meanwhile, the iPhone 14 Pro uses the newer LPDDR5 RAM standard, which is said to be 50% more efficient, and might be another reason it could (potentially) stay faster over time. Remember, with an SoC like Apple’s, RAM is baked into the chip - it’s not like you can upgrade it as you go (even if you’re Apple).

And, of course, by opting for a Pro iPhone, the cherry on top is that you’d also get the natural advantage of having a newer chip, which (in Apple’s case) is directly related to RAM performance but also will be… faster. The whole chip differentiation Apple decided to introduce is a whole other topic that I can’t get into now.

Did Apple make a mistake by giving recent iPhones less RAM? 4GB is not enough in 2023

Finally, the last question (promise!) I’d like to address is: “Did Apple make a mistake when it gave recent iPhones only 4GB of RAM?”

The first iPhone with 6GB of RAM was the iPhone 12 Pro, while the latest iPhone to feature only 4GB of RAM is the iPhone 13 (and my 13 mini, of course). As an iPhone 13 mini user, my answer to the question above must me... “yes”. My test seems to prove Apple should’ve opted for more (and probably faster) RAM sooner.

My iPhone 13 mini often closes apps in the background, which is something I wouldn't like to see in a last-gen iPhone, even if it’s a base model. Apple’s decision to go with only 4GB of RAM means my iPhone 13 is becoming more and more annoying to use for that reason alone, which (naturally) gives me a good reason to upgrade - even though I don’t want/need to, especially given that Apple doesn’t make a mini iPhone anymore, and probably never will.

On the other hand, my iPhone 14 Pro was sitting dead on my desk for a week, when I plugged it in to open one of the apps I had used a week ago (!), and find it ready to go - exactly as it was when the 14 Pro died a week ago, which… blew me away. It also showed me the convenience I’m missing out on by using an iPhone with less/slower RAM. So, again - yes, you should buy an iPhone with more RAM if you can because it might be the difference between a slower/faster iPhone in a few years time.

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