Earlier Android smartphones and tablets introduced between 2008 and 2009 such as the HTC Dream came with less than 500MB of RAM. The succeeding devices that flowed the market between 2012 to 2016 featured between 2GB and 4GB of RAM.
However, with the advancements in technology, the introduction of new hardware and software features and specifications, and the evolution of use cases, modern Android devices now come with higher random access memory that starts at 6GB and peaks at 12GB with options to extend RAM further true virtual memory technology.
Note that iOS and iPadOS devices from Apple do not require a large amount of RAM. The iPhone SE 2022 has 3GB of RAM while the high-tier and professional-grade iPad Pro 2021 has 16GB of RAM. Why exactly does Android need more RAM?
Understanding the Android Operating System and Why It Needs Higher RAM
A random access memory or RAM is one of the most important components of a computer system that determines its performance. Its purpose is to provide software applications a place to store and access data in a short-term period.
Furthermore, compared with storage mediums such as a solid-state drive or a hard disk drive where applications and data are stored permanently unless deleted, RAM stores information the computer system is actively using for faster access.
It is also important to stress the fact that most entry-level and mid-range laptops running either Windows or macOS, and even other desktop operating systems such as Linux can work efficiently for average-level use with 4GB to 6GB of RAM.
One of the reasons why Android devices need more RAM than both iOS and desktop operating systems is that the Android operating system and its apps are written in Java. Note that Java is the official language for Android development.
The developers decided to use the Java Virtual Machine to compile the operating system code and run it on different devices from different manufacturers using different processors. Android was fundamentally written to run on different devices.
However, the Java Virtual Machine is a runtime environment that converts the compiled operating system code called the Java Bytecode to the native code of the processor. Each chunk of the Bytecode was read and executed. This is not efficient.
Reading and executing native codes is more efficient. There is no need for conversion and interpretation. This is the reason why iPhones and iPads do not require higher RAM because the hardware is fundamentally optimized for the operating system.
Then there is also the manner in which Android handles foreground and background apps. The background apps consume the required space in the RAM as if they are running in the foreground. iOS and iPadOS use a virtual background.
Furthermore, because of how Java is configured, memory made available after closing an app or terminating the background processes has to be recycled back to the device through the Garbage Collection process. The unused memory has to be cleaned and recycled back.
The processed memory would then become available for other apps. The entire process is effective in ensuring that the entire system runs smoothly. However, Garbage Collection itself requires a considerable amount of RAM.
Note that software developers have also introduced apps that take advantage of faster processors and other advancements in hardware technologies such as better camera systems or the inclusion of augmented reality capabilities, among others.
Some apps also use the native artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities of a particular device. Apps are fundamentally becoming more resource-intensive. The same is true for the entire OS. This is another reason why Android needs more RAM.
Of course, not all apps use the Java Virtual Machine. Mobile games are a prime example. Popular game engines such as Unity and Unreal can run directly on the processor without a virtual environment. Most games run natively.
More advanced mobile game titles such as first-person shooters or massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs require higher RAM by default because they have large file sizes and depend on intensive central and graphics processing.