Low RAM on Your Phone? 7 Android Memory Management Tips You Need to Know
Got an old Android phone, or like to play the latest high-end mobile games? You might encounter memory problems from time to time, as your phone struggles to keep up with you.
But what can you do about it, if anything? Let’s take a look at how to manage RAM on Android.
1. If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
The first point to make about managing memory on Android is that unless you’ve got specific problems, you don’t need to do it at all.
Most mid-range to flagship devices from the last couple of years will have at least 4GB of RAM. Among flagships from 2022, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has as much as 12GB, while the OnePlus 10t has up to 16GB. You never need to manage the memory on these devices.
For the most part, Android is very efficient when it comes to handling memory. If you do check and find that all (or most) of your available RAM is in use, don’t worry—that’s how it’s designed to work. Android tries to keep apps in memory for as long as it can so that they start up again instantly the next time you need them.
If and when it does need to free up some extra memory, the system will quietly close some of the apps you haven’t used recently in the background. It should all happen seamlessly, without any need for input from the user. You don’t need to close apps all the time.
There’s an old adage: free RAM is wasted RAM. That definitely applies to Android.
2. How Much RAM Do You Need?
So you don’t need to manage your memory if your phone has got enough of it. But how much RAM is enough?
To an extent, it depends on how you use your phone. If you’re mostly doing light browsing and using social media, you can get away with a lot less than if you’re constantly playing games like Genshin Impact, PUBG, or Call of Duty.
For modern flagships, Google decided that 8GB was enough for the Pixel 6, as did Samsung for the S22 (which uses Samsung’s more resource-heavy skin). We’d suggest that 6GB is still enough for all but the most demanding users, and even 4GB is fine for lighter use. Below that, you’re pushing it.
Android and Google Play Services will use up to around 1.5GB of RAM on their own, and they’re running all the time. A game like PUBG will use over 1GB, and even having several browser tabs open at the same time can use a similar amount.
3. How to Tell if You’ve Got Memory Issues on Android
How do you even know if you’ve got a lack of RAM on your phone and that it’s causing problems? There are a few telltale signs.
- An obvious one is a general sluggishness throughout your system. Apps might be slow or take a long time to load.
- Apps may crash as they don’t have enough memory to run. This is most likely to apply to games, or if you’re working with very large files.
- Apps running in the background will be closed down. When you re-open an open, you won’t pick up where you left off, you’ll restart at the app’s home screen again.
- You’ll see your home screen re-draw. When you exit an app and return to your home screen, you’ll briefly see a blank screen before the icons and widgets return. These had been removed from memory and are being reloaded.
While these things are usually a sign of a lack of RAM, some of them can also happen on phones with ample memory. Some devices are set up to prioritize battery life and foreground app performance by aggressively closing down apps that are running in the background. The website Don’t Kill My App! has some more information on this.
4. Find Out Which Apps Are Using Your RAM
The key to managing your memory is to first figure out how it’s being used, and which of your apps are hogging the most of it. You can do this with the Memory tool that was introduced in Android 6.
Where you find it depends on what version of Android you’ve got:
- On Android 8 and later, the Memory section is inside the Developer options.
- To see this, first, go to Settings > About phone, then tap Build number seven times to make the Developer options appear.
- Then go to Settings > Advanced > Developer options > Memory.
- On older Android 6 and Android 7 devices, go to Settings > Memory.
Once you’re there, you can see your average RAM use in the last three, six, 12, and 24 hours, depending on what version of Android you’re using. Tap Memory used by apps to get a full breakdown of which apps use the most. This will help you identify those RAM-hungry programs and possibly replace them with better-performing alternatives.
5. Don’t Use Task Killers or RAM Boosters
We’ve known for many years that task killers are bad news for Android. Yet there are still large numbers of them on the Play Store, which continue to rack up tens of millions of downloads.
So it’s worth reiterating: a task killer won’t make your phone faster. Nor will RAM boosters or any other kind of app that promises performance improvements.
As we’ve already said, Android handles apps and memory efficiently already, so forcing apps to close will interfere with this process. It’ll also make your apps slower to start up next time you need them, as well as wasting additional processor and battery power along the way.
Worse yet, some apps are designed to run in the background. Shutting them down with a task killer will often simply result in them opening right back up again. That also wastes more resources than if you just left them alone.
If you do need to close an app for any reason, do it manually. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen or tap the Recents button if you aren’t using gestures. When your list of recent apps appears, close any you no longer need by swiping them away.
6. How to Use Less RAM
When you’re working with a phone that’s short on RAM, you can improve performance by trying to limit the amount of memory you use.
This isn’t always easy. Apps like Facebook and Snapchat are notorious resource hogs, but there’s no alternative if you use these services. But there are other steps you can take:
- Cut down on the number of home screens you use, and don’t use live wallpapers or too many widgets that continually update.
- Uninstall apps you no longer need.
- Disable preinstalled apps you don’t use by going to Settings > Apps & notifications > See all X apps, locating the app, and tapping Disable.
- Install any software updates as they become available—both for apps and the Android system.
- Find alternative apps that use less memory.
7. Choose the Light Option
When Google launched Android Go for low-end phones, it also launched a series of lightweight Android Go apps as alternatives to its most popular offerings. You don’t need a Go phone to use these apps—they’ll work on most Android devices and use a lot less RAM.
Among your options are:
Once you’ve installed them, you can go ahead and disable the full-sized alternative using the method mentioned above. You usually cannot fully uninstall these built-in apps.
Don’t feel you need to stick with official Google apps either. You can often find faster, smaller alternatives to many of your favorite apps.
Chrome, for example, is quite RAM hungry, but you can easily replace it with something like Kiwi Browser. This is based on the same Chromium rendering engine, so web pages look the same. It just uses less memory.
Manage Memory on Android
Now you know how to manage your phone’s RAM, what to avoid, and how to make the most of your device. The big takeaway is that you shouldn’t worry about it unless you’re experiencing some of the problems we’ve outlined.
Android is, for the most part, pretty good at managing memory, which is why the memory settings are hidden away in the Developer options. If everything is working well, you shouldn’t ever need to use them.
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September 17, 2022 at 09:07AM