What does RAM do for a smartphone?

Plenty of smartphone boasts about their RAM, but what does it actually do?

What does RAM do for a smartphone?

by Kyle Purves |
Published on

The best smartphones tend to come with impressive specs, but what does the RAM actually do for a smartphone? Is it a vital component that needs to be prioritised? Does it directly affect your experience with your phone? We're here to help answer those questions.

RAM stands for random-access memory and helps the processor to load data faster than normal. It does this by temporarily storing certain programs and files, making it easier for the CPU to find and work with them. When it comes to PCs and laptops, RAM is helpful for running intensive programs, apps, or video games, and it's similarly good for phone gaming.

You don't need as much RAM on your phone as you would on a laptop or PC, with anything above 8GB being plenty for standard use. Luckily, plenty of budget-friendly phones come with roughly 8GB of RAM from the get-go, so you won't need to go overboard to find something suitable.

Now, as for what RAM does for your phone, let's get into specifics...

Keeping track of active data and apps

RAM helps to manage programs, apps, and data that are currently in use in some form. Once you power up your phone, the RAM will manage everything you open up.

The most obvious instance of RAM doing its job is running things in the background. If you boot up an app and then switch over to another, RAM is responsible for keeping it running so that you can return right where you left off. The more tabs and apps open, the more RAM has to work, so if you're someone who rarely closes their programs, you'll definitely benefit from a smartphone with higher RAM.

By managing these background programs, RAM is partially responsible for the loading speed of your phone. As such, putting too much strain on your RAM or having too little of it will result in your phone running slower than usual. This can often be resolved by closing down background apps or even just restarting your phone, but if it's something that repeatedly occurs, you probably don't have enough RAM for your needs.

Memory vs Storage

You might have encountered RAM being described as a type of temporary storage before, and while that is somewhat true, it's important to note that your phone's storage is something completely different.

Whereas RAM stores certain data temporarily, your storage is the permanent home of many files. This is where your photos and videos will be stored, as well as the crucial files for many apps and programs. You'll have a lot more storage than RAM, without even less-powerful phones packing at least 32GB. Higher-end models, whether iPhone or Android phones, may have more than 100GB of storage, which should provide you with plenty of freedom to download apps and store video files.

Helpful for gaming

We mentioned earlier that for computers, RAM is ideal to have for gaming, and it's certainly still true for smartphone gaming too. Gone are the days when mobile games were simple timekillers; games such as Genshin Impact are cross-platform with consoles and even PCs, so they demand quite a lot from a phone's specs.

You'll likely want upwards of 10GB or 12GB RAM to run more intensive mobile games. RAM of this size or higher will be ideal for consistently fast loading times and minimising any lag you might experience.


One of the simplest reasons why RAM is so important to consider when buying a smartphone is also quite disappointing; you can't really upgrade it after the fact.

Unless your phone is modular, smartphones don't have the same opportunity for parts to be exchanged and upgraded, and that's particularly true of RAM. While the OS and apps you run can be updated and refined digitally, RAM is physical, so you need to ensure you have enough of it when you first buy your phone.

Kyle Purvesis a Commercial Content Writer for What’s The Best, with an avid interest in all things gaming and tech.

They’re well-versed in reviewing a variety of tech products, with a soft spot for speakers and earphones. They’re also no stranger to hunting down the best savings, always wanting to get the best deal possible. Outside of work, they can often be found playing through an RPG, listening to Japanese noise rock, or trying to catch up with their ever-expanding list of shows and anime to watch. If possible, they try to play Dungeons and Dragons a couple of times a week, but getting six adults to be free at the same time is easier said than done.

Subscribe to theWhat’s The Best Newsletterto keep up to date with more of the latest reviews and recommendations from the rest of the What’s The Best team.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us