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Why Does Android OS Use So Much RAM?

featured image ram usage

When’s the last time you’ve kept track of all of your RAM usage? I don’t know usually look at mine until other apps start to crash, or things start to slow down, but it’s important to monitor. Everything on your Android eats up the limited amount of RAM you have, even your Android OS takes up a sizable chunk.

Related: Why Does Android Use More Data than iPhone? (And How Can You Fix It?)

Your OS is responsible for everything on your phone running smoothly, but how does it use up so much or so little RAM on any given day? It isn’t the only thing on your Android that constantly changes how much RAM it uses either. If your RAM is already highly limited, this is seems concerning, but let me tell you why it isn’t.


Why You Don’t Want “Free” RAM

There’s sometimes a misconception about what you want your RAM taken up by with Android, so if you ever see your System taking up more than 50% of your RAM, don’t panic. The way Android is designed is to make effective use of any available RAM, so if the RAM is “free” Android will step in and put the RAM to work doing something useful.

system ram usage

If there’s nothing useful for your RAM to do yet, the space will remain free for whatever you need. However, in almost every case, if you need more RAM for something else other than Android systems, anything that isn’t integral will be halted to give you the RAM you need. At the same time, this is why you don’t have to worry about using task killers.

task ram usage

The only time you need to worry about too much RAM being used is when other apps start to crash, which I’ll get into later.


Why Does the OS Use So Much RAM?

To make sure the Android ship is sailing smoothly, a good chunk of your RAM is taken up by Android OS doing multiple things. These things include storing soon to be used information, optimizing processes, and in general making sure things aren’t set on fire.

system2 ram usage

If you have any free RAM sitting around, your OS will usually put it to work doing anything it can to make your entire experience smoother. This is why you’ll sometimes see it take up an incredible amount of space.

With that said, there are still RAM hogs that slow the experience down that aren’t your OS. Unlike Android itself, these can be closed to help allocate more RAM to where you need it to go.


Is There Anything That Uses Too Much RAM?

While I’ve talked about RAM not being free is a good thing, there will still come a time where you simply don’t have enough depending on how many processes are running at once. This will either mean apps and services will crash, will run much slower than normal, or won’t even start in the first place.

close ram usage

When you’re done with an app, and are sure you won’t use it again for the rest of the day, make sure to close it. If you have the RAM, that app will still run in the background while it waits for you to come back. If your Android absolutely needs the RAM, it’ll take it where it can, even going as far to stop leaving certain services on hold.

If you get into the habit of closing something when you’re done with it, you won’t need to go around killing tasks to make everything run smoother.


The RAM Difference Between iPhones and Androids

In most comparisons you’ll see an iPhone’s OS taking up far less RAM than Android OS, but this is because of how the two systems handle their respective tasks differently. Even when it isn’t concerning RAM, the same is said about other data between the two phone operating systems.

comparison ram usage

In general, an Android will use more RAM than iPhone because they’re performing more processes in the background to either optimize, or load more of an experience. You may end up with more RAM “free” on an iPhone, but that’s just space that isn’t being used to its full potential.

Remember that RAM that isn’t being used may as well be wasted space on Android. That doesn’t mean you should open as many processes as possible, but that you shouldn’t get worried if you only see a couple hundred megabytes of RAM available.


Conclusion

Android’s OS makes full use of how much available RAM you have, and how much RAM it needs for essential functions at the same time. Not having enough RAM will make apps sluggish, result to a slow Android phone, or force them to close, but your OS isn’t at fault. As long as you close an app when you’re done with it, your Android will take care of the rest.

If you have any questions about RAM usage please leave them down below!

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14 Comments

  1. Hello, i read your artical but i have one question, i have 3 gb of ram on my phone, and i have only 350 mb free of it. Android os takes 1.3 gb and my phones lags as hell. Can you tell me what should i do. I factory reseted it two times and it doesn’t work.

    1. Try to update your OS. You’ll also want to disable any default apps that you don’t use, which may be running in the background.

  2. Hi Strider. Can you offer advice on troubleshooting RAM problems? I have a Sony Xperia XZ. It was running so frustratingly slowly (without a cause I could find) that I used Sony’s software repair function to reformat the phone and start from scratch. After just a few days my phone is running super slowly again. An app called “Phone Check (and Test)” tells me that I have 17% of 2757MB or RAM available (20% on a second test). According to Settings > Storage and Memory > Advanced > Memory, the average memory use over the past 3 hours is 2.6 of 2.7 GB, with 100MB free. Breaking it down by apps, there are 62 using RAM with Android OS using 1.5 GB, Android system 246MB, System UI 181MB being the biggest users.

    It’s enough to drive me to a new phone. If you can help me troubleshoot this and salvage a functional phone I’d be very appreciative.
    Alby

    1. Hi, Alby! We’ve published this guide before on increasing your phone’s ram, which you may find helpful. As for reducing your current RAM usage, go through your apps and limit the number that you allow to run in the background. Just a few can quickly clog up your system. You may also want to clear any large caches to help speed up your device.

  3. Hii.my phone have 3gb ram and Android OS always consum 2.3gb so that I have no ram available at atime please tell how I can free this ram

  4. I just bought a nextbok 8a with Androin 6 marshmallow. I downloaded a slot game I played on my old tablet and it crashed without opening. I then downloaded a football that loads until I play a game then it crashes. Marshmallow seams to use up 3/4 of my Ram. How can I fix this problem or did I just waste $75 thanks

  5. the reason why IOS uses less ram is that IOS runs native applications but android applications run on a java virtual machine which uses more resources and is far slower. android is an example of a bad Operating System design. as much as I hate apple and their products, I must say that IOS is a better OS.

    1. Hi Hezar. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think there’s a lot more to good OS design than just RAM usage. Which was is better depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is the user.

  6. “an Android will use more RAM than iPhone because they’re performing more processes in the background to either optimize, or load more of an experience”

    I have a problem with that statement/way of thinking especially since Iphones run faster/better with less potent hardware than a android.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vasile. I hate to disagree, but there were 24,000 different Android devices in 2015, and I’m sure that number has only grown since then. While I’m sure that iOS runs better than some of those devices, I’m also certain that it doesn’t run better than all of them.

  7. I recently purchased a moto x play and I have the option of updating to Nougat. I only have 2 gb of ram and have searched everywhere trying to find out approximately how much ram Nougat uses and if I should stick with Lollipop or is it safe to upgrade? Any info would be wonderful!

  8. Hi,
    I have 4gb RAM, but the android OS / android kernel is taking 3.2GB out of that.
    It is showing that this kernel is always running.
    How to stop it?

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