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This is something that I only recently noticed but many Android phones are built amounts of RAM that differ yet different versions are not distributed equally. For example, my phone from Spain has 2 GB of RAM but when bought in Asia comes with 3 GB. Internal storage is treated differently such that there are 16 GB and 32 GB versions available on both markets.

The recent Moto Z2 does the same thing. North America and Europe get a 4 GB version while in Asia, it comes with 6 GB.

Why the difference? Why offer not offer both at different price-points? Does Android require that much more memory when dealing with large character sets such as Chinese?

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Yes.

Adding to Andy Yan's answer, I would like to bring up another reason: The absence of Google.

Because the China government, driven by an evil party, does not like Google, all Google's services are blocked in China, except for Ads, Maps and Translate (the only 3 availables). Apps using GCM or any other kind of Google service will not function correctly on that part, so Chinese companies pretty much have made their own "chain services" for IPC and push notifications. These services however, does not comply with Google's developing standards, nor do they follow the general rules of UX and memory management. Most of them keep themselves in background by creating extra processes and use those to wake themselves up periodically, taking extra RAM, which dramatically decreases battery life and hurts UX.

Even worse, instead of having one service family exist, big Chinese companies are making their own service families one by one. So Alibaba has an Ali Service, Baidu has a Baidu Service, Tencent has a Tencent Services, and even Xiaomi has a Mi Eco Services. To make things worse, one Chinese app may use multiple services at once. Even if an app is calling a small function from a Chinese service, it may potentially wake up all apps using that service (unless terminated), and can eat up your RAM in a few seconds.

As China is a growing producer, Chinese products are selling abroad, especially South Asia (India) and Africa. By selling phones without GMS, the aforementioned Chinese service families are also spreading abroad, damaging UX to those users. However, situations seems better outside China because most foreigners do not use Chinese daily services like IM (WeChat and QQ) and online shopping (Taobao and Jingdong), and fortunately the services they use (WhatsApp and Amazon) don't utilize the Chinese services. So markets in India and Africa don't get that much "inflated".

  • Much more believable than Andy's answer. Using more RAM which increase costs for necessity seems more possible. Again, I don't know which is why I am asking. – Itai Jul 27 '17 at 14:07
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Asians, especially a significant portion of Chinese and Indians, take raw specs very importantly when considering devices for purchase. With local competitors like Xiaomi upping their game aggressively, 2GB RAM for low-end / 4GB RAM for high-end is no longer considered acceptable.

This is more than just a marketing move - apps made by local developers and companies tend to not comply with Android standards both in UI/UX design and in task/memory management. Apps would try the most devious methods to stay at the front - e.g. creating a transparent 1px floating window - just so it will not be killed by built-in memory management and consistently deliver push notifications and advertisements. Such chaotic environment with many apps constantly running in the foreground and competing for resources is detrimental to RAM usage, so having a larger RAM capacity to compensate is often considered necessary.

  • Indians DO NOT have that much money to afford excessive RAM or ROM. They will only buy a low end with an SD card slot. – iBug Jul 27 '17 at 4:50
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    @iBug Xiaomi sells well over there for a reason... They even put out Indian-exclusive variants like the 4GB RAM Redmi Note 4X. Sure Indians are not the most competitive in buying power, but there are plenty of people with the desire waiting to be catered to. – Andy Yan Jul 27 '17 at 6:38
  • That seems to say that they put more RAM because of competition but competition is (even if smaller) everywhere. Putting it the other way, you can see it manufacturers are giving less to Europeans and North Americans because they can get away with it! Doesn't sound quite right. All you need is one to not do it and say our phone has more RAM. – Itai Jul 27 '17 at 14:06
  • @Itai I don't sense a problem here. Chinese variants have larger RAM because Xiaomi and others are doing it before them. EU/US don't because those competitors don't have permissions to sell over there, and importing them costs A LOT. The likes of Samsung and Moto don't feel pressured to increase cost to cram in more RAM in these regions - saving even a bit is welcome. The 2nd paragraph is part of the reason behind it, and is also what iBug described and extended upon. – Andy Yan Jul 27 '17 at 14:18
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    Extreme example. Is UFS a lot more expensive than eMMC? No. But Huawei P10 opts to use the latter. Is anti-fingerprint coating costly to have? No. P10 still doesn't have it. Every cent potentially matters when multiplied by the scale of devices sold. – Andy Yan Jul 27 '17 at 14:22

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