When I was young, memory and RAM were the same, but now they seems to be different (this is called progress).

But what exactly is the difference in modern smartphones?

What is (free) RAM and when is (free) RAM important?

How can I help it as a user?

  • Long story short: the role of memory is to store media and data also it is waaayy slower than RAM, and role of RAM is for apps and software which is currently running in foreground or in background (apps system itself etc). Free RAM is waste of RAM because when it's not used you don't have benefit from it, and benefit is when all RAM is used in it are cached apps so when you start some app next time it won't need to completely load from storage memory but it will allredy be in RAM so it starts much faster. Aug 14, 2017 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


What is the difference exactly in modern smartphones?

In Computer Science, memory is a wide concept for everything that is capable of storing data, while RAM only stands for Random Access Memory, or more precisely, runtime memory.

Memory is the same word that the M stands for in both acronyms ROM and RAM. It's simply because both of them can store data, despite one being non-volatile and the other being volatile.

These concepts haven't changed even if you're talking about modern smartphones.

Fore more information, see Are there guidelines on how much free RAM a phone should have? and our tag wiki for ram

What is (free) RAM and when is (free) RAM important?

Whenever a process runs, it requires RAM to store is runtime data. When many processes run together, they demand more RAM. You should never make your phone's RAM full, so a portion of its RAM is available for use when a process requests more. That "available for use" RAM is called free RAM (or more precisely, "available RAM").

Free RAM is always important, but it is often more important when you're trying to start another app or running a resource-intensive app. It is because when there isn't enough RAM, some processes may fail, and resource-intensive apps will refuse to run.

How can I as a user help it?

If you're using a moderately new phone, leave it alone because Android can handle it very well. Stay away from "RAM cleaner"s and "Task Killer"s as they do no help actually.

If you're using an old phone with 256 MB or so of RAM running Android 2.x, you should install less apps and routinely terminate them, or throw it away and buy a new phone.

  • +1. You may also want to add a line saying that the so-called "cleaner apps" and task killers are scam nowadays, since you already said why they would be as such.
    – Grimoire
    Aug 14, 2017 at 11:33
  • "Free RAM is always important": On Linux systems (and also on Android), it's rather free RAM is wasted RAM – which is why RAM not claimed by apps/processes is used e.g. for file-system caching, to speed up things (if later some process needs more RAM, those caches are what's dropped first). Thus, "Your phone should never have its RAM full" is not quite correct either, as "full" RAM often means efficient use. For details, see Are there guidelines on how much free RAM a phone should have? – and of course our ram tag-wiki :)
    – Izzy
    Aug 14, 2017 at 12:15
  • @Izzy Let's treat all "free" in my answer as "available" rather than "really free"
    – iBug
    Aug 14, 2017 at 12:19
  • Why not simply refer to those 2 sources for details on RAM usage? I'd say Ryan explained it pretty well in his answer. Other good sources: oom-priority tag wiki (unfortunately, we've got no "oom killer" tag – you know, the process coming to action when the system is "Out Of Memory"). And "available" is relative: RAM used by caches becomes available when flushing them, and RAM used by apps after killing them ;)
    – Izzy
    Aug 14, 2017 at 12:22

"Memory" is a vague term. It can refer to the RAM (the memory programs use while they're running) or to the storage (where things are saved). The storage is the equivalent of a hard disk on your PC, but it's not actually a hard disk, it's Flash memory.

You need free storage to install new apps or download music, videos, etc. If you run out of storage, you might need to free up some yourself by uninstalling apps or deleting downloaded files.

You need free RAM to run more apps, but this is managed by Android. When an app runs, it starts using RAM, but when you stop using it (back out of it, or switch to another app), Android doesn't remove it from RAM right away. This way, the app starts faster next time you run it, because it doesn't need to load everything from storage again. But when all the RAM is full, Android will remove apps that you haven't used in a while. Next time you start those apps, they'll be loaded from storage.

Normally you don't need to worry about how much free RAM you have, because Android manages it.

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