Low RAM on Your Phone? 6 Android Memory Management Tips You Need to Know
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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 an old or budget phone, you won’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. A flagship from 2019, like the OnePlus 7 Pro or Galaxy Note 10 Plus, could have as much as 12GB. You never need to manage the memory on these devices.

12GB RAM Samsung phone
Image Credit: Samsung

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 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.

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 PUBG or Call of Duty.

call of duty memory use

For 2019 flagships, Google decided that 6GB was plenty for the Pixel 4, while Samsung went with 8GB for the Galaxy S10 (which uses Samsung’s more resource-heavy skin). We’d suggest that 4GB is still enough for all but the most demanding users, and even 3GB 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. 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 Marshmallow.

Where you find it depends on what version of Android you’ve got:

  • On Android 6 Marshmallow and 7 Nougat, go to Settings > Memory.
  • From Android 8 Oreo onwards, 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.

Once you’re there, you can see your average RAM use in the last three hours and the last day. Tap Memory used by apps to get a full breakdown on which apps use the most. This will help you identify those RAM-hungry programs and possibly replace them with better-performing alternatives.

4. 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 How to Make Android Faster: What Works and What Doesn't How to Make Android Faster: What Works and What Doesn't If your Android device doesn't feel as fast as it once was, try these tweaks to get it running faster (plus common "tips" to avoid). Read More . 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. Tap the Recents button at the bottom of the screen, or swipe up from the bottom if you’re using the new Android gestures. When your list of recent apps appears, close any you no longer need by swiping them away.

5. 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.

6. 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 any Android device and use a lot less RAM.

go apps by google

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.

Other Ways to Enhance Your Android Phone

Now you know how to manage your phone’s RAM, what to avoid, and how to make the most of your device. But a shortage of RAM isn’t the only hardware problem that’s likely to affect your phone. Fortunately, we can help you with those issues too.

Check out the best Android apps for when you’ve got bad internet coverage. And best of all, did you know you can improve your battery life using automation How to Automate Your Android Phone for Better Battery Life How to Automate Your Android Phone for Better Battery Life Here's how you can get better battery life on your Android phone by automating a bunch of things. Read More ? Learn some amazing tips that’ll help keep your Android phone running longer than ever!

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  1. mw
    December 4, 2018 at 9:11 am

    The built-in RAM manager of my Android 5 tablet is ridiculous:
    the device has 2GB of RAM, and starts swapping out active apps when the free RAM is reaching 750MB, leaving a third of the precious RAM unused all the time! I have a RAM monitor widget that actually shows this silly behavior, never dropping below 650MB free at any time. The result is obvious: important apps, even my custom launcher, are kicked out of memory way too soon.
    I tried tinkering with the 3C Process Manager tool and the various Android memory governors, supposingly fixing this inefficent memory management, with no luck.
    The free memory values changed somewhat, but the tablet ran slower and sluggish, WTF??
    Odd enough: this behavior varies from device to device; I do have other Android machines (TV boxes, phones etc) and some DO work better, keep active apps in RAM, running lower to about 300-400MB free RAM without intervening.
    I will try the mentioned tool of this article, for the mere fun of it, hoping that it will really override the system settings, And keep important apps/launcher etc in memory.
    As I do not own any newer devices I have no idea how Android 6 ff work? Any better?

  2. FataMorgana
    July 28, 2018 at 9:02 am

    damn, this article is just an ad in disguise for a task manager app. Reading it was a complete waste of time

    • Ryan Dube
      July 28, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      Just because there's only one app used in the example here, the article really only promotes using a memory manager app not necessarily this specific one.

  3. James
    January 23, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Quote "(Jerry Hildenbrand) says to just let Android do its thing, run all of the apps you like, and today’s modern devices and apps will run perfectly fine."

    This is a complete load of crap. The 'built in' RAM management keeps closing the apps that I am actively using. And before you say it might be... I've been trying to fix this for 2 months, and the best results are from manipulating the RAM management. (Not recommending for the average user, but they need to fix this)

    The developers have made this process way to aggressive.

    P.S. These are apps that I can get to work on Android 4... but constantly crash on 7

  4. Jack
    October 30, 2017 at 10:59 am

    wretye5ryabcd.com

  5. Brian Hickey
    December 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Thanks very very well explained,as a beginner the language used was understandible. Again thanks

  6. Shannon Simons
    September 25, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I have an Alcatel Fierce2 Model 704ON. And I consume a lot of memory in a short time on my phone in such a short time and I have a lot of background programs running, a lot are pre--installed. They heat up my phone and wste my bttry. Which is the best memory and ram cleaner booster to use. I've used so many I cant count them. Some of them are such a wste of time and space. If u have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks

  7. Fred
    April 25, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    This is nice an all, but I want to know why it shows around 800mb of ram being used, when the applications running in the settings only accounts for about 20mb? I have not installed ANYTHING on my Galaxy Tab except for one single, low tech game (which constantly crashes due to all the unneeded garbage hogging all the memory).

    I'm just about ready to toss this bloated mess from samsung, which I really just use for a 2nd account on this one game anyways. My iPad runs sooooooo much better.

    I mean really, how does it make sense that a new device with virtually nothing added by the user can be starved for memory right out of the box???? Might as well carry around a pocket calculator and a walkee talkee.

  8. Dennis
    January 18, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Galaxy core prime ..... seems to be only of galaxy phones to not have USB to go feature I wanted back as my droid max had a most unusual incident causing a hammer to hit it till pulverized. (Years of insurance paid never used only changed phones due to age, phone's always still looked new as I took care in use. Finally decide against extra cost and a way out of ordinary problem ruins new 700 dollar phone! Replaced with a 'z-max' cheap imitation without otg storage wanted back ever since!) Looked over many phones liking galaxy's as everyone looked into had otg and more! NOT THE CORE PRIME I FIND OUT AFTER BUYING ASSUMING IT WAS AS ALL THE OTHER GALAXYS!? This phone still started out OK but suddenly began 'glitching' most phones hiccup now and then, figured it's a galaxy could simply be service or other ... NOPE! DANG PHONE got worse to point all remedies fail so I did factory reset! Still glitched way too much and seemingly more so when I needed it to work like checking traffic on maps only to have it stall not open freeze up only till point info looked for no longer needed then suddenly phone app works perfectly?! Sitting on table not used at all all day and it's early evening I see messages start popping up that specific apps are no longer able to run and have stopped one after another then back to app already said to of stopped running?! Check into it and storage says I have less than two hundred MB left days earlier and no new apps installed I had several GB available in phone storage and aost all of 32 GB SD card left? Still had that? Cleared cashe removed apps moved others I could to card but seemed very temporary of a fix. System memory is higher than used memory and just won't change even after deletions of everything not stock!! All photos videos music and every app installed and still have system memory @3.07GB WHILE USED @ JUST OVER 2 GB AVAILABLE JUST MB?! THINKING PHONE JUST SUCKS! Is there a site called myphonesucks.com

  9. David
    January 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Let's talk about Jerry's theory over at Android Central. He is half right and half wrong..yes unused ram is idle ram but having a good empty store of it does help with application loading and use as many apps use more memory to load than to run.

    But...more importantly..when .this is really more about CPU usage than memory..when apps are loaded in ram and "active" even if ur not using them, they tend to want to "do stuff"..like phone home to mom and dad active tell them everything ur doing, enable ur gps to gather data about ur location etc..activendll this without u..using the app thus taking up vital CPU and GPU resources for things u ARE trying to do..so..yes..kill those apps..Knowing Corp America like I do..everyone who makes an app wants it running all the time in ur system for whatever monitizing it can garner...there is no incentive for them to shut the app down when ur not using it..kill the apps and also experiment with blocking app start up during initial boot as well.

  10. Dee
    November 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Great article how can I send this via email to a friend?

  11. Keith Hardin
    November 23, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Definitely going to give this app a try

  12. Gary Mundy
    November 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks, I just sent this to my ex. Maybe there will be a few less phone emergencies.

  13. Boni Oloff
    November 12, 2012 at 12:44 am

    iPhone 4s just have 500mb memory, and there is no software to free up memory..
    Awesome.

  14. Nikhil Chandak
    November 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    thanks
    for the nice article !

  15. David Omon
    November 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Thank you so much, you've saved me the worries,....

  16. Félix S. De Jesús
    November 10, 2012 at 2:31 am

    Thank You So Much... ;)

  17. Slashee the Cow
    November 10, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Seriously people, doing stuff like this is BAD. Android's built in memory management is more than sufficient. There are certain cases where you do need to manually force close apps (when they hang, or if they have a memory leak or are hogging the CPU in the background - but these are by far the exception). When there's not much RAM left, Android will automatically close apps (generally the ones that haven't been accessed in a while) to free some.

    Also, closing apps when you don't have to will hurt your battery life. An app being in RAM costs you no battery (the RAM is powered whether it's in use or not), but closing them unnessecarily will use the CPU both when you close the app and when you open it again, and that does use power.

    • Ryan Dube
      November 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

      Thanks - those points were brought up in the article. This particular app is focused on only wiping the lowest priority apps if there is a memory leak or something is otherwise using up space that is causing the OS itself to get bogged down. LMM is certainly built into Android, but this app provides the user with a bit more control over high/low priority apps, etc.

  18. Scutterman
    November 10, 2012 at 12:13 am

    Unless I'm missing something, Auto Memory Manager is doing the exact same thing as Android does by default - keeps track of RAM levels, and when they get too high kill apps that aren't used often or are seen to be leaking memory. Except instead of killing them, Android will walk them through the shutdown states so it ends cleanly.

    • Jerry
      November 10, 2012 at 3:13 am

      That's what I was thinking. This sounds like the LMM that's built in to Android. Why is this app any better at doing this than the LMM. I suppose it is customizable, but if you have root on your phone, then so is the LMM.

      The only reason I kill an app is when it's running out of control or hung.

    • mingzi
      January 15, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Except that android lets the memory use build up, then goes and kills whatever you are actually working on. Having no control over when something quits is a real pain. Give me back symbian any day :( I have not tried this app yet.

  19. Adam Borries
    November 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    This reads like a paid advertisement for Auto Memory Manager. Have you compared this app with other similar? What makes this one superior?

    • Ryan Dube
      November 11, 2012 at 5:07 am

      I can assure you it is not a paid advertisement. The reason I was so positive about it is because it is one of the only apps like it that I could find on Google Play that was not so much an app killer as an effective memory manager. I could not find any others that provided for assigning priorities and only managing out-of-control apps or memory leaks rather than just letting the user randomly kill apps and services (that may or may not be critical). If you do know of others that are equivalent or could be compared to this one, please do share.

      • Austen Gause
        November 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

        thanks for the article

  20. Luo Huan
    November 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Nice apps, thanks for recommendation =)

    • Ovi
      March 25, 2015 at 2:13 am

      I have a question: I just bought a yoga tablet 2 and the ram memory available is half of the total! ( 1 GB from 2GB the total ram memory).Is there anything that I can do? Thanks.