Is RAM size or processor speed more important in a phone?

Posted by

If smartphone performance is important to you, the key items you need to pay attention to when picking a smartphone for use are processor speed and RAM size. Together, they decide the performance of your phone. But they do so in different ways.

The first step is to spell out what the processor clock speed and RAM size do in a smartphone. Remember that while they are complementary, each affects performance in a different way.

What is the importance of processor speed?

64-bit processor

The processor speed is what indicates how powerful a smartphone is – and how fast/smooth it will run. The newer the processor and the higher the clock speed, the more powerful the smartphone is for heavy duty. So, all other things being equal, a 3 GHz processor smartphone is more powerful than one with a 2.3 GHz processor.

So, if you need a smartphone for gaming or for other heavy tasks, you should be looking for a smartphone with higher clock speeds.

PS: Along with procesor speed is the type of processor, but that is a much more technical aspect of this subject.

What is the importance of RAM size?

Samsung 6GB RAM

More RAM enhances multi-tasking. The more RAM a phone has, the smoother it is to launch and switch between apps. More RAM does not make your phone as a whole run faster. Let me put it differently: the more RAM your smartphone has, the better it can switch between apps and do multiple things at once.

If you are an app junkie and switch between multiple apps a lot, you will suffer on a smartphone with 2 GB RAM. I promise you. You will likely run into a lot of “out of memory” errors and/or have apps shutting down on you in the background. Definitely, when switching between apps, you will experience slower transitions.

Simply put, RAM size determines how many apps can run simultaneously on your phone and how smoothly you can switch between them. That is the importance of RAM size.

Smartphone Performance Example

So, together, the processor speed and RAM size determine how responsive your smartphone behaves, each determining a different dimension.

To illustrate this, let us compare two smartphones with different processor clock speeds and amounts of RAM (all other things equal):

  1. Smartphone One: Quad-core 1.3 GHz with 3 GB RAM
  2. Smartphone Two: Octa-Core 2.2 GHz with 2 GB RAM

Smartphone Two is the more powerful of the two because it has a higher processor speed. But Smartphone One will handle switching between apps or running multiple apps better. However, it will generally run slower than Smartphone Two. The more powerful device – Smartphone Two – will run faster and handle heavier tasks better.

If we add Smartphone Three with 2.2 GHz processor and 3 GB RAM size, it will blow both of the above examples out of the water in terms of performance because it has both the higher clock speed and higher amount of RAM.

the importance of RAM size and processor speed in phone performance

Quick Tips For Android Users

  1. If you are an Android OS person, a 1.3 GHz processor is bottom of the barrel. It is low-end. For really good speeds, get 1.8 GHz and above.
  2. As for RAM size, if you can afford it, 3 GB is the least you should opt for on Android OS in order to enjoy decent multi-tasking.
  3. Also, note that the more cores a processor has, the more efficient it can run. So an octa-core processor is more efficient than a quad-core processor. See another article of mine, How smartphone processors work, for more details.
  4. Lastly, note that the bigger and sharper the display of your smartphone, the more powerful you need your processor to be, because the processor has more work to do than with a smaller screen. Display size and resolution are some of the factors we refer to when we say “all other things being equal“.

I hope that you understand better the factors that determine smartphone performance, so you can make better purchasing decisions.

Do use the comment section below to let me know if you have any questions or areas you need more light shed on. And do not forget to share this post with your network using the share buttons below.

PS: We love to connect with you. Do not forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. I’m in love with this write up, you now open my eyes to some of the things I don’t know in a smartphone. I now know what to look out for anytime I need to purchase any phone. Thanks for these tips, Mister Mo

  2. The state of the economy isn’t helping matters when it comes to getting a desired phone with the right specs. The phone I use at the moment, Infinix Note 3, seems to have reached its maturity stage and is calling for a replacement, but when I hear the prices of high end phones, I just take a chill.

    Hopefully, I should lay my hands on a decent smartphone with the preferred specs as highlighted by Mr Mo. Nice piece bro.

  3. Thank you. Glad you find it useful.

    but when I hear the prices of high end phones, I just take a chill.

    You can say that again. Cost is a major factor for most consumers. And that is the key reason why brands like Gionee, TECNO, Infinix, Xiaomi and others like them are selling in droves. Good value for the cost of their devices.

  4. You just confirmed to me what someone made me to understand before I bought my last smartphone. Being an app junkie and heavy user I made the right choice. Thanks Mr mo.

  5. Brilliant article. I would like to see something on mtk and snapdragon processors. like which mtk is the lowest up to the highest rated (same for snapdragon). And if possible which ones have almost the same performance(like SD abc can be said to have its equivalent in MTK xyz)

  6. Thank you for the kind words, Deji. Glad you like the article.

    You requested:

    I would like to see something on mtk and snapdragon processors. like which mtk is the lowest up to the highest rated (same for snapdragon).

    This is not something that can be done in one article, because both brands are constantly introducing new processors and chipsets.

    This other request is something we can add to our work schedule:

    And if possible which ones have almost the same performance(like SD abc can be said to have its equivalent in MTK xyz)

  7. Nice article… But this write up is mainly for Android. My question what about window phone and iOS that run on low Ram n all but never really hang.

  8. iOS handles resources differently (more efficiently) than Android does. That’s why a 2 GB RAM iPhone runs far more smoothly and faster than a 2 GB RAM Android smartphone does. To a different degree, same can be said for Windows Phone.

  9. Alright Mister Mo, thank you for your reply. I will be looking forward to the “workable part” of my request in future.

  10. Can’t decide between a lenovo with 1.8ghz 6gb ram and a powerful display and 4000 battery, and a oppo with 2.5ghz 3.5gb ram same powerful display and a 3200mah battery, can’t decide?

  11. well um this information is really helpful but i still really don’t get the whole ram thing cause i always thought that ram is what makes games run smoothly cause i have a tablet but it’s got about 1.5 go ram and it’s slow but it’s got a 1.5 ghz processor

  12. GREAT article.

    Now that phones are available with so much more RAM, does that start to cloud the waters in terms of downloads and internet speed with many open tabs in chrome?

    I’m a contractor and want to get a rugged phone…I’m looking at a Blackview 9900 with a Media tek P90 and 8 gigs of Ram vs. a Samsung Xcover Pro with an Exyos 9611 and 4 gig of Ram

    I currently have a Moto Play2 with a Snapdragon 626 (which apparently is faster than either of the above phones) …would the phones above seem sluggish online in comparison to my Moto Play2?

  13. Octa-core (2×2.0 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6×1.7 GHz Cortex-A55)
    Could this mean the processor is 4GHz? Please throw more light on this spec infinix Note 7. Thank you

  14. Hello Joseph,

    It means two of the cores are clocked at 2.0 GHz each, while the remainiing six are clocked at 1.7 GHz each. The clock speed of multiple cores are not added; the highest clock speed is usually what is specified as the clockspeed of the processor. In this case, 2.0 GHz.

  15. This has realy helped me.
    Many people have been confused about Ram and processors. Thank u so much

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *