What is the problem with Nokia and RAM? What wizard has bewitched the engineers over there such that they are doomed to eternally not give

What is Nokia’s Problem with RAM?

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What is the problem with Nokia and RAM? What wizard has bewitched the engineers over there such that they are doomed to eternally not give enough RAM to their smartphones? Okay, they do give some of them adequate RAM, but again and again, Nokia has churned out smartphones that multi-task only in theory.

This unforgivable sin was committed with the N97 – it was/is shocking that a flagship model such as the N97 has only 46MB RAM left running right after boot-up.

X61The 5800 has 53MB. The 5530 has the same amount. Now, both the 5230 and X6 come with a paltry 50MB. Here is an excerpt from Ewan Spence’s review of the X6 over at All About Symbian:

Which means that I have to wonder why Nokia have let the X6 out of Finland in the state that it’s in – it’s almost unforgivable. The amount of free RAM after booting the phone (less than 45MB, with a full-loaded Music player then grabbing 20MB of this for itself) is even less than on the N97, so applications shut down as others are opened, screen changes and animations are jerky and slow to activate… but that’s not the worst part. The Music Player is buggy, slow and (both Steve and I are pretty sure that) there is a memory leak in this key application for the phone.

Was nobody testing this? Did they never think to try playing music in the background while browsing some photos? Or going online with the web browser at the same time as listening to some Steeleye Span? It’s embarrassing for me to be afraid to run anything else on the X6 while listening to music because it might crash and require a power cycle to get working again.

To think that Nokia has repeated this blunder several times over the years and they are still rolling out smartphones with unbelievably low levels of RAM is just… insane.

It is almost as if no-one tests some of these things in real life situations before they are pushed out.

As far back as May last year, Yomi addressed this in his article, What Nokia Needs to Fix – Right Away!, mentioning both the 5800 and another flagship, the N96. We will not even attempt to begin to gripe about the other issues that were raised in that article. Nokia simply seems unconcerned about the majority of them.

Why is Nokia not able to fix this and other issues with their smartphones once and for all? Can anyone explain? Other manufacturers who produce smartphones on the same Symbian platform actually manage to be consistent in equipping their smartphones with copious amounts of RAM.

Who can help us out with why Nokia is so inconsistent with this?


  1. Nokia’s failure to address failings such as this is one of the reasons that I am not so into Symbian anymore. Of the Symbian licencees, only Nokia currently produces the type of phones I use.

    Symbian is a powerful platform, presently more capable than any of the newer mobile OSes. But it is just unforgivable to me that Nokia cripples its own smartphones with inadequate RAM (among other issues). Unless Samsung, LG et al begin to produce business-class Symbian devices, or Nokia produces one that is not crippled in some way, I won’t touch any of the new Symbian phones.

    I’d rather hold on to the venerable E90 than donate my hard-earned money on a top-end smartphone that doesn’t deliver on its promises.

    Happy new year to everyone!

  2. I disagree Yomi about symbian being better than the other mobile Oses. The lowest specked Android phone i.e the G1 has thrice as much ram as nokia’s flagship not to mention other cutting edge features. I will concede one fact though. Of all the smartphone Oses present in the Nigerian market (Iphone Osx, WinMo, ,Blackberry Os) symbian is the least retarded.

  3. Yomi i dont think Symbian is better than other mobile Oses. They are more matured but as of late, their products have all been below standard. the last innovative phone they made was the N95 or how can one explain a flagship phone in 2010 having 46-90mb of ram? The Motorola Droid has 512mb for crying out loud! Plus it also boasts of 512mb of virtual memory bringing it to a total of 1gb of available mem.

    Its a pity we are stuck with symbian smartphones for lack of better alternatives in Nigeria. but that doesn’t negate the fact that of recent, symbian sucks!!!

  4. David & dfineboy,

    You are both getting things mixed up. The specifications of individual smartphones are a different kettle of fish from the capabilities of the OS.

    Specification is what each manufacturer chooses to put into a particular model – which is where Nokia is messing up. Different from what Symbian is. That’s why Nokia can mess up with stingy RAM on the X6, but put in enough RAM in the E90 and E52.

    If we want to examine the OS, compare two phones – one Android and one Symbian of similar specs, for example, and see which gets more done (and does it faster), among others. That’s more like it. You will find out that Symbian is a mobile powerhouse compared to the the others.

    Hope we have clarified the difference3 between what each manufacturer puts into a particular device and what the underlying OS is capable of.

  5. What a thread! I never knew n97 n 5800 ram are that low! Sincerely speaking, nokia knows this phones are multi tasking. I wonder why they behave in such manner. I was holding a nokia 6120c yesterday and noticed the ram was 48mb not even on boot. When it boot, it remain 17mb. Can u imagine?
    Right now, i’m using a nokia n82 n i still enjoy the phone so much cos the ram is 128mb but afta booting 90mb.
    I want to ask a question.has Anyone checked d real ram of n86 n n96 cos thats the phone i wanna buy next!

  6. Hey Alireta,i just went to gsmarena. X6,5800,n n97 are all 128mb ram. Is it after booting u r referring to cos i’m kinda confused now!

  7. computer,

    We specifically mentioned in our article that it is RAM after booting, which is what really counts:

    This unforgivable sin was committed with the N97 – it was/is shocking that a flagship model such as the N97 has only 46MB RAM left running right after boot-up.

    The N96 is plagued with the same low RAM issue. N86 will serve you better.

  8. This issue of low RAM – It looks like there are @ least two ways of addressing this problem. It can be addressed by both the users of these under-RAMed phones, and the Authors of the software (both native and third party) that run on these phones.

    In most cases, the reason a phone needs as much onboard memory as possible is for reasons of multitasking. You need multitasking (in most cases) to have quick access to your applications. In most cases.
    There are numerous applications available that make accessing your installed apps a breeze. A few examples are PhoneShortCuts, HandyShell, JBak TaskMan, SmartSettings.

    I use a Nokia 5800. I am a power user. But I have never had memory issues with the phone because I hardly ever leave several applications open simultaneously. I use some of the mentioned (above) applications instead. And it is a solution that works well for me. There are also memory optimisers like MobileStudio MemoryUp that can compress phone memory in-situ.

    On the part of the Software Authors, they should make better use of flash memory (when present) by swapping memory contents to it (rather than doing all memory management on the RAM).

    Finally, as the line between smartphones and PCs blur, phone manufacturer should explore the possibility of making their phones scaleable by emulating PCs further . That is, make phone memory user_expandable.

  9. EyeBeeKay,

    We agree that developers should optimise their codes such that their apps are not resource-hungry. Still, there is a limit to the optimising that any developer can do. Nokia is not new to Symbian. They know its requirements. How do we explain the E90 having 76MB free RAM after booting (which is adequate) and the N97 having 46MB? The N97 is supposedly a more powerful, more advanced device.

    You said:

    I use a Nokia 5800. I am a power user. But I have never had memory issues with the phone because I hardly ever leave several applications open simultaneously

    What then is the point of Nokia advertising the 5800 as a multi-tasking device if users have to manually shut down apps so as not to leave them running in the background?

    On the E90, we have left over 15 apps running all at the same time without any issues. On the Samsung B7320, we often see 10 apps running without issues. Why is it that you boot the X6, open the music player, and you are left with barely enough RAM to launch the web browser and load a web page?

    Instead of looking at app developers, Nokia’s coding for their smartphones probably needs examination first. The inconsistency in their product line-up is a pointer to internal development issues at Nokia.

    Nokia should simply do the right thing. It is not that difficult. If Nokia can’t fix this, they should borrow a leaf from Apple and remove multi-tasking entirely from their smartphones. At least buyers would know what they were buying upfront and not get nasty surprises.

    Imagine that a customer picks up an N97 for over N80,000 for a device that the manufacturer knew upfront was crippled.

    Sorry that this is long comment, guys, but we have talked about this nonsense from Nokia again and again. It is something that really gets us peeved. Actually, “peeved” is putting it mildly. “Indignant” is more like it. There is just no excuse for this kind of behaviour from a manufacterer whose clients spend significant amounts of money on their products each year.

  10. @alireta, u’ve said nothing but the real truth.

    Less i forget, i’m having a problem with my n82. I can’t say if its the ram.

    After booting,i’ve 90mb left. So, if i open an application or lets say two sometimes and i’m on it for like 30mins,i’ll still have like 75 n sometimes 80mb left. Now the problem is that if i try to open any application, it won’t open unless i close one or sometimes i’ve to shut down and restart.

    I decided to open 7 apps at a time after booting, it worked but it makes no sense to me doing that because i might still need to open an app which won’t open.

    I’ve formatted the phone with *7370#. I’m yet to use the 3 key method but i wanna know if its the phone problem. Thanks.

  11. A very nice and educative topic, my advice to potential buyers of smart phones in nigeria is that they should search for information about whichever phone they are interested in on phone review sites or google-search to get other users views about such phones. Most of the phone shops around are not helpful in assisting you to make decisions on phone choices because they know next to nothing about smart phone features/capabilities.

    I’ve been using my e63 for some days and i have no issues with memory. What is the amount of RAM on Nokiae63 before & after booting?

  12. computer,

    The N82 comes with adequate RAM, but users of the early firmware version complained of instability issues – bugs that Nokia ought to have sorted out before releasing the device. We recommend that you upgrade to the latest firmware version.

  13. kay123,

    You are not going to be having any RAM issues with the E63. After bootup, it has about 70MB free RAM to chug along smoothly with. Breathe… 🙂

    But look at the madness: lower-spec’d E63 has 70MB free RAM after booting; higher-spec’d N97 has less than 50MB. The law of inverse proportion?

  14. Guys, I checked out the AllAboutSymbian link. It is amazing how many loyal Nokia/Symbian fans are complaining bitterly of Nokia. Many have been complaining a long time before now. Wassup?

    Now, my beloved Symbian will lose more people not because the Symbian OS is the problem, but because of Nokia. Unfortunately, I must agree with you guys. There is no reason Nokia should treat us like this.

  15. Txn Alireta. I thought as much. Its a ver 31. I’ll try to update to d latest which is 35.

  16. The inconsistency in the amount of RAM available in some models is inexplicable (to users), and probly inexcusable.

    However, I do not believe it would be an arbitrary thing @ Nokia. There would be technical or/and cost reasons!

    As a user of a phone, knowing that NO phone is perfect in ALL ways, I would look @ the features important / critical to me , and take a decision.

    For people who like to keep numetous applications open uNNECESSARILY, it is actually a recipe for chaos! Not all apps are memory-efficient. Some leak memory. A single crash in a single app has the potential of crashing the whole phone!
    My recommendation is to keep as few applications as possible -open – @ any point in time. Pray, y would anyone truly NEED to have 15 apps open simultaneously (unless just to boast)?

    In most cases, this low_memory gripe is like having a full-spec’ed car with all the bells & whistle – bells you do NOT need. If a phone (you otherwise admire) has a deficiency (low memory inclusive), look for a (software / hardware) solution. OR, simply shift to another model. Finis!

  17. EyeBeeKay,

    Sure thing. You wouldn’t know why anyone would have 15 apps running on a top-end smartphone. These days, everyone who uses a wimpy watered-down smartphone is a self-proclaimed “power user”. Hilarious! What would you know about being a power user?

    That your needs do not require a particular usage profile does not give you an excuse to sneer at those whose needs do. Your sneering only shows up your ignorance.

    Sorry if I sound harsh, but you asked for it. I’ve read a number of comments of yours in which you displayed this same attitude. It is pathetic, really. The world is bigger than your limited experience.

  18. EyeBeeKay,

    The inconsistency in the amount of RAM available in some models is inexplicable (to users), and probly inexcusable.

    “Probably” inexcusable? Really? Do you work for Nokia?

    However, I do not believe it would be an arbitrary thing @ Nokia. There would be technical or/and cost reasons!

    Technical reasons? Nokia must be inept, seeing that other manufacturers somehow manage to consistently provide their devices with enough of this resource to make sure that those devices do what they were designed to do smoothly.

    Cost? Nokia put enough RAM on the E63 but could not put in enough on the 5800 which costs more? You are kidding right?

    Okay, for discussion purposes, let’s agree with you that cost could be an issue on lower end smartphones (which is untrue because some lower end devices of theirs have enough RAM), but people who want to buy an N97 or N900 are not the kind of people who are looking to skimp on cost. Guys who buy Alfa Romeos are not your average Joe looking for a bargain. They are looking for the meanest machine on the block and are willing and able to pay for it.

    We will ignore your ignorance-based jibe about people keeping 15 apps open “unnecesarrilly”, and address the flaw in your line of thinking from a more basic point of view. You said:

    My recommendation is to keep as few applications as possible -open – @ any point in time.

    Ahem, if people are to follow your expert recommendation sir, in the case of the X6, an XpressMusic device, they would need to keep the music player closed anytime they wanted to do anything else. You see, once the music player is open, all that’s left is about 25mb RAM, and even at that the music player stutters, and everything else slows down. Even screen changes become jerky.

    In other words, this advanced shiny new music device becomes unusable because the built-in music player eats up all the RAM by itself! Waoh! Gee! This is a new innovation to mobile devices. A device designed for music but which cannot even play music well, talk less of carry out other tasks. Applause!!!!

    Are you listening to yourself? Are you listening to us?

    In most cases, this low_memory gripe is like having a full-spec’ed car with all the bells & whistle – bells you do NOT need. If a phone (you otherwise admire) has a deficiency (low memory inclusive), look for a (software / hardware) solution. OR, simply shift to another model. Finis!

    Like Dayann mentioned above, you do get ahead of yourself – and with wild innacurate analogies.

    If you want to use cars as an analogy, you’re purring up the wrong road. People who buy full spec’d cars pay top money and expect the car to perform all the bells & whistles it is advertised for. They expect to be able to use what they are paying for the way they were told it would work. How can that be too much to ask for?

    Whether they need it or not, it is that extra ooomph that they were promised that they paid for. They expect to get value for their money. They expect to be able to accelerate from 0 to 100 mph in 6 seconds whenever they so desire to (need or no need).

    A full spec’d Ferrari sportscar with the performance of a mere city sedan is fraud. Can anyone imagine Ferrari selling its sports cars with an engine that delivers the same power as Kia Picanto built-in? Your analogy is simply mind-fuddling, to say the least.

    Lastly, if Nokia were to advertise the X6, for example, in such a way that they state on the promotions and the sales pack that it had only 45mb RAM after bootup, and that the music player alone would eat up 20mb of that, then we would know upfront to avoid it. But Nokia “wisely” simply prints 128mb RAM in the specs sheet and smiles, waiting for their customers to take the bait and buy another useless product.

    Having said all these, we are sure you were just joking when you posted that comment; right 🙂 Ah, gotcha! You were just pulling our legs; right?

  19. @Dayann, you can sound anyhow you like – harsh, whatever. It is a free world.

    Let us stick to facts : give me a scenario in which you would need to run SEVERAL multiple apps – simultaneously. I hope you know what SEVERAL means.

    Ignorance is not a sin. Educate me, since you obviously are so knowledgeable. And pls quick to facts – if you have them!

  20. @Alireta, I have not said you should not get value for money. Of course you would not expect a Nano to have the performance of an Acura MDX!

    My point is, most problems / complaints people have about phones – can be solved using the right software. Who says you must use your inbuilt music player (if it is a memory hog). There are numerous options out there. Why must you use your inbuilt web browser, when there are others that are lighter on resources?

    Memory is not all a phone is about (although I am quick to admit it is important). You compared the Nokia E63 which has more onboard memory than its senior brother, the 5800 . So what? In comparing phones, you need to look @ the features in totallity!

    To reiterate, pick a phone that meets your requirements. Water down the vituperations on Nokia. It is a free world. A world with enough CHOICES to make!

  21. EyeBeeKay,

    You are getting unbelievable. Most problems can be solved using 3rd party software? So we buy a music device – designed and marketed for music – and the device is so crippled that it does not do what the manufacturer says it will do, and we smile and install Xplayer?

    How can you not see that this is wrong? That it is 100% wrong for a manufacturer to promise something and not deliver.

    And you – you are the one who is quick to rant and rave against ISPs in Nigeria who do not deliver on the performance they promised? You are the one who is ever trying to justify free browsing as a payback mechanism for what you clearly see in that case as injustice but attempt to water down in this case.

    You must stop whining about MTN, Glo, Starcomms and the others. If your MTN connection doesn’t work, get a backup connection from ZOOM or Glo. And please spare us your hypocritical rant about paying them back through free browsing hacks.

    This is just very absurd, the contradictions that come from you.

    And please stop this deliberate ignoring of the fact that Nokia does not tell you upfront that a device is crippled by inadequate RAM. In their marketing they speak glowingly of the phone’s multi-tasking abilities. That’s called being economical with the truth.

    You need to take those shades off.

  22. eyebeekay, facts would be wasted on you. What have you done with the facts and sound reasoning that has already been presented to you on this topic and others?

    your track record on this blog shows that facts have no effects whatsoever on your reasoning. it is clear that you dig in before you comment and nothing can can dig you out after that. It does not seem that any attempts at education will help you.

    sorry. but hey, its a free world, my guy. You are free to stay ignorant. I am also free to refuse to waste my time throwing pearls at you. We don’t have to fight over it. Take care.

  23. Over time, I ve followed Eyebeekay’s comments(rants ?) on this forum & my take is that he is a fellow that arrongantly thinks he is the all-knowing techie.

    He once said he studied computer in university & that should make him an authority on anything discussed on Mobility Nigeria. He is equating his knowledge of computer science to being versed in mobile technologies. The IT world is very large & nobody can claim to know every aspect of it exhausitively.

    The sky is wide enough for all birds to fly without bumping into one another!

  24. nokia makes a fortune selling cheap bland phones (symbian) to countries in the emerging markets eg china, india, brasil, nigeria and still prides itself as the market leader.

    nokia is out of ideas. pls the next time you are shopping for a phone consider htc, palm, RIM, apple or even samsung.

  25. Its a bit late but i belive a reply from me is in other as regards. airlieta’s reply to my above comment.

    This recent phenomenon of poor Ram implementation by nokia is in my view as a result of 2 things:

    1. The Image of symbian: Every person familiar with the OS is aware of its former image(former because recent events have showed otherwise) as a platform were running apps isn’t an issue. This has been used by nokia to exploit people, who take no notice of the hardware/usability and as such are easily fooled based solely on the OS.

    2. Huge profits: the nokia smartphone business model is focused on squeezing as much profit from as little expense as possible… for this reason, Ram, quality(lag, bugs, subpar hardware…) and innovation are sacrificed. the result for the end user becomes and unending mess of firmware updates a la N97.

    This problem lies solely with Nokia & to a lesssserrr extent symbian.

    P.s My major gripe with symbian is not related to Ram. but my issues with it is that their is no ‘INNOVATION’. The only difference between symbian 2nd edition/3rd edition&5th edition is the colour of interface.

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