What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?
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What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

Users like to go through the numbers in the technical details list before purchasing any electronic product. Recently, we have seen that in the marketing campaigns of some smartphones that have been launched, a relatively new technology for the industry called Virtual RAM is mentioned. But what is Virtual RAM in smartphones, what does it do and how does it work?

Before answering this question, it would be better to go into some basic details about RAM.

What is RAM?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is a short-term and volatile memory unit.

When you open a new program on your device, the data in that program is loaded into RAM so that your device can access it more quickly.

For example, let’s say you visit geek.com.tr from the internet browser on your laptop : When you do this, some of the data about the website (for example, the website’s logo) is stored in RAM for a short time.

What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?
What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

This way, when you return to that website during the same session, your computer does not have to download the website’s logo over and over again.

 

This means providing users with a smoother and more efficient experience.

Of course , RAM is not limited to these types of uses only, but above all it is necessary to keep in mind that RAM is a temporary memory unit:

So when you turn off your device, the data in RAM is deleted in a short time.

Some operating systems, such as Windows 11, have fast boot options to make your computer boot faster. While this feature is in use, the data in memory may not be completely erased, but RAM will be completely erased when the fast boot option is disabled.

Since data in RAM is lost very quickly after the load is interrupted, data that needs to be preserved permanently is saved by the system to a permanent storage unit such as HDD and SSD.

What is Virtual RAM?

Virtual RAM is a technology that allows permanent storage on your device to temporarily act as RAM.

A system can run out of memory, especially when running multiple programs at once, and modern operating systems use virtual memory technology to compensate for this shortage.

In Virtual Memory technology, data is temporarily transferred from RAM to permanent storage and the virtual address space is increased by utilizing the memory in the storage unit.

This way, the system can run larger programs or handle more programs at the same time.

Although Virtual Memory is a relatively new feature for smartphones, I would like to emphasize that it is a technology already used in operating systems such as macOS and Windows.

What you need to keep in mind is that this technology is called differently by different brands in the smartphone industry. For example, Samsung calls it RAM Plus , while Realme calls it Dynamic RAM .

What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?
What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

So far everything seems great, right? Then this question may be on your mind:

“Persistent storage units like SSDs have both larger capacities and cheaper price tags. Since we can use persistent storage as virtual memory, why do we still use RAM?”

Well, there are many valid answers to this question.

Some explain the answer to this question as follows: “ Because permanent storage is not as fast as RAM .”

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That’s true because one of the best SSDs you can buy right now, the WD Black SN850, offers read speeds of 7GB/s and write speeds of 5.3GB/s , while DDR5 RAM like the Corsair Vengeance can reach data transfer speeds of 38GB/s .

Moreover, the UFS or eMMC units used in modern smartphones offer much slower speeds.

However, this explanation is not enough because even if the SSD we have (or UFS or eMMC on a smartphone) is as fast as RAM, we still have some problems.

Remember that a UFS, eMMC, HDD or SSD is a persistent storage unit, not RAM.

For this reason, virtual memory technology is not as effective as physical memory technology because RAM and permanent storage have different mechanisms, structures and working principles.

For example, while RAM is designed to last for years despite constant data flow, SSD has a write lifespan stipulated by the manufacturer and wears out over time.

Since data will be constantly written to the storage unit in Virtual Memory technology, this causes the storage unit to wear out and its life to shorten.

Additionally, constantly mapping data between physical memory and virtual memory can even cause the system to become slower in some cases.

What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?
What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

In the context of a computer, RAM is directly connected to your processor, but since the storage unit is connected to your device like a disk drive, the processor cannot address this memory directly.

While there are many examples we could give you here – how the storage unit connects to your device, the path of the memory controller and how it stores data, etc. – I think it would be better to leave these for another article.

As a result, you must have understood that using permanent storage as RAM is not possible, functional or efficient in practical and theoretical terms.

This is an important step because the structure of the storage unit, which is not suitable for use as RAM, means that virtual memory technology will not be as efficient as marketed.

Also, when we consider that this feature requires constant reading and writing, we can conclude that it is not suitable for flash storage units that have limited reading and writing cycles.

What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?
What is Virtual RAM in Smartphones?

Therefore, constantly using virtual memory technology actively may be a solution that causes more harm than good in the medium and long term.

Google also explained this situation in the content on Android Developers as follows:

“ Storage in Android cannot be used for swap space as in other Linux applications because frequent writing can cause memory wear and shorten the life of the storage media. ”

Conclusion

In this guide we have prepared for you, we have taken a look at the details about Virtual RAM technology, which has recently gained an important place in the marketing campaigns of smartphones.

So what do you think about this feature? Do you think that a smartphone offering virtual memory support is an important factor for users to choose?

Do not forget to share your opinions on the subject with us and our other readers in the comments section below.

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