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Forget the Galaxy S20: The first Android phone with 16GB of RAM is almost here

Published Jan 13th, 2020 9:08PM EST
Galaxy S20 vs. Black Shark 3
Image: Samsung

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It wasn’t long ago that we thought phones with 8GB of RAM, or as much memory as a decent laptop, were overkill. Little did we know that the jump to 12GB of RAM would be almost immediate. And 2019 might bring us the first phone with 16GB of memory. No, it’s not the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which will soon become the most powerful Galaxy S phone ever made — and the most expensive Galaxy S20 version. It’s actually a gaming phone.

Android makers have continued to shove more RAM inside their phones. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t help them overcome the speed of the iPhone in benchmarks and most real-life tests, but some were able to optimize their devices to deliver great performance nonetheless. More memory can improve multitasking, as more app can stay active at once. The iPhone, meanwhile, might drop apps from RAM to make room for the new ones.

A benchmark test revealed the Galaxy S20 will come with 12GB of RAM, and a leaker said that 12GB will be the base memory for all three Galaxy S20 versions. Do we really need that much RAM on a phone? The answer to that question isn’t clear. What we do know about Samsung is that it kicked off production of 12GB LPDDR5 RAM last summer, with the new memory featuring the world’s first 12GB LPDDR5 packages built for phones, which happen to be even faster than the LPDDR4X RAM used in previous handsets.

Faster RAM would come in handy with multitasking, 5G, and artificial intelligence, but also with increasingly more sophisticated video cameras. And the new Samsung phones will come with beefed up cameras that will use their own AI whenever computational photography can serve a photographer’s needs.

That brings us to the Black Shark 3, which is Xiaomi’s next-gen gaming device. A leaker already found a reference to the handset (via Mashable India), speculating that this may be the first phone with 16GB of RAM. It’s unclear, however, what supplier will manufacture the 16GB RAM modules that would go into the phone.

Thanks to the arrival of Intel’s 10th-gen Core chips, many new laptops will come with 16GB of RAM onboard, which should be more than enough for everyday computing. Placing that much RAM in a smartphone seems unwarranted. Gaming smartphones are a marketing gimmick. They sound like much better phones on paper, but in practice, they’re fairly similar to other Android flagships out there in terms of performance. It’s something Android device makers concocted a few years ago, and they keep making them.

To put it differently, there are no games made specifically for gaming phones. The most intensive mobile games, run just as well on the latest Galaxy S, Pixel, or iPhone. The iPhone 11 models, by the way, with their 4GB of RAM, will often run games even faster than a device packing three or four times the RAM.

These gaming phones do deserve some recognition for pushing specs to the extremes. We might not need 12GB or 16GB of RAM, but gaming phones also ship with high refresh rate displays and plenty of built-in storage. Standard Android flagships also come with a lot more storage on board these days, and high refresh rate screens are the hottest new feature in the industry. Like some of their gaming phone counterparts, new flagships also feature better cooling and faster battery charging.

With all that in mind, we’re probably not going to get a sound explanation for phones with 16GB of RAM. But if this rumor is accurate, Xiaomi will soon get to brag that it was first in the industry to pull it off.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.