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This Samsung memory breakthrough might give the Galaxy S an advantage over the iPhone

Published Aug 31st, 2020 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 12 Specs
Image: Svetapple

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  • Rumors detailing the iPhone 12 specs indicate some models will feature 6GB of RAM, a first for the iPhone.
  • Samsung just announced a new RAM breakthrough that will easily put the future Galaxy S21 and Note 21 at an advantage.
  • Samsung’s new 16Gb LPDDR6 DRAM is supposed to allow the manufacturing of smaller, faster RAM modules than previous memory technologies.

The iPhone 12 is rumored to be the first iPhone series that will feature up to 6GB of RAM, which is a major memory upgrade for the iPhone. Apple has never kept up with its main rivals when it comes to RAM, and Android handset makers now put anywhere between 8GB and 16GB of memory inside their phones. The higher the price of the phone, the more likely it is to feature more memory than you can need. It’s all overkill, but more RAM can come in handy, as all those real-life speed tests show. Androids can’t beat the iPhone’s speed, but that extra memory keeps more information loaded and can help with multitasking needs. Apple’s decision to upgrade the RAM might not only be about having more RAM on the iPhone. It might also be related to the speed upgrade that comes from utilizing the latest available RAM technology. As I’ve explained recently, that faster RAM comes in minimum packages of 6GB, and that’s why Apple might have to go for the upgrade.

That’s just speculation at this point, based on what Apple has done with the iPhone so far. Without matching the hardware of Androids, Apple has invested in technologies that offered it an edge over the competition. The A-series chips or its custom memory controllers are such examples. That’s why it would probably want the faster RAM. That said, it’s unclear whether Apple would be able to go for Samsung’s latest RAM breakthrough innovation, which might otherwise give future Galaxy S and Note phones an edge over the iPhone.

Samsung on Sunday announced the mass production of 16GB memory models composed of 16Gb LPDDR5 RAM chips, which will be likely used in next year’s Galaxy S21, Note 21, and various foldable devices. What’s special about the new RAM is that it’s the industry’s “first third-gen 10nm-class (1z) EUV-based” RAM.”

EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet lithography, and it’s a technology that lets Samsung use sophisticated lasers to “write” silicon. What this translates to is faster, more efficient RAM that takes less space inside the phone than previous modules. In other words, it’s not really just the speed bump that matters here, as this next-gen version of RAM can address a variety of problems and ensure that the next-gen smartphones will deliver fast speeds and new features without sacrificing even more battery life.

When it comes to speed, the new 16GB models will be even faster than the 12GB LPDDR5 modules that power some of the current Android handsets:

At 6,400 megabits per second (Mb/s), the new LPDDR5 is about 16 percent faster than the 12Gb LPDDR5 (5,500Mb/s) found in most of today’s flagship mobile devices. When made into a 16GB package, the LPDDR5 can transfer about 10 5GB-sized full-HD movies, or 51.2GB of data, in one second.

The RAM package is 30% thinner than the previous version, Samsung explains:

The 16Gb LPDDR5 can build a 16GB package with only eight chips, whereas its 1y-based predecessor requires 12 chips (eight 12Gb chips and four 8Gb chips) to provide the same capacity.

Samsung says the 1z-based 16GB RAM will serve “global smartphone makers,” as the company wants to “to further strengthen its presence in the flagship mobile device market throughout 2021.” It’s unclear who those global players are, except for Samsung, and whether Apple is also a customer. 
Furthermore, the press release makes no mention of whether the same technology can be used to manufacture other RAM capacities. While it’s unlikely to see Apple launch an iPhone with 16GB of RAM anytime soon, lower capacity versions might be useful. On a related note, and I’m again speculating, this super-fast 16GB version of RAM could very well be paired with the kind of computers that Apple is making, the ones based on its own A-series chips.

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.