Explain Android terms: memory versus RAM.
August 21, 2018 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I have a tracfore ZTE ZFIVE@ LTE with 1 GB RAM, 8 GB Memory and 32 GB SD card. The phone uses nearly all of the 8GB memory and I cannot add any new apps. Do I have to buy a new phone with more RAM to add apps?
posted by JayRwv to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
RAM memory is for holding transient data during processing. The 8GB memory (Flash memory, probably) is the more permanent storage for apps and data that persist over shutdowns and re-boots, rather like your computer's hard-disk (or solid-state disk, if it has one). The 32GB memory card should extend the 8GB to 40GB while it's inserted into the phone. Some apps can only run from the internal 8GB, while many others can be stored on and used from the card. Since this varies from app to app, you'll need look them up one by one - start with the largest ones first - to find out which ones can be stored on the card. Someone with a current Android phone will need to chime in here about how you go about moving those that are capable, but the general idea is you want to move as many of the larger ones as you can, from the 8GB internal Flash memory onto the card, to leave as much space as possible for those that must be kept in the internal Flash.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 9:16 AM on August 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

"Memory", in smart phone usage, refers to filesystem space ("disk space" or "storage space" in general computing terms). One way to think of it is that "memory" determines how many apps you can have installed, while "RAM" determines how many you can have running simultaneously.

None of my Android phones have included SD card slots, so I'm not totally up to date on how to install apps there rather than the build-in memory. You might want to research whether you can install apps on your SD card before doing anything else.

That said, if you do decide to get a new phone, memory is going to be the relevant stat for you. But most new phones will come with 32 GB of memory at minimum, except maybe some of the ultra-budget ones that still ship with 16GB.

(Budget phones these days will ship with either 1 or 2 GB of RAM, but even the flagship phones rarely have more than 4 GB of RAM. Don't stress the RAM stat unless you use your phone for gaming, which I'm assuming you don't, based on your current phone.)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:17 AM on August 21, 2018

You're kinda screwed with that particular phone. It doesn't allow "adoption", where apps can be installed to the SD card instead of internal storage. If you want to run more apps you'll need to find a new phone that supports it.
posted by holgate at 9:21 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you for the response. When I try to add any app I am told there is no space available and to delete unwanted apps. I have only the app for Chrome that I have added. I delete it and still I cannot add any apps. My user manual says I can use the SD card for apps but that does not work at all.
posted by JayRwv at 9:23 AM on August 21, 2018

Thank you holgate. That is what I am thinking. I appreciate the help.
posted by JayRwv at 9:24 AM on August 21, 2018

Some apps can only run from the internal 8GB, while many others can be stored on and used from the card. Since this varies from app to app, you'll need look them up one by one - start with the largest ones first - to find out which ones can be stored on the card.

My offline mapping/navigation app, OsmAnd, is the one which takes up the most space; in (☰/hamburger menu) → Settings → Misc there's an option “Data storage folder”. I think back when I changed it the first time I went and moved the relevant folder manually in a file management app to avoid re-downloading all the maps, but perhaps this works automatically now.
posted by XMLicious at 9:29 AM on August 21, 2018

To solve the immediate problem, look in settings -> storage to see what is using what little space you do have. It's likely some combination of Chrome's cache, downloaded files, and photos you've taken. If you use Google Play Music, Spotify, or similar, they also are set by default to cache the current song and sometimes a few more to storage so that temporary network interruptions don't interrupt the music. Google Maps also caches some data, in case you've used that.

Either from the storage menu or from settings -> apps, you should be able to click on an app and use the clear cache and clear data buttons to remove anything they have downloaded. (Depending on the app, clearing data may not be wise, but clearing cache should never break anything since the cached data should by definition be redownloadable/recreatable should the app ever need it in the future.

Until you get a new phone, you'll want to make sure your camera app and any other apps that allow you to pick a location to store some/all of their data are set to use the SD card. Most apps aren't that big on their own, so even the few GB your phone has free after counting the base OS and bundled apps should be enough to make the phone useful if you are careful to only use apps that either can be moved to the SD card or allow whatever data they save to be saved to the memory card.

Unfortunately, with adopted storage, larger internal storage becoming nearly standard across the board, and the shrinking number of phones that even have a card slot app support for SD cards is trending worse, not better. You'll find better luck by those written by or targeted at people from developing countries where most people are using phones the way you are. Older apps and apps targeted at developers are also more likely to support alternative storage.

Lastly, it's quite likely there exists a third party ROM for your phone that does support adopted storage. If you go that route, you will want to make sure your microSD card is as fast as your phone will support, probably at least UHS-I. Slow storage will make your phone run like molasses.
posted by wierdo at 3:09 PM on August 21, 2018

weirdo. Your explanation is very helpful. I have found that I can not run apps that are on the sd card. Several people have told me that my phone won't do that. I don't us google play music, spotify and such. The pictures I have I have moved to my desktop. I actually very little 'data' type files. I have my contacts for email and phone stored.
It will not let me delete files that are pre installed.
You have given me lots of information to digest. Thank you very much.
posted by JayRwv at 8:50 PM on August 21, 2018

When I had this problem with my old phone (8GB with no SD slot) there really wasn't anything I could do long term. All the crap that came with my phone, that I couldn't remove yet had to keep updating, used essentially the entire storage of my phone. Right at the end I had only a sngle non vendor/google app on my phone and there still wasn't space to install updates. One of the reasons I sought out both a phone that had an SD slot (didn't know some couldn't be used for apps but dodge that bullet anyways) and one that wasn't branded by a carrier. Not having all the carrier's crap on my new phone is a crazy improvement and I get android updates faster because they come direct from Google.
posted by Mitheral at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2018

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