Samsung creates 16GB RAM chips for phones, embarrassing 8GB laptops everywhere

But is it really necessary?

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Samsung announced today that it has begun mass production of 16GB RAM chips for smartphones. The company says that the new chips are 1.3 times faster than its previous best memory, 12GB LPDDR4X. They’re also 20 percent more power efficient than its 8GB chips.

“Samsung has been committed to bringing memory technologies to the cutting edge in allowing consumers to enjoy amazing experiences through their mobile devices. We are excited to stay true to that commitment with our new, top-of-the-line mobile solution for global device manufacturers,” said Cheol Choi, senior vice president of memory sales & marketing, Samsung Electronics.

Will you even notice? — This all seems impressive considering most people’s laptops don’t even pack 16GB of RAM. But it’s less impressive when you consider that the top of the line iPhone contains only 4GB of RAM and nobody considers that phone to be much of a slouch.

There are some applications that could be enhanced by faster data transfer rates, like graphic-intensive games that demand a high refresh rate, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine the gains will be astronomical for everyday mobile applications. Software optimization means iOS and Android are fairly good at multitasking and automatically closing apps that aren't in use in order to free up space, for instance.

At some point, the returns on adding more RAM become marginal unless we see new apps, perhaps in AI or augmented reality, that have intense on-device computational needs that aren't possible today. But much of that type of computing is currently done on remote servers and delivered to devices over the internet.

Still, in an increasingly crowded market for Android phones there’s always going to be demand for devices that have the best specs possible, so I’m sure we’ll see plenty of phones packing 16GB of RAM soon. Samsung’s recently unveiled Galaxy S20 Ultra has 12GB of RAM, as do the OnePlus 7 Pro and Xiaomi Black Shark 2. Look for this to trickle down and become the norm.