Last year we had display-gate where the display in the Pixel 2 XL was sub-par for many. This year it looks like there is an issue with Google’s new flagship phones which affects both phones — memory management.

This is an issue that we were going to wait until the review to report on but it seems the noise about it is just getting louder and louder. Even though our review will be published in the next few days we thought it best that we detail our experiences with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Both phones arrived with just 4GB of RAM which is the smallest amount on a flagship for 2018. At first we didn’t think this was an issue as Google had tweaked Android on the Pixel 3 phones to run super smoothly and quickly. Now it seems there is a downside to this “optimisation” — lack of memory.

Users have been reporting on Twitter that they are seeing many apps being killed in the background, while they should be still running, and the phone only able to keep a few apps in memory. Too often apps are requiring a reload from scratch. This can be reproduced easily — run any media app, including Google Play Music, open the camera app and the media app just stops and drops out of memory requiring a reload.

Often when just playing a podcast or music the playback will just stop while you are doing other things on the phone. The memory management issue is also a problem in the camera app where sometimes photos that are taken will not save. I have had it happen twice in 10 days which isn’t a lot but, this is meant to be a Pixel phone, the best of Android.

It seems that Google, while trying to keep the Pixel 3 running smoothly and quickly as we expect a Pixel phone to run are doing some extremely aggressive memory management. A developer on XDA had a look through the kernel source code and has found the source of the aggressive memory management. When he then applied the same code to the Pixel 2 kernel he noticed the same “super aggressive” memory management.

The good thing here is that it is a simple patch and software issue that should be able to be fixed with a bit of tuning from Google — and they have instituted a lot of debugging around the memory usage in the kernel so hopefully they can see some real world feedback and fix it.

The problem will come when they realise they only have 4GB of RAM. If they make the memory usage less aggressive, will the phones still run as well as before? Unlikely, but if anyone knows Android it should be Google. Hopefully they can fix it because I am getting quite a few apps, including navigation apps such as Pie Control and Pocket Casts being killed in the background no matter what battery optimisation I turn off on them.

Google is yet to comment on the memory issue but you can be sure they will be working on a fix. Hopefully they can get it ready to roll out with the November security patch. Stay tuned.

***EDIT*** YouTube channel, PhoneBuff has a great way of testing the speed of phones and have released a video showing the issue of the Pixel 3 XL not keeping apps in memory. You can watch the entire thing but the best part is the last minute or so – thanks to Android Police for the link.

Source: 9to5Google.
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    Rob Brown

    My original Pixel XL has been been flawless. Was going to to upgrade to the Pixel XL 2 but the screen issue was a deal breaker for me… No problems I’ll wait until the Pixel XL 3… (I still feel sick when I see that notch) Ohhhh well, I’ll settle for the smaller Pixel 3… But noooooo too pricey and has some issues (like 4GB ram)… Well it’s not that far to October 2019
    Long live the original Pixel XL


    It’s not affecting the Pixel 1 & 2, which makes me think a patch will fix it.

    The more RAM they put in a phone, the more it drains the battery. So it’s always a balancing act.

    Geoff Fieldew

    Not sure if you can access Developer Options on your review phone. If it’s possible, under the Apps sub heading there is an option to change the background process limit. “At most, 4 processes” may help.


    Interesting considering my Mate9 has 4GB RAM (though on 8.0) and doesn’t appear to have this issue. I mean, I’m pretty judicious about closing things I’m not using, but still have several things running and don’t get force closes.

    Mahyar Javadi

    My P2XL seems to have this issue too so I’m putting it down to pie cause it only happened after I got the full release of Pie and all the developer previews were absolutely fine, and used less battery


    Surprised this is an issue on the 3 given the 2XL I have, running 9 & only 4GB of RAM had never experienced this. From reading it looks like some people are experiencing this and other aren’t. I’ll be surprised if it’s a hardware issue. I agree that Google should have put more than 4GB but it *should* be enough for the phone to run normally


    I have a Nokia running stock android with 4gb of ram, it doesn’ lag or anything. The thing that bothers me is the the ram usage is 55-60% all the time. Google seriously needs to optimise it’s ram usage on android.


    The whole point of RAM is to use it because it’s fast. Looks like your phone is wasting about 45-40% of it’s RAM.


    The unbelievably huge notch and 4GB of memory means no way Pixel 3XL.


    Haven’t experienced this at all

    Daniel Tyson

    Most notable for me has been listening to Pocket Casts, then suddenly if you do anything else, the app just exits and when you re-launch there’s no saved state.

    Leela Ross

    I’m a 2XL Owner and getting the same problem.

    I can get the exact error, I have to reboot my phone to run media apps again. As if they are not in the foreground they will be closed.


    Not a hope in hell I am buying a pixel. For the price they could include 12 GB of ram and still make a massive profit. This is the pixel killer.