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.
In the meantime, my @oneplus 6 (pictured) can open 2 dozen apps and still avoid reloading any of them as I switch between them. It's incredible. Embarrasses the Pixel 3.
Tell me again how 4GB is enough RAM these days. 6GB would have avoided all these issues, let alone 8GB. pic.twitter.com/mRh6dtjqPp
— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) October 20, 2018
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.