Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Truth About Internal Memory in Samsung Android Devices

Hey Everybody!

On 15th this month, I got my shiny new Samsung Galaxy Note II, GT-N7100, the international version or to be precise, the Indian version, in the color of my choice, Titanium Grey. I moved on to it from a 32 GB Galaxy S3,  basically for a bigger screen, much better battery, and the mighty S-Pen :) Needless to say, I am on cloud nine since then :D

But as always, you don't get everything of everything and this phone is no exception. My biggest gripe is the 16 GB memory touted by Samsung. It is not 16 GB actually. You only get 10.45 GB out of the box, and the rest is taken by : 

  1. The calculation fiasco that virtually every company making storage devices on earth do, where they calculate 1 GB = 1 Billion Bytes instead of 1073741824 bytes, and 
  2. The memory eaten away by Android OS and pre-installed software, basically your phone ROM. 

In addition, when you first boot your device, the initialization process also creates a few sqlite databases and other files on this memory reducing it even further.

In newer Android devices, I think the Samsung has stopped making different physical partitions (or memory chips) for ROM and internal memory. Instead, what they do is they divide the same physical memory chip into 2 or more logical partitions and then mount the partition with "ROM" contents as read only. If you are aware of the process of flashing a Samsung phone with ODIN, you might have found the word PIT file used often. PIT file actually defines the partition layout. That's why it is said that while doing normal ROM flashing, the re-partition checkbox should not be checked, it can wreak havoc if not done properly.

This layout provides them the flexibility where if the size of ROM contents decreases or increases, they can just re-partition the memory to adjust for it. This was a problem in previous devices, like the Galaxy S, which only got the Value Pack instead of an upgrade to Android 4.0 ICS, as their isolated ROM memory chip was not having enough space. Last, i checked around 60-70 MB was free in /system on my Galaxy S i9003.

Samsung doesn't release 32/64 GB versions of their phones in many countries like India many times. For example, in Philippines, 64 GB version of Note 2 is readily available but In India, only 16 GB is there. That's one of the reason why people resort to Rooting. Rooting actually provides a way to go over this limitation by using a technique called Directory Binding, which I will talk about in my upcoming posts. But this is one thing that I don't like about you, Samsung! I hope you are listening!
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