Storage on a smartphone explained (types & uses)

Storage on a smartphone refers to all physical spaces on a smartphone where data is saved.

If that is clear enough, we will proceed.

Why do we have storage on a smartphone?

To save data of course. Data is very important to helping our smartphones run smoothly.

We have two types of smartphone storage. These are temporary and permanent storage.

Types of data (and storage) on smartphones

Types of data

There are different types of data that can be saved and for different reasons/uses.

Due to the fact that the data saved serves different purposes, the storage facilities that save them are very different.

So we’re going to divide the types of data stored on a smartphone into two.

1. Temporary data
2. Permanent data

Temporary data

So let’s look at the temporary data.

Temporary data refers to data that is…well… temporary.

CPUs needs to locate data on the internal memory. The data could be of an app, a game or a process (i.e. fingerprint sensor, tap to wake etc.)

The CPU would then take some of the key data and save them to the RAM. As the CPU continues working, it would check in with those data in the RAM and make adjustments when necessary.

The entire process is overseen by the Operating System.

When the user is finished with the app and closes it, the operating system simply saves some of that data as cache and wipes the rest.

So we could say that RAM is used to store temporary data for the CPUs to work with.

Permanent data

Permanent data is data that is designed to be stored indefinitely like music, photos, videos, OBB files of big apps etc.


Cache is also a curious type of data. It is temporary data that is stored permanently.

Cache data is data derived from an app’s last session in the RAM. The operating system saves such data because it contains things like settings, last save point etc.

Tho app cache is usually very small (kilobytes) but it can aggregate very quickly (especially for apps like FB or Chrome) into Gigabytes and fill up your storage.

Thus they need to be deleted often.

Deleting cache however can be be a losing game. Why? Because your device needs cache to pickup right where you left off, so it’s going to recreate it and save it back to your permanent storage. All just so that you can go delete it again.



Smartphone storage

So let’s look at the different storage mediums.

The first one is what is collectively called RAM or Random Access Memory.

You have the main RAM module, zRAM and virtual RAM.

These are all temporary memory storages

For more permanent storage, you have the internal storage and SD cards.

Its is important to note that all permanent smartphone storage are SSDs or SSD type storages as opposed to HDDs.

SSD-solid state drives
HDD-hard disk drives

To recap

Smartphone storage refers to all of the mediums of storage that hold data.

This data can be temporary or permanent

The data of apps running in the CPU saved to RAM are temporary data.

Cache refers to bits of temporary data that is saved permanently.

Data such as music, video or OBB files of big apps that are designed for permanent storage.

RAM, zRAM and virtual RAM are designed to save temporary data

Internal storage and SD cards are designed to save data permanently.

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