Ever since Samsung announced that the Galaxy S III (the international model) would not be getting Android 4.4 KitKat, we’ve seen an avalanche of comments from (rightly) disgruntled users who thought their beloved S III was worth at least one more update. Two recurring points we’ve seen many people making is that KitKat should run fine on the Galaxy S III because KitKat supports devices with as low as 512 MB of RAM, and because if other, lower-end devices with less than 1 GB of RAM can have KitKat, so can the S III.
Well, unfortunately, things are not as clear cut as people may think, and there are many reasons why the Galaxy S III, despite having 1 GB of RAM, can’t be compared to low-end and mid-range devices or considered an ideal candidate for getting KitKat even though the latest version of Android is optimized for 512 MB of RAM.
In case of the latter, what folks don’t understand is that KitKat is meant for 512 MB of RAM in its stock unadulterated form, as you see it on Nexus devices (and on Motorola’s latest phones), not in a form where manufacturers like Samsung dump a plethora of software features on top that all demand more memory and negate the advantages in memory usage that Google introduced in KitKat.
Which brings us on to my next point: Being a flagship device, the Galaxy S III has numerous software features, considerably more than what you would find on a budget or mid-range device, which means it requires more RAM for proper operation. Furthermore, since the phone has a high-resolution (720p, or 1280×720) display, apps also demand more resources, which includes RAM and CPU power – the increased demand on resources isn’t that great, but it’s still a factor compared to phones with a WVGA (480×800) or even a qHD (540×960) resolution display.
It also doesn’t help that Samsung’s TouchWiz UX is the heaviest OEM skin out there, with so many apps and features that it becomes difficult for a device to handle with just 1 GB of RAM. All devices that Samsung is updating to KitKat have at least 1.5 GB of RAM, and on low-end devices like the new Galaxy Ace Style or the Galaxy Ace 4, Samsung is using a lighter version of TouchWiz called TouchWiz Essence, which strips away some of the features that you generally see on Samsung’s smartphones and tablets.
Some would argue that Samsung would be better off removing some of those features in order to update the phone to KitKat, but that solution isn’t suitable for the real world, where millions of general consumers might be using at least one of the features that Samsung might remove, consumers the company has to think of in the grand scheme of things.
This article isn’t meant to support Samsung’s decision to not update the Galaxy S III, though it’s not that I don’t see why that decision isn’t as harsh as people make it out to be, considering the Galaxy S III started at Android 4.0 and ended its life at Android 4.3 and was given the support that is commonplace in the Android ecosystem, and more than what other manufacturers have provided to their devices that launched in 2012. Granted, Android 4.3 has a lot of issues that Samsung needs to fix, but it’s still a fact that the S III got three major updates in its lifetime.
The point of this article is to simply list out the reasons why people’s comments about the Galaxy S III not getting KitKat when it’s there on other devices with an equal or lesser amount of RAM are not based on the facts. I agree that it is amazingly sad that Samsung has bloated Android to a point where even 1 GB of RAM wasn’t enough for a new version of the OS that actually reduces memory consumption, but at the end of the day, the 1 GB of RAM is a limitation, and it probably would have reduced the user experience like Samsung said it would in its statement.
P.S.: We at SamMobile do believe that Samsung should support its devices for longer than 18 months, since there are people who buy the phone at the last moment, but that is a discussion for another time, and another article.