Manage Your Phone's Memory

Manage Your Phone's Memory

Store more pictures and improve the device's performance with these memory management techniques.

A typical Nokia smartphone has between 100 KB and 12 MB of built-in memory. This memory holds everything from applications and media files to messages and dynamic data created by applications at runtime. Optimizing how this memory is used will let you store more data, run more applications, and improve the general performance of the phone. In this hack, I'll check out some cool memory management tips.

Use the Memory Card

To expand the memory space available on the device, you can install a flash-based MMC card. The size of an MMC card can vary from 32 MB to 2 GBdepending on your encoding settings, 512 MB and larger cards should be sufficient for hours of movies or digital music (see "Play PC Video Clips on the Phone" [Hack #71], "Play DVD Movies on the Phone" [Hack #72], and "Play Digital Music" [Hack #74] for information on how to play video and music on your phone). Most Nokia phones, such as the Nokia 6230, 3650, 6600, and 6620 smartphone, support the standard MMC cards you can buy from any electronics store. Newer Nokia phones, such as the Nokia 6630, 6670, 6681, and 6682 phones, support only a Nokia proprietary MMC format known as Dual Volt Reduced Size MMC (DV-RSMMC). The DV-RSMMC card is slightly smaller than the regular MMC card, but the former is more difficult to find and is more expensive. You should read your owner's manual or the phone specification on Nokia web sites to find out exactly what MMC card format your phone supports.

To install the MMC card, you can just insert it into a socket underneath the phone battery. For some devices, such as the N-Gage QD, the MMC card socket is located in an external card slot for easy access. Refer to your phone manual for the exact installation steps. Once the MMC card is installed, you can inspect its properties via the Extras Memory menu on a Series 60 device or the Gallery Memory card Options Details menu on a Series 40 device.

On a Series 40 device, you can view the status for both the phone's main memory and the MMC card via the Settings Phone settings Memory status menu.

Installing the memory card is the first step. To use the card, you should configure applications to store data on it. In the following list, I provide instructions for installing some key applications on a Series 60 device. Series 40 devices work similarly.


The Gallery application now displays folders in both the phone main memory and the memory card. You can move files between the two storage units.

Application installers

When you install Java or Symbian applications, the installer asks you whether to put the application on the memory card. Please note that applications installed on a memory card still leave a small stub in the main memory. Also, the applications will stop working if the memory card is removed.

Camera, video recorder, and audio recorder

In the Settings menu of the Camera, Video Recorder, and Audio Recorder applications, you can choose "Memory in use," located between "Phone memory" and "Memory card." The captured media files are automatically saved to the appropriate folders in the selected storage unit.


In the Messaging application's Settings Other menu, you can choose "Memory in use" for saved messages (see Figure). If you choose "Memory card" here, the phone saves all received SMS, MMS, email, and Bluetooth messages to the memory card. This feature is available only on Series 60 devices.

Storing all incoming messages and songs to the MMC memory card

The memory card is a little slower than the built-in phone memory. The memory card stores persistent information. It does not store the dynamic data generated by applications at runtime.

If you use Bluetooth to send any file larger than 4 MB to the phone (this limit is lower on some older phones), you have to set the Messaging application's memory in use to "Memory card." If you do not do that, the message-receiving operation will be aborted by a "Memory full" error because the phone's main memory is only a couple of MB in size and cannot hold the received file.

Reduce Logging

Nokia phones can log all calls and network connections it initiated and received over a period of time. The default logging period is the past 30 days. While this is a very useful feature, the logging data can consume a lot of memory and slow down the device, especially if you make and receive a lot of phone calls.

You can reduce the size of the log by changing the Options Settings Log duration value in the Log application on a Series 60 device, or you can simply delete all log entries from the Log application when you need more memory space. On a Nokia Series 40 device, you cannot configure the log duration but you can delete log entries via the Call register Delete recent call list menu item.

Reduce Concurrent Applications

As discussed in "Quick Access to Applications" [Hack #19], Series 60 devices can run multiple applications at the same time. Each application uses some memory to store its runtime data, and uses some CPU cycles. So, if you have too many concurrent applications, the phone slows down noticeably and starts to throw memory-related errors. If that happens, you should try to exit some of the applications.

Memory Management Software

If you are really tight on memory, you can try some of the memory compression software solutions for Series 60 phones. The FExplorer tool discussed in "Explore the Filesystem" [Hack #20] can compress memory by moving fragmented storage units into a contiguous block. This operation typically increases available memory by 10% (see Figure).

Compressing and defragmenting memory

If the FExplorer memory compressor is still not good enough, Symbian software tools are available for compressing in-memory data and applications by up to 60% when they are not in use. These memory compression tools can expand the compressed files when they are needed. They essentially trade the persistent storage space for CPU processing cycles. Two popular data compression programs for Nokia Series 60 devices are:


ZipMan is a zip archive utility for Series 60 devices. You can build compressed archives of images, video clips, and other files from the Gallery. When you need to use those files later, ZipMan extracts them for you. You can download and purchase ZipMan from

Space Doubler

Space Doubler compresses Symbian applications. It runs in the background to expand the compressed application on the fly whenever you try to execute the application. From the user's point of view, the compressed application behaves exactly the same way as the regular applications, except that the startup time is slower due to the extra expansion process. You can download and purchase Space Doubler from the following web site:

In general, I do not recommend using these two solutions on a regular basis, unless you are desperate for space, since they slow down the device noticeably.

Reset and Restore

The phone's memory consumption tends to increase and the performance tends to decrease over time, especially if you install and uninstall programs frequently. This is because the phone OS cannot efficiently reuse the fragmented memory space freed by the uninstalled program or deleted datafiles. You can improve your phone's memory performance by doing a deep reset to clean up the memory and then reinstalling all the programs and datafiles. Please refer to "Reset and Restore Your Phone" [Hack #23] for more details.

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