Internal Storage and ROM on Smartphones, What’s the Difference?

For those of you who often read articles or watch videos about smartphones online, you must be familiar with “internal storage” and “ROM”. The two terms are often interpreted as the same thing, which functions as storage on a smartphone.

In fact, both have different characteristics, even opposite each other. Therefore, the term “ROM” cannot actually be used to replace “internal storage” or vice versa. Then, what’s the difference? Why are the two terms synonymous?


As mentioned above, ROM has the opposite properties of internal storage. ROM itself stands for Read Only Memory alias memory that can only be read. If the contents of the internal storage can be modified easily by the user, this is not the case with ROM.

On a computer, ROM contains important commands for the system to run, such as the BIOS or programs for the motherboard. Due to its read only nature , this ROM cannot be modified normally and can only be done if there is a firmware update.

ROM usually has a separate chip on the motherboard in computers, but smartphones don’t have a dedicated chip. Then, where is the firmware or operating system on the smartphone? The firmware on the smartphone was implanted directly on the internal storage, which will be explained further below.

That means, the smartphone doesn’t really have ROM. The ROM referred to in smartphones is just a separate partition in the internal storage that is protected with special access or commonly called root access. Users can even modify it if they already have root access.

Internal Storage

Well, this internal storage can be said to have the true definition of “storage”. Its nature can be modified, so that users can freely add or delete content in it such as photos, music, applications and others.

On the smartphone mainboard, the internal storage is in the form of a separate chip from the SoC in the form of eMMC or UFS flash memory. It will be the main storage for the user’s daily needs, with most smartphones having expansion options usually in the form of MicroSD.

In a nutshell, this internal storage is similar to an HDD or SSD on a computer or laptop.

Why’d can internal storage and ROM on smartphones be equated?

This misunderstanding is none other than the smartphone manufacturer itself. They usually write the specifications on the sales box, where the RAM is together with the ROM.

It’s written something like this, “RAM/ROM: 8GB/128GB” which means that the smartphone has a RAM capacity of 8GB and 128GB ROM. However, is the entire 128GB that cannot be written to other data or read only? In fact no, only a small part of it that can not be written directly.

So the more appropriate term to write in the box is internal storage or internal storage, not ROM.

I don’t know if it’s just to make it easier to mention because RAM and ROM are similar or because of other things, but what’s certain is that the use of the term ROM as a substitute for internal storage is a misunderstanding.

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