Android Go: What is Android Go and how is it different to Android One?

With MWC 2018 in full swing, we’ve finally had our first glimpse at the new, entry-level smartphones running Google’s slimmed down version of Android, Android Go. 

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From the Nokia 1 to the ZTE Tempo Go, we’re seeing cheap devices aimed at emerging markets come fully packaged with Google’s suite of apps, albeit in an optimised format. While you might be feeling a sense of déjà vu with Google Go, it is indeed similar to Google One, but still a completely different beast. 

But what actually is Android Go? And what’s the difference between Android Go and Android One? Here’s everything you need to know about Android Go. 

What is Android Go? 

 Android Go is a slimmed down version of Android Oreo, and was first unveiled at Google’s I/O in 2017. It’s a bitesize version of Android Oreo intended for cheap, entry-level handsets; typically phones with 1GB RAM and less. Android Go is nearly half the size of the standard, stock Android OS. 

The launch of Android Go has also seen the arrival of minimal Go-optimised apps, meaning devices will come bundled with compressed apps like YouTube Go, Google Go, Google Maps Go, Google Assistant Go, Gmail Go, Facebook Lite and others. These apps use less memory and are half the size of their full-feature counterparts. This way, they work well in regions of the world where there is less data coverage. 

Touting 30% faster start-up times and a 2x optimisation of storage, Android Go will be able to deliver the Android OS on devices with less spectacular specifications. The best thing? There’s no hardware restrictions.

Android Go versus Android One

Google has been attempting to crack the entry-level market with Android One for years, and it’s really hit its stride this year. 

A whole host of cheap devices that come packaged with the firmware have been unveiled at this years’ MWC, like the Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 6 Android One Edition. Both Android One and Android Go are intended for the same market, so you might be confused about the difference between the two. The difference is actually quite minimal – both are bloatware-free.

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With Android One, Google has aimed to defragment its entry-level Android devices by outlining specific hardware restrictions, with manufacturers having to choose from Google’s approved list of hardware components. Manufacturers need to abide by this if they want to use the firmware. With those hardware restrictions, however, users will be able to receive a better overall Google experience. The payoff is that, with smartphones having hardware restrictions, the budget phones will get regular security updates and consistent UI improvements. This is done so that phones that are unable to handle Android One, simply won’t run it. 

But Android One had a rocky start when it first launched back in 2014, mainly because manufacturers were reluctant to sign up to Android One’s strict list of hardware requirements.

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“When we launched Android One, the focus was on delivering a core Google experience […] which was also very secure,” Arpit Midhar, head of the Android One project said at I/O 2017. “So we focused on securing updates. We focused on OS letter updates and to do so, we had to put a lot of restrictions on our partners in terms of what hardware components and chips they could use. That created a friction in the market that the partners were not happy with.”

Android Go, however, is purely a software experience. There are no hardware restrictions. It’s a tiny, customised version of Android Oreo designed to run smoothly on hardware devices with cheap components. That way, manufacturers can run a fast, optimised version of Android on low-end smartphones, no matter the hardware specifications.

READ NEXT: Android Oreo phones and features

To put it simply, phones running Android One have been approved by Google’s hardware specs, while Android Go is purely a light piece of software for low-end smartphones. The Android One devices seem to have taken the mid-level market, while the Android Go devices have taken Android Ones’ old job, finding its home amongst the low-range budget smartphones.

Which phones run Android Go so far?

MWC has seen our first ever Android Go devices, and there aren’t a lot of them in the wild yet. 

The only two we’ve seen so far have been the Nokia 1 and the ZTE Tempo Go. The latter is, surprisingly, being released in the US, which obviously isn’t Android Go’s intended market. Both phones are basic to say the least, having only 1GB RAM. 


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