When a new version of Android comes out, it's usually a big problem. There are new features, a lot of design changes and, sometimes, new phones that accompany it. But when a new version of Android was released on six new phones this week, it did not seem like a big problem at all, and it was quickly eclipsed by ads like the Galaxy S9.
That's because those six phones are largely less than $ 100, and that's because that version of Android is not designed for the kind of flashy new phones that make headlines.
Android Go: which Google wants us to refer to as "Android Oreo (Go Edition)", which will not happen, is a simplified version of Android designed to run on low-end and low-end devices: devices without much processing power , with limited amounts of RAM, and with a small amount of storage. It is also intended for people with limited Internet connectivity and expensive data plans that must be carefully preserved.
To solve those problems, Google has done three things:
Make Android work better on phones with 1GB of RAM or less
Make Android (the operating system itself) take up less space
Make pre-installed Android apps take up less space and use less data
All these have the potential to be really a big problem, but in practice, the difference is more tangible with some than with others.
Nokia 1 with Android Go.Photo by Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge
The first item on the list, "make Android work better," is the most exciting, but arguably the least notable. I've played with the six new Android phones in recent days, and they work relatively well, without significant setbacks or particularly hectic animations. But they also work as well as any new, cheap phone that comes out of the box. I'm not sure how much better they will be in a year from now, and that's what will matter.
At the moment, there are two differences in Android Go that are remarkable and significant. The first is Google's focus on occupying less space. By reducing the amount of space occupied by Android and its default applications, the size of the installation is reduced to just over 3 GB, saving at least a couple of gigabytes. That's a great deal for phones that have only 8 GB of storage to start with.
The other difference is how those applications help users manage their storage and use of data. There is an application called File Go that provides suggestions on the files to remove and download to the cloud. And there is another application, found only on some phones, called Datally, which helps users manage the amount of data their applications use. Finally, there is YouTube Go, which presents three quality options when you are going to broadcast a video (basic, standard and high) and tells you how much data each will take, which is very helpful.
Google has also added a special section of Play Store that highlights applications that do not take up much space. The effort does not go that far (it's really limited to a single application bar), but it's something.
The Alcatel 1X was the first Android Go phone announced. Photo of Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
Much of Go's experience will be reduced if users take advantage of the tools that Google provides them. If they replace the YouTube Go and Gmail Go apps with regular YouTube and Gmail, the data and space savings will disappear. Therefore, it is essential that Google make these experiences as good, if not better for this type of phone, than standard applications.
The company seems to have done that to a large extent. There is no important difference between Gmail Go and Gmail. YouTube Go is actively more useful. And the Google Go application has a totally different design, which offers quick access to features such as translations and image search for people who may not be looking for them. It also has a GIF section, which provides quick access to the "good morning" GIFs that have become popular in India.
Android must be good enough to steal people from phones with features
Android Go is mainly aimed at improving the consumer experience when they acquire their first smartphones in markets such as India and parts of Africa, although Go phones are everywhere, even in the US. UU If Google wants to keep people away from feature phones and within the company's ecosystem, you must make sure that Android is good enough at the price of $ 50 or more.
However, there is no guarantee that Android Go will work. This is not even Google's first opportunity to address the performance of the low-end phone. A few years ago, Google introduced a program called Android One, which was intended to help manufacturers develop cheap phones that ran Android well. But the manufacturers did not seem to like them, and the initiative was largely extinguished. Since then, it has been reinvented as an Android stock program, which sounds great, but is far from the initial goal.
Initially, Android One attempted to address the problem of low-end performance by helping manufacturers choose good hardware to run Android. But Google seems to have realized that hardware manufacturers are in a position to choose hardware, and Google, as a software company, should address this problem from its own side. And that is Android Go: Google's attempt to solve this problem through software.
The GM 8 Go of General Mobile is the prettiest (and the most expensive) of Android phones Go.Foto by Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge
Go is launched on six phones, with prices ranging from around $ 50 with operator subsidies to about $ 130 altogether. They include Nokia 1, Alcatel's 1X, ZTE's Tempo Go, Lava's Z50, Micromax's Bharat Go and General Mobile's GM 8 Go. The GM 8 Go is by far the prettiest, with a bigger and sharper screen than the rest and a faster performance, but it is also supposed to be the most expensive. Nokia is more representative, with a somewhat boring screen and an acceptable camera, and it will sell for $ 85. It also has colorful interchangeable back plates, which is nice.
Even with Android Go, performance still differs between phones. Some ran softer than others, and some even had more free space than others, much of it depends on the manufacturers and how they build the phone. They can still customize the appearance of the operating system, which can slow it down. And they can still pre-install additional applications, which may be useful but will also take up more space. Google does not prohibit any of that.
Android Go is not a magic solution for all Android's low-end problems. It is clear that Go is only part of Google's approach, which also trusts that manufacturers do not waste the opportunity and that users take advantage of the new storage and data storage tools that have been created. That is a lot to ask. But even if it does not solve the problem, it seems to be the right direction for Google to start addressing the problem. The problems come from Android, and Go starts to recognize that.