Android Oreo Go Edition, the name sort of says it all. Just to be really clear, this is not a completely separate version of Android.
It is good ol’ Android Oreo configured to run better on devices between 512Mb and 1GB of RAM.
That is obviously not a lot but bear in mind that the Android Go devices we have seen so far cost around a $100 or less.
These are not Flagship devices so much as they are first phones. Or devices for people who are in developing markets. It is a way of making sure that everyone gets access to a solid Android experience no matter what your budget is.
Android Go Review
Google has done quite a bit of work to make sure Android Go runs well on cheap phones from reducing the amount of space Android itself takes up to amping up how aggressive Android is when it comes to memory management.
For the most parts though Android Go works just like you would expect Android to on a low-end device. Which is to say, not super great.
Multitasking, in particular, is difficult with the limited amount of RAM these phones have. But we have never not been able to do what we needed to, it just took a little longer in some cases.
And we should also point out that smartphone makers can skin Android Go editions like they could with Full-On Android.
We know that Samsung is planning to bring the interface from its more powerful smartphones to its first Go Device.
The most obvious changes are the Google apps preloaded on to Go Devices. They are typically toned-down versions of existing Google software. And they have been a mix-bag so far.
Let’s look at Gmail Go, for example, in our experience it is basically identical to the version most Android devices already use.
Files Go meanwhile is an excellent file manager that lets you send files to other devices without relying on internet access, and even offers you ways to free up space on your device.
Some other pre-loaded Go apps are a bit more limited.
Google Maps Go isn’t actually a standard app at all, it is a progressive web app so it runs entirely in the browser.
Sure, you can look up points of interest and get directions to here and there but scrolling around the map is often really sluggish. And the web app doesn’t support turn by turn navigation.
There is also no way to save local area maps to the phone itself over WiFi which seems like a great idea to users in countries where data connections are spotty and costly.
Google Assistant is there too and often works surprisingly well. It rarely misunderstood when we asked for something because all of the real software heavy lifting happens on Google’s end.
There is no Wake-Word support so you will have to long press the home button, which is fair enough.
The thing is, it lacks a lot of the functionality you might be used to. There is no keyword, no ways to set reminders or access assistant powered services built by other companies.
It is perfectly adequate for setting alarms and finding nearby restaurants…
Cramming Google Assistant in phones like this was clearly all about compromise. But the basics are here and Google has said that it will make more features available over time.
Getting more Android Go friendly apps could be a little easier though.
The Pay Store works the same way it always did but with a few helpful changes. It will highlight Android Go and lite versions of existing apps and if you look at an app that has a corresponding lite version, then Play Store will tell you about it in that app listing.
You will also see file sizes on every app which are on the store. It is meant to help users stay conscious of how each download will affect their limited storage but the numbers weren’t actually always accurate.
So, watch out for that.
And to be clear, you can download just about any app onto an Android Go device. The experience really varies though.
Some apps work just fine, others were barely usable.
Right now, there is no way to tell which apps run and which apps run like garbage. So actually finding valuable software to install is kind of a messy situation.
Here is the thing though, it is still early days for Android Go and Google is committed to it. Every future version of Android will get a Go edition.
And as lower-end devices continue to get more powerful hardware and Google figures out more ways to improve performance and add functionality Android Go is going to get better over time.
It will never make a hundred dollar phone feel like a flagship, but even in its current state Android Go is another step in a very valuable direction.