Google has been testing Android 8.1 on Pixel and Nexus devices for a few weeks, and the final version will begin rolling out Wednesday (December 6th). This is a minor update for existing phones, but there’s an entirely new version of Android launching along with the 8.1 update. The previously announced Android Go version will finally become a reality, offering improved performance and an optimized feature set for entry-level devices.
Smartphones are getting incredibly powerful, but they’re also expensive. There are many areas of the world where low-cost phones are still common. These phones might be the only computing devices people have, so it’s important they work well without gobbling up mobile data. That’s why Google is launching Android Go, which was announced at I/O this year. Android Go consists of a modified OS, new Google apps, and a refined version of the Play Store.
Device makers will be able to use the Go edition of Oreo on devices with 512MB to 1GB of system memory. Many of these phones have as little as 8GB of internal space, so the operating system with optimized apps takes up half as much space. Additionally, there’s the Files Go app, which just left beta. This app scans your storage and helps clear out old and duplicate files to make the most of what little space is available.
Android Go is designed to use less mobile data, too. Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to an LTE network that offers unlimited data, so Android Go has data saver turned on by default. Many of the apps, like YouTube Go, Chrome, and Google Go (search) are designed to use less data. Google Go, in particular, uses 40 percent less data than the regular Google app, and it emphasizes offline caching and other data-saving features.
This isn’t a different version of Android so much as it’s optimized. Android Go is still Oreo under the hood. It has the Play Store, Play Protect, and the core Android experience we’ve come to expect. You can install any Android apps you want on an Android Go device, but the Play Store client has been optimized to suggest apps that are known to work well on entry-level phones.
Phones running Android Go will probably begin showing up in the coming months. While Android Go is not specifically restricted to any regions, it’s unlikely we’ll see much of Android Go in the US.