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Google’s slimmed-down version of Android is ready for primetime

by Justin Herrick | December 5, 2017December 5, 2017 9:00 am PST

Android has always run very well on high-end devices, but most of the 2 billion Android devices in the world aren’t from that segment. Google has seen its mobile operating system rise in emerging markets like India where entry-level devices are more popular than anything else. But, although they’re affordable, the hardware and software don’t typically play nice. If you pay a small amount of money for an Android phone or tablet, you’re probably going to be let-down by its performance.

Google would like to change the perception of Android on entry-level devices before its too late and consumers begin to look elsewhere. Back at I/O 2017, the company introduced Android Go. Almost seven months later, the project has been renamed Android Oreo (Go Edition). It’s a custom version of Android made specifically for entry-level devices, and you can expect partners to launch new hardware next year.

With a massive user base spanning the globe, Android’s path to continued growth isn’t so clear. But its maker believes Android Oreo (Go Edition) is the catalyst. Google sees that there are more Android users in India than the United States; therefore, focusing on ways to improve their experience makes sense. Everything about this slimmed-down version of Android is tailored for phones that don’t have cutting-edge specifications.

If you ask Google, Android Oreo (Go Edition) is about enabling “fully functioning smartphones that can browse the web and use apps” with virtually no compromises.

Android devices offering in the range of 512MB to 1GB of RAM will automatically have the optimizations. The differences between these entry-level devices and those in other segments are seen in three areas. Google improved available storage by two times after creating lighter, simpler versions of their apps. Data management and security also remain important. Android Oreo (Go Edition) includes common features such as Data Saver in Chrome and Google Play Protect.

When it’s time to download apps, owners of an entry-level device can rely on “a tuned version of the Google Play Store” highlighting what will work best. This might be the tricky part for Google, though. It’ll be interesting to see how developers respond to Android Oreo (Go Edition) and whether or not they’ll recreate their apps.

There’s also a new app called Files Go which aims to analyze your phone’s internal storage and recommend what can be removed. The app was being tested for several months, and it just became available for everyone seeking to maximize their storage.

Not a single partner has publicly confirmed its intention to ship an Android Oreo (Go Edition)-based product, but Google says multiple brands are onboard with the idea. New entry-level devices based on the slimmed-down version of Android should arrive in early 2018. They’re expected to reach India in the coming months, and then other markets are likely targeted by Google for expansion.

Android 8.1, meanwhile, begins rolling out this week starting with Pixel and Nexus devices.

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Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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