Android Go is Google’s initiative to make entry-level devices not seem like trash anymore.
The truth is that you’ve needed to spend a fair amount of money to get a decent phone. Flagships have always been great, and mid-range devices have improved steadily in recent years. Those entry-level devices, however, have not gotten any better.
Following its quiet arrival late last year, Android Go phones are starting to appear around the world. The Alcatel 1X, which TCL sent us to try out, is one of the world’s first Android Go phones. Like other Android Go phones, this unit doesn’t have a ton of memory nor storage. The whole point is to make do with what you’ve got.
As it turns out, the plan to make entry-level devices good for once falls short of expectations. Android Go may have ‘lite’ versions of apps that are surprisingly pleasant to use, but day-to-day performance suffers so significantly that I can’t recommend the Alcatel 1X or anything in its class.
Getting the Alcatel 1X up and running was a challenge. It stumbled through setup menus. The phone’s keyboard heavily lagged when I entered my Wi-Fi and Gmail credentials, and at one point Android Go accepted my Wi-Fi password but still asked me to re-enter it. The hiccups continued after I was logged in and updated every app.
Just using an app would slow down the Alcatel 1X, including those made by Google specifically for Android Go. This is what has plagued entry-level devices since Android’s inception a decade ago. Behind the scenes, something eats away at the memory and captures all of the processor’s attention. High-end and mid-range devices have enough memory to power through that now.
The experience many apps provided was actually delightful upon moving past the system-level struggles. In the rare moment Android Go wasn’t inexplicably congested, apps like Google Maps Go and Facebook Lite behaved normally.
Android Go’s premise is brilliant. Google and others are recreating popular apps to take up less space and demand less data, but they’re also not stripping away essential features. The problem, though, is execution. Android Go doesn’t seem to be optimized properly.
The blame here is on Google, not TCL. With the Alcatel 1X, you’re getting an ultra-cheap phone that doesn’t necessarily look or feel that way.
TCL used a glossy plastic frame, but the back has been covered by a textured, matte finish. The Alcatel 1X also features a 5.3-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio and a fingerprint scanner around the back, which are unheard of in this segment of the market.
If you didn’t mention its specifications, I would assume the Alcatel 1X costs around $189. That speaks to how well-made the phone is. But then it’s immediately dragged down by the software, reminding you that $99 still can’t go very far despite Google’s best effort yet.
Google needs to return to the drawing board. As excited as I was to test Android Go, I’m left feeling completely disgusted by how sluggish and stuttery the Alcatel 1X is. The opportunity is there for Android Go to do something revolutionary, but this first attempt shows no progress at all. Based on my experience with the Alcatel 1X, Android Go’s accomplished nothing so far.