Lots of Android devices are in the world today. The last estimate put that figure well above 2 billion and the platform is continuing to grow. But the vast majority of Android devices active aren’t high-end with cutting-edge specifications. Just look at the Android distribution numbers from February 2018. Even though it’s been around for six months, the latest version of Android, Oreo, still remains on an embarrassingly low number of phones and tablets.
Making Android the world’s most popular mobile operating system needed the help of mid-range and entry-level devices, but that’s created some significant challenges along the way.
With Android, if it’s not a high-end device, generally the user experience is full of brutal compromises. Also, the software remains out of date. There’s no sense of consistency between Android devices, which Apple certainly mastered across different generations of different products. Everyone loves that no two Android devices are the same, but they should at least maintain commonality. We’ve stuck it out for so long that we’re owed change now.
The arrival of Android Go might turn out to be game-changing not only for Android but the entire industry.
Whether it’s an inexpensive phone or one made by a little-known brand, Android devices from the entry-level segment are awful. And it’s obvious why. Companies have no reason to optimize performance for something the user paid little for. But that’s dragged down Android’s image for Google. Its maker wants the world to look at Android as a fast, reliable, and secure platform.
Android Go’s structure is straightforward. It’s a stripped-down version of the operating system offering a fast and smooth experience on devices with 1GB of memory or less. The goal is to achieve the same high-quality experience found on high-end and mid-range devices.
Google accomplishes the optimization by creating custom builds of its popular apps. Android Go devices still have the standard suite of Google apps, but they’re cut down to focus on the essentials.
Someone with an Android Go device should be able to easily make calls, send and receive messages, watch YouTube videos, navigate using Google Maps, and more. Third-party developers, too, can create apps specifically for Android Go devices. There are limitations, but these entry-level devices are for people who don’t mind them. Those who pick up an Android Go device are able to communicate with the world as effectively as anyone else.
Partners have already lined up to support the initiative. Eight companies announced Android Go devices at MWC 2018, which is fantastic to see this early. Now we need to see Google and its partners stay committed.
Trusted names are behind the first wave of Android Go devices. Already prepared are Alcatel, General Mobile, HMD Global, Huawei, ZTE, and more. These are companies with brand strength in unique parts of the world; therefore, it’s not like any of the hardware will go unseen or ignored.
Their experience will only get the initiative so far. What happens if Google decides it wants to go in another direction? That’s happened many times before with other projects, but Android Go’s mission indicates Google should be serious about staying committed. Android Go represents a turning point for a segment of the market that’s always been viewed as cheap, slow, ugly, insecure, and useless.
Android Go doesn’t solve fragmentation, though. That’s the scary part. These devices could easily become outdated in a year, and Google won’t have anyone to blame but itself. It offered up an ambitious idea, and then it failed to excite partners that the future would be bright. So there needs to be a serious investment to ensure Android Go is here today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
One incentive rises above the rest: ending fragmentation. Consumers are hanging onto their phones for long periods of time, but Android Go devices can let those needing a budget-friendly upgrade that they can loop into an initiative guaranteeing them Android at its finest.
Google knows it cannot move forward without fixing fragmentation. If most of those 2 billion devices are way behind on software, the company can’t roll out features for the masses to benefit from. It’ll just continue serving a very small piece of its audience.
The next phase of Android’s expansion is also depending on emerging markets. Places like the United States and many countries in Europe are oversaturated at this point, but it’s India and other Asian markets that have plenty of room for growth. That’s why Android Go is pivotal to the platform’s future success.
“Be together, not the same.” The motto was introduced a few years ago when Google talked about Android’s diversity. The platform remains as diverse as ever. It’s also still split in so many ways.
Flagships don’t need any additional love from Google yet. The company’s put forth Treble, a solution to issue software updates in a timely manner. Android Go, on the other hand, serves a bigger purpose that requires cooperation from all parties.
Android Go aims to be a fix for a vital segment of the market. And you may not like that if you’re holding an $800 phone, but most of the world is hoping this initiative works out. Google and its partners could make capable phones accessible to everyone no matter what their income or where they live.