At Google I/O in May of this year, Google promised a version of Android custom-designed for low-end devices. Today, “Android Go (Oreo edition)” is being made available for device manufacturers and developers. That doesn’t mean it’s available to users yet — but presumably that’ll happen in fairly short order.
The premise behind Android Go is pretty simple. It’s a build of Android Oreo that is designed to run better on phones with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. By comparison, the Pixel 2 (like most flagships) has 4GB of RAM, while the iPhone X has 3GB and the Galaxy Note 8 has a whopping 6GB.
Making the same operating system work on both flagships and the cheapest of cheap phones is a challenge, but it’s one Google says it’s overcome. Go edition is not meant to be a “fork” of Android Oreo so much as a variant that a manufacturer can just set by ticking off a configuration flag.
Setting those configs does a few things. It sets the phone up to use the “Go” versions of a handful of Google apps — including the main Google app, Google Assistant, Google Maps, Gmail, and so on. Some of those apps, like YouTube Go, have special features for downloading stuff over Wi-Fi, In other cases, the “Go” versions are radically smaller than their regular variants. The smaller apps and slimmer OS can as much as halve the amount of storage that’s taken up by default on a brand new phone.
The Go Edition has improved speed and reliability on low-end hardware, with 15% faster app performance. You also get 2x more free storage as the OS and built-in apps take 50% less space. There is also a data saver feature built-into apps and you can also control your background data consumption.
The preinstalled Google apps have been redesigned specifically for Go Edition. It includes Google Go, Google Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, Gmail Go, Gboard, Google Play, Chrome, and the new Files Go app by Google. These apps take up less space on the phone and also consume less data and resources while running.