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(Pocket-lint) - Google first announced Android Go in 2017 at its I/O developer conference. Since then we've seen a number of phones launch running the software, all of which fitting easily into the budget category of smartphones. 

This was at the same time it first announced Android Oreo and Google Home. As for  Android Go, that was a then new version of Android designed for lower-end smartphones.

What is Android Go?

Google wants to bring the power of Android to everyone, so it came up with Android Go, a lighter version of Android. It is still predominantly Android as you know it, but the new software has been optimised for smartphones with lower performing processors, smaller amounts of memory, and less available mobile data.

Android Go has resulted in more affordable devices with Android software that has been tuned to those devices. This software is meant for entry-level smartphones with between 512MB and 2GB of RAM.

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What does Android Go feature?

Android Go focuses on three things: the first is optimising the latest releases of Android to run smoothly on budget devices. The second is a lighter set of Google apps, such as Google Chrome and Gboard, all of which will use less memory, storage space and mobile data.

The third is a light version of the Google Play Store. It looks the same as the Play Store you can now find on regular Android and it features the entire Android app catalogue, but it uniquely highlight apps that use less data, storage, or memory in a separate section at the top, called "Optimised for your device".

Additionally, Android Go offers a Data Management and Savings settings feature that allows users to see exactly how much mobile data they have left based on their plan, as well as the option top up their data. Google's own apps are also redesigned for Android Go. For example, there's Google Go and YouTube Go.

Google Go still helps users find the information they want, and YouTube Go helps people find videos. They're just optimised for limited connectivity. There's even Google Assistant for Android (Go edition), which lets people quickly send messages, make calls, and more. Some Google apps are also smarter in Androd Go.

Chrome, for instance, has the data saver feature switched on by default. YouTube Go allows you to see a preview of the video you are about to watch or download, and it lets you select the streaming quality.

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How is Android Go different to regular Android?

On the surface, it doesn't Android Go looks very similar to stock Android or Android One. But you will find that a lot of the default apps have been replaced with 'Go' equivalents. They include: 

  • Google Go - replacing the standard Google search app
  • Gallery Go - offline photos/editing (instead of Photos)
  • Camera Go 
  • Asssitant Go - lightweight alternative to Google Assistant

Files by Google is installed to help you manage how much of your storate is currently being used. It'll give you suggestions on deleting junk files or old apps you don't use. Like regular Android you get Digital Wellbeing for managing your screen time and setting timers for Do Not Disturb. 

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Why does Android Go matter?

As we mentioned above, Google has said it wants to bring the power of Android to everyone. In order to accomplish this and deliver a good experience to all Android devices rather than just those with the flagships, such as the Pixels and Galaxy S21s of this world, the Android software needs to meet the needs of the lower-end devices, too.

Some budget handsets are less able to handle heavier duty apps due to their lower memory capacities and less powerful processors. Android Go, however, means that those who buy the low-end Android handsets, whether that be in developing countries or those with a lower budget, are offered a better overall experience.

The software not only takes up a lot less space than typical Android, it's able to understand and adapt to the limitations of the hardware.

What is Android (Go edition)?

Google initially said that all devices with 1GB of RAM or less will get the Android Go configuration, starting with Android Oreo. It also said at the time that, moving forward, every Android release will have an Android Go configuration. That's changed a little now with Android 11. Phones with 2GB or less are now the barrier for entry. 

Google says that 80-per cent of entry-level phones now run the Go edition of Android. 

Which phones run Android Go? 

There are a number of manufacturers who build affordable Android Go edition devices. They include: 

  • Nokia 1.3
  • Nokia 1.4
  • Nokia 1 Plus
  • Alcatel 1
  • LG K20
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 Core
  • ZTE Blade L8

Of course more phones exist, but these are likely the ones worth looking at if you're in the market for a budget phone. There are older models like the Noka 2.1 and Samsung Galaxy J4 Core, Redmi Go and Moto E5 Play Go among many others. 

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Britta O'Boyle. Originally published on 17 May 2017.