(Pocket-lint) - Last year, Google announced Android Go, and now, we're about to see the first Android Go phones.

Google's I/O 2017 developer conference kicked off with the company announcing several new features and functions across its range of products from Android Oreo to Google Home. Among the new announcements was Android Go, a new version of Android that has been designed for lower-end smartphones.

What is Android Go?

Google wants to bring the power of Android to everyone, so it has come 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 will result in more affordable devices with Android software that has been tuned to those devices. This new software is meant for entry-level smartphones with between 512MB and 1GB of RAM.


What does Android Go feature?

Android Go focuses on three things: the first is optimising the latest release of Android, which will start with Android Oreo, to run smoothly on budget devices. The second is a rebuilt 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 new version of the Google Play Store. It looks the same as the Play Store you can now find on Android Oreo, 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.


How is Android Go different to Android O?

On the surface, it doesn't sound like Android Go will be all that different to Android Oreo. You are unlikely to be able to tell the difference unless you look at the focus areas of the new software configuration, such as the Play Store or the data-specific features within Google apps, or the branding of Google's apps for Android Go.

In Google's demo, it looks like third-party apps may also be called things like Facebook Lite or Skype Lite within the Google Play Store, but aside from that, Android Go phones will run like any other Android device.

Based on our understanding, Android Go is Android, but with a few tweaks to ensure budget devices offer a smoother and more optimised experience based on their hardware configurations and the data limitations of some users.


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 S8s 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 is able to understand and adapt to the limitations of the hardware. Ultimately, the reason Android Go matters is because it should result in a better and great user experience for all Android users at the lower end of the smartphone market, rather than just a great experience for those buying the £700 devices.

What is Android Oreo (Go edition)?

Google has said that all devices with 1GB of RAM or less will get the Android Go configuration, starting with Android Oreo. It also said that, moving forward, every Android release will have an Android Go configuration. In February 2018, Google confirmed that Android Go - for the Android Oreo release - is called Android Oreo (Go edition).

Again, the phones running this are able to provide a high-quality experience, with the latest version of Android, Google Play Protect, and apps optimised for Go edition. They include a set of apps from Google that are designed to use less memory and storage space. And these phones will be sold at affordable prices, in some cases less than $50.

When will Android Go arrive?

At MWC 2018 in Barcelona at the end of February 2018, Google said you’ll see the first set of Android Oreo (Go edition) phones, and that they'll be available for you to purchase soon after.

Writing by Elyse Betters and Britta O'Boyle.