There are so many versions of Android, it can get confusing, especially with all the sweet treat names rather than basic numbers.
The latest flavour of Android is Android 8 Oreo. But you may have also heard people talk about "stock" Android phones or Android Go, as well as Android One, and you may not understand what they all are and how they differ.
While the core version of Android - Oreo - is well known, you might not know exactly what all the other versions offer. We're going to walk you through exactly what Android One is right here.
What is Android One?
- Originally conceived for entry-level devices in emerging markets
- Offers a stock Android experience
Android One is an Android programme originally designed for first-time smartphone users in emerging markets. It was first introduced at Google's I/O developer conference in 2014.
Android One devices are essentially stock Android phones made by OEM partner manufacturers. Being part of Android One - and labelled as such on the rear of the phone - brings with it a guarantee that it's a solid and stable version of Android that's not loaded with other apps, services and bloatware.
Google's goal here is to facilitate the spread of Google-controlled Android via compelling products. Basically, it's a little like the old Nexus programme, but rather than being flagship devices sold by Google directly, these are pure Android devices made by other hardware partners and sold through other retailers.
Original Android One devices emerged in India, fitting that entry-level position, but things have moved on, with the most recent launches bringing Android One to the mid-range, and breaking out of the original "emerging markets" ambition, to offer Android One on a global scale.
Importantly, Android One comes without any of the stuff that manufacturers like to bundle in - no skins, no duplicate apps, no additional services.
What does Android One feature?
Android One is described as "the purest form of Android." With it, you get "the best version of Android, right out of the box", according to Google. Basically it's stock Android loaded with Google goodness, offering all the features of the core operating system. That's exactly what the Nexus programme offered, but in that case Google worked on developing the hardware, but in the case of Android One, Google aren't involved in the hardware process.
This is slightly different to the Pixel phones. When Google announces the Pixel phones it often includes a couple of unique features - such as a Pixel Camera or Pixel Launcher. In some cases these won't be available to the rest of Android and will remain unique to Pixel phones.
You get Google software like Google Duo, YouTube, and Maps - in fact the full suite of Google services.
Android One phones also come with built-in Google Play Protect, which helps ensure that your apps are secure and behaving as they should. What you won't get is some hijacked version of Android loaded with malware.
Android One phones are optimised for Google Assistant, so you can use Google's helper to hail a ride, text a friend, and do all the things you can do with Assistant on other devices. Go here to learn more about Google Assistant and how it works on mobile devices. It's a powerful service that keeps getting better all the time.
With Android One, your device will receive up to two years of upgrades to the latest version of Android. That means that if you buy an Android One device on Oreo, you should end up with Android Q. You therefore don't need to endlessly wait for your device's manufacturer to roll out updates, as the manufacturer doesn't have much to do with the software.
With an Android One device, manufacturers don't alter the software in at all, making it easy for Google to issue upgrades. In addition to all this, you get three years of Android monthly security updates.
Manufacturer hardware support
This one might sound odd, but Android One also offers support for hardware elements of a manufacturer's device. Android devices are so varied in form the Android One programme allows the addition of some hardware features with the software to control them.
For example, the HTC U11 Life added a squeezable frame so there's software support for that. You'll also get manufacturers own camera apps - the company who makes the phone doesn't have to use the basic Android camera, they can use their own. You'll find this in the HTC U11 Life, for example, with HTC's camera in place.
Which devices run Android One?
Google has the full list of Android One devices available here. The current list includes the Android One Moto X4, Xiaomi M1, Xiaomi Mi A1, Y Mobile X1, Y Mobile S1, Y Mobile S2, General Mobile GM6, General Mobile GM5, and General Mobile GM5 Plus.
HTC also added the HTC U11 Life, which is an Android One handset (although there is also an exclusive T-Mobile US version runs Android Nougat with HTC Sense).
The HTC U11 Life was the first Android One Oreo handset and HTC's first Android One handset. More partners will announce Android One phones at Mobile World Congress 2018 - but now you know what it is and why it's a good thing!