Earlier this week at its annual I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, Google announced the company surpassed 2 billion active users on its Android platform, making it the most popular mobile OS platform in the market. Google’s mission has always been to add more and more people to the internet through its various platforms, and build an ecosystem around it.
The business has been fairly successful, but Google doesn’t want to stop anytime soon. The search giant is now eyeing a majority of the population residing in countries like India, Brazil and African nations, through a platform which the company likes to call “Android Go”. This is a new variant of Android O designed for entry-level smartphones. It is still Android O, but the software has been optimised for smartphones with lower performing processors, less memory, and consume less mobile data.
Google says cost is a deciding factor when users buys a smartphone. The company understands the entry-price of smartphones needs to come down so that more people can join the digital revolution. But there’s an another element to it. Many users coming online often have challenges with data connectivity, and also struggle with high data cost. That’s where the Android Go project wants to step in.
This is not the first time Google has optimised the software experience on entry-level smartphones. Android One was Google’s much-talked about initiative launched in 2014 to tap the rising community of first-time smartphone users in India, and other developing countries.
However, Android Go is different from Android One. The latter platform was a specific project that focused on three things. When the Android One project was launched, the company used to specify the phone’s hardware. So the manufacturers had to comply with Google’s terms and conditions to make the hardware. Second, any device with an Android One brand ran a Google UI that could not be modified by the partner. Finally, the OEM had to send regular security updates.
Many believe Google’s efforts with Android One turned out to be one big failure especially in India, but that’s not how the company views it. In the whole process, Google realised there were users who preferred a clean, bloatware-free interface, and there were other users who wanted regular security updates. But that wasn’t always at the entry-level. In fact, Google believes the Android One platform has matured.
The company no longer specifies the hardware, although Google does recommend the phone’s specifications. Plus, Google is not focusing on the entry-level anymore with Android One. In Turkey, for example, Google offers an Android One smartphone in collaboration with General mobile, which costs $250. Google currently offer premium Android One smartphones in Japan in the vicinity of $450 as well.
With Android Go, users won’t get a different version Android. The OS that OEMs will ship will be Android O. To be clear, there’s no separate OS called Android Go. The new platform has been designed for entry-level smartphones with between 512MB and 1GB RAM.
Android Go stands for three things; first is to continue optimising Android operating system on an entry-level smartphones starting with “O” (Android O). According to Google, Android O is very much part of Android Go project. Second will be to make sure Google apps on these devices are also optimised. To achieve this, the company is already working on rebuilding many of these apps. YouTube Go, for instance, is an entirely new app which is much smaller in APK size; it uses less data and give users much more control over the data. Finally, it’s also optimising the Play store to highlight the optimised apps that users can install on their device.
For now, Google isn’t telling how many hardware partners are making smartphones with Android Go configuration. The software giant intents to work with both global and local OEMs. But overtime the company expects anyone, who ships a smartphone with Android O and 1GB RAM or below will use this Android Go configuration. The first devices with Android Go will ship in 2018.
Disclaimer: The author is attending Google I/O at the invite of Google India