While most of us drool over the latest features introduced in Android O, there are a huge amount of users whose devices simply are unable to run the latest version. The vast majority of Android devices sold across the world are not flagship devices, but low-to-mid range phones aimed at users on a budget. For those users, it’s essential that the software they run be optimized for all users. Since Google just announced that Android has reached over 2 billion active users, continuing to optimize the software will let them reach an additional billion users. That’s why Google is introducing Android Go, a modified version of Android O that optimizes the software to run on low-end devices.
Android Go is built specifically with low-end hardware in mind, such as those devices with 1GB or less of RAM. Google has made a number of optimizations to the System UI and kernel (exactly what they did we’ll see when the source code drops) so devices with Go can run smoothly with 512MBs to 1GB of memory. All devices with memory configurations in this range will be running on the Go configuration of Android O.
Given that the kinds of users who would have Android Go on their device are also the kind of user on a limited data plan, Google is also introducing new data management and savings tools. Google is putting data controls in quick settings, and is adding a “top up” button in settings so people can quickly request for more data from their carrier.
In addition, Google’s own app suite will be optimized on Go devices. Chrome for Go will ship with Data Saver enabled by default, and in the dropdown menu will show how many MBs of data are saved since a specific date. The YouTube Go app will now show previews of videos so you can quickly scan to see if the video is worth saving. Finally, you can now share offline videos in YouTube Go to other devices.
Partners such as Facebook and Microsoft with Skype have already shipped versions of their apps that are optimized for Go devices. Other apps that are optimized for Android Go will be featured in a new section on the Play Store that are specially indicated to be “optimized for your device.” Developers of any application can learn to optimize their device for Android Go by visiting this new page dedicated to getting your app in the hands of billions.
The first devices shipping with Android Go will be released in 2018. Hardware partners and specific devices have no been announced yet, but we can expect that any low-end device will feature this optimized version of Android O. Hopefully this means we can take advantage of all the latest features of Android on low-end hardware without having to suffer from a miserable UI browsing experience.