Google I/O Debuts Android Go, Gets Friendly With Low-Spec Entry-Level Devices

Simon Alvarez

Entry-level Android smartphones would be performing a lot better in the near future. During Google's I/O 2017 conference, the search giant unveiled Android Go, an upcoming version of the popular mobile operating system that is optimized for low-spec devices, specifically smartphones with 1GB of RAM or less. With Android Go, even smartphones with as little as 512MB of RAM would be able to run applications smoothly, providing users with a better mobile experience overall.

The Android Go strategy echoes much of Google's previous Android One initiative, a program unveiled during its I/O 2014 conference. Android One is quite similar to Android Go in the way that both initiatives are geared towards low-end devices in emerging markets. During Android One's introduction three years ago, Google was quick to declare that it was going after "the next billion" smart devices in emerging markets across the globe. With Android Go, Google appears to be going after the same demographic, as well as smartphone users who have opted to stay away from upgrades during the last couple of years.

A report from The Verge stated that Android Go would feature a System UI and kernel that is optimized to run flawlessly on devices with as little as 512MB RAM. Android Go devices would come with optimized, low-memory apps and their own version of the Google Play Store which prioritizes applications that consume less memory. With this, Google has also announced its "Building for Billions" program, which is designed to aid developers in creating applications for emerging markets and low-spec devices. Android O would be available for users of these devices once the full-fledged Android O update rolls out later this year.

Most of these low-cost devices are found in emerging markets such as India, a country where entry-level smartphones are king. Back when Google launched Android One in 2014 alone, sub-$200 handsets comprised 78 percent of all smartphone sales in the country. Most of these sub-$200 smartphones, of course, are manufactured with entry-level specs, commonly with basic processors and less than 1GB of RAM.

While Android One has not really been the world-changer that Google built it up to be, the upcoming launch of Android Go might finally enable the search giant to unify the billions of devices across the world that are currently running its mobile operating system. Android, after all, was not designed only for the mobile community's top-tier devices.

Considering the number of devices on wild that are still running Android Jelly Bean and Kit-Kat, there is definitely a market for low-spec devices in the mobile industry. Android One did not end up becoming a worldwide phenomenon as Google built it up to be, but with Android Go, the search giant is giving itself another shot at making the whole Android community into a unified whole.