Google’s made a number of tweaks since announcing Android Go back at I/O in May. The lightweight version is finally ready to launch, albeit with a slightly altered name. The OS is launching with the release of Android 8.1, now carrying the decidedly less catchy Android Oreo (Go edition) title.
As per the new name, the Go version isn’t an altogether different operating system than the primary version of Android. In fact, in a number of ways, the software types are likely indistinguishable, and Google’s devoting a team to assuring that the Go edition gets updated and released on more or less the same schedule as its standard counterpart.
Google made the announcement this evening at an event in India — a major potential market for the new version of the OS. As the company notes in a recent blog post, there are currently more Android users in India than the U.S., making it a huge market, along with other developing countries. A number of companies like Mozilla and Nokia have worked to address a rapidly expanding audience in these areas, but none are better positioned than Google.
With more than two billion activated Android devices in the world, the mobile operating system already has a strong footprint. Go Edition is an attempt to give users the best possible Android experience, in spite of hardware limitations. The Oreo configuration is designed specifically for devices with between 512MB and 1GB of RAM.
According to Google, that comes with all sorts of benefits for the end user, including 30 percent faster startup time and an optimization of storage space, by up to 2x. The latter is accomplished, in part, by the inclusion of a number of optimized Go apps. It’s a pretty long list, including Google Go, Google Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, Gmail Go, Gboard, Chrome and Files Go, a new file management app. There’s also a Go version of the Play store, which specializes in lightweight apps.
All in all, the changes are relatively minimal. There are a few key things, including recent previews and multi-users settings, but it ultimately shouldn’t be too major a step down from the full Android, for the most part. Google’s also not limiting availability of the software to any specific region. Go edition will be available globally starting tomorrow. Compatible devices should start shipping early next year.