There’s something I didn’t get about Android GO during this year’s Google IO Developer Conference. Yes there were many wonderful announcements, but Android Go kind of struck me.

It is a noble idea, I can’t deny. But for which group exactly Google?

Remember the Android One program that failed?

Essentially, Android GO will be a lighter version of Android that is meant to run on crazy cheap smartphones as TechCrunch puts it. And I feel this is an idea 5 years late.

How Android GO will work:

  • It is designed specifically for low end devices that have less RAM and less processing power. That is 512MB to 1GB RAM.
  • The operating system and apps will be optimised so that they use less storage space, less processing power and less mobile data
  • On Google Play Store users with Android GO devices will get Lite apps highlighted as recommendations

So this lite version of Android will help users enjoy having faster devices and use less mobile data. Which is all good. But there’s a problem. Or a good thing.

Cheap Smartphones are getting better:

512MB to 1GB RAM devices in developing nations are no longer the order of the day. People now know more about smartphone power and Chinese brands are offering a wide range of ultra-affordable devices with good RAM and good amounts of storage. Devices that can handle Android as it is without optimisation. One would feel like they are wasting their money getting a device with 512MB RAM in 2017. And Android GO is launching in 2018.

You can find $70 to $100 smartphones with either 1GB or 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. If not 16GB, then 8GB.  It is below the $70 mark that 512MB RAM devices start appearing. And at this range, such devices compete with feature phones.

In 2012, most cheap Android phones came with 512MB RAM. Getting a 1GB RAM phone at a nice price was an ultimate blessing. Not anymore.

Feature Phones:

Developing nations still have many feature phones. And people are continuously buying such devices. You’ll still find shops thriving in streets selling feature phones. Or you’ll find many smartphone owners having another kabambe (feature phone) as a backup phone.

With Android GO’s attempt to make 512MB to 1GB RAM devices smooth, maybe feature phone makers should now stop making those old devices and now focus their energy on $30 to $60 smartphones.

Or maybe Android GO is dead before arrival. Because I don’t see people buying devices with less than 2GB RAM/16GB storage above $70 past 2018.

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