Android goes back to the drawing board because it doesn’t work (yet)


Android is a complex and resource-intensive operating system that is not designed to run on low-end hardware. Uber’s cheap smartphones are usually associated with a broken and frustrating user experience. Enter the Android Oreo Go edition – an all-new, simplified version of Android designed from the ground up for low-cost smartphones with underpowered processors, low amounts of storage, and less than a gigabyte of RAM. It was also designed with data saving in mind. This is Google’s second attempt to create a version of Android for low-end devices.

The Mountain View, California-based company launched Android One in 2014 with the goal of providing a consistent and smooth user experience on low-cost smartphones and “reaching the next billion people”. However, the lack of OEM support and poor optimization for low-end hardware meant that the program was eventually completely revamped as a pure Android experience for smartphones, regardless of price. Recently, Motorola launched the Moto X4 Android One edition and Nokia joined the Android One program with the Nokia 6 (2018), Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco.

Back at Google I/O 2017, Google announced that it was planning to create an operating system specifically designed for ultra-cheap smartphones. In a nutshell, Android Go – or the Android Oreo Go edition as this year’s release is called – is Google’s latest attempt to deliver a lite version of Android that can run smoothly on low-end hardware without compromising the basic features.

The operating system itself takes up less space than the full version of Android. The install size is around 3GB, so phones with only 8GB of storage still leave users with 5GB of usable storage. Google also changed the user interface and the system core to allow the operating system to run on as little as 512MB of RAM. Finally, Google reworked all proprietary Android apps. Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, the Google Search app, Google Assistant and Gmail have been removed to take up up to 50% less storage space and load at least 15% faster.

Google isn’t the only company trying to break into this elusive and still untapped segment of the mobile market. Platforms like Firefox OS have tried and failed to present themselves as viable operating systems for budget smartphones. Kai OS, found on the Nokia 8110 4G and Jio Phone, attempts to bring the power of smartphones to feature phones.

On paper, Android Go looks extremely enticing. An operating system designed specifically for low-cost smartphones has enormous potential, especially in developing countries. The fact that it’s backed by one of the biggest tech companies on the planet only adds to its appeal. However, the proof as they say lies in the pudding. We’ve been using Android Go on the Nokia 1 for the past seven days, and our experience has been suboptimal to say the least.

Nokia 1 review

Navigating the basic UI itself is pretty quick, but having a few apps open in the background slows it down, and that’s with a phone with 1GB of RAM. it scares us to imagine what Android Go will look like on a smartphone with 512MB of RAM, which it is supposed to be designed for. The recent app drawer shows a low-res preview of all apps, and many apps, including first-party ones, take a second or two to switch from low-res to high-res after opening them.

We witnessed multiple frame drops, stutters, and keyboard lags while performing even the most basic tasks like taking a photo, browsing mobile-optimized web pages, and chatting on WhatsApp. Apps, even lite versions like Facebook Lite and Linked In Lite, took a long time to open and reminded us of the days of old Nokia Asha phones. And this is happening on a brand new phone which is not full of files and multiple apps running in the background.

For an operating system designed specifically for low-end hardware, these are not good signs. If the smartphone was running a full version of Android, the low-end hardware could be blamed but here the software is supposed to run on the hardware at hand.

What doesn’t help is that some of the special Android Go apps themselves are half-baked and lack many key features. Take the YouTube Go app for example. It’s extremely stripped down and only shows nationwide recommendations. There is no way to access your subscriptions or suggestions tailored to your tastes. Add to that the fact that the app itself has crashed on us multiple times doesn’t bode well for the platform.

The Maps Go app is another dud. First of all, it’s not a proper app at all, but a web app that opens in the browser. As a result, he is slow and stutters. To add insult to injury, it doesn’t allow turn-by-turn navigation and actually recommends installing the full Maps app from the Play Store for the same. This really defeats the purpose of this app.

Apps Nokia 1 Gallery 9 Nokia 1 Android Go

The Nokia 1 is one of the first smartphones in India to run Android Oreo Go edition.

To give credit where it’s due, the revamped Google Search app works well enough and has toggles for translation, GIF search and voice search built-in. news, shopping and so on. The Files Go app is also a nifty addition for phones with limited amounts of storage. Far from being a simple file manager, it helps manage your storage and lets you offload files to the cloud.

The Play Store has a special section for apps that work well with Android Go, but as of the date of this article’s publication, there are only a few bespoke “Lite” apps for Android Go in this list and the range is quite rare. . Which brings us to a problem with Android Go at the moment – there are no barriers anywhere to prevent the installation of heavy apps not intended to run on the platform. While the Play Store recommends Android Go apps, users can choose which apps to install. And resource-intensive apps and games like the full version of Facebook and Asphalt 8 obviously don’t run well on the hardware at hand – but how many users will be aware of that?

Lava and HMD Global have already thrown their hats into the Android Go ring with the Lava Z50 and Nokia 1 respectively and Micromax is expected to launch the Bharat Go smartphone very soon. It’s a start, but to call a spade a spade, our first impressions on Android Go were quite disappointing. Considering the price of the Nokia 1, you’re better off buying a phone like the Xiaomi Redmi 5A instead, for now. Simply put, there’s plenty of room for improvement and unlike a few years ago, plenty of decent options even in this price segment. The platform seems to lack optimization at the moment and some of the apps are half-baked and stripped down.

With all the space-saving measures and the promise of future updates, the basics are in place – just a little spitting and polishing is required. This is just the first version of Android Go and we hope Google can unlock the potential of the platform in future iterations. From now on, however, we think it’s best to buy a cheap full-featured smart phone or smartphone that runs a full version of Android. Android Go was supposed to fix cheap smartphones. Before that happens, we think Google needs to fix the issues with Android Go itself.

Tech

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