Android One is finally building up momentum almost 4 years after its initial release, but why now? Discover the best Android One devices and what the future holds for budget mobile phones running Android Go.
In the early days of the mobile revolution when Nokia reigned supreme, Google introduced Android as a ray of hope. A hope that one day, mobile users would be able to get more out of their devices than ever imaginable. Over the years, Android has changed numbers and sweet-toothed names, all the way from Cupcake to Oreo.
However, one constant that has been (or at least what Google intended to offer) is the Android user experience. Since we live in a crony capitalist world, the price determines the quality of Android experience you receive. A Google Pixel gets all of the brand-spanking new updates, while budget mobile phones might never even see one major update in their lifetime.
Enter Android One
If you’re a gamer, you probably understand the analogy behind Android One, considering how Xbox One came after Xbox 360. Either way, Android One is meant to be a fresh new chapter, finally bringing peace to a chaotic market of budget mobile phones. You might be hearing more and more about Android One more recently, but the program isn’t exactly new.
Android One was brought into existence at the Google I/O 2014 by the then-SVP of Google, Sunder Pichai. Aimed at the billion-dollar Indian mobile market, Android One was poised to be the next big player offering stock Android. The Pixel/Nexus software experience without the hefty price tag, Google also provided the hardware design to the Android OEMs.
“Essentially, the goal is for Android One to facilitate the spread of Google-controlled Android among the next billion (or two billion, or more) smartphone buyers by offering a compelling entry-level product, aided by local OEMs. In turn, the fact that manufacturers won’t need to worry about software or sourcing hardware components means they can turn around products more quickly. From Google’s perspective, Android One lets the maintain more control than is possible in the wild west that is the general Android ecosystem, and ensure that Google services and Google’s design language are front and center.”
Starting off at a price of less than $100, the Android One platform was an instant hit, which then led the program to be extended to other emerging markets. Soon enough, Android One devices were released for emerging mobile markets such as Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and more. Despite a long hiatus, Android One is back with more firepower, ready to conquer the market of budget mobile phones.
Android One vs Android – what’s the difference?
There’s more to what makes Android One devices different from the regular Android devices than simple branding. You can regard Android One different from the rest of the pack just like the Pixel/Nexus devices stand out. Google supports Android One devices just the way it backs the Pixel devices every step of the way, but the support is limited to software.
Since Pixel and Android One devices are separated by hundreds of dollars, the stark difference in hardware specs is expected. Although the software is controlled entirely by Google on Android One devices, the hardware is backed by Android OEMs. This makes the user experience a lot “purer” on Android One compared to other Android devices.
Since every aspect of the software comes directly from Google, this also means that you get no unnecessary features. Android One is free of elements like the TouchWiz UI on Samsung and bloatware apps that Android OEMs usually pack their devices with.
However, the biggest difference between regular Android devices and Android One devices is the software updates support. Since software updates on regular Android devices are at the discretion of the manufacturers, there’s no guarantee to when or if a device will receive the latest software updates.
Android One is bridging the gap that Project Treble hopes to do in the near future too. Devices branded by Android One get the same OS support that the high-end Pixel and Nexus devices do. With major Android OS updates for up to 18 months, Android One brings premium software experience to budget mobile phones.
Why Android One is the future
Released back in August, Android 8.0 Oreo is only a 0.3% shareholder in the Android OS market today. The statistics for Nougat (23.3%) and Marshmallow (29.7%) show that manufacturers are simply not able to up the pace. The fact that there are 40% Android devices still running KitKat and Lollipop highlights the severe issue of fragmentation.
What makes Android One the perfect fit is that it maintains a balance between the best software and appropriate hardware. While the list of Android budget mobile phones isn’t a short one, ones that offer dedicated software support is limited. It is in Google’s best interest to get users of older Android devices (and entice newcomers) to join the Android One platform.
In order to keep the Android environment up to speed and patch up the security flaws that plague it, Google hopes to make Android One the face of budget Android devices. This helps Google not only build Android into a better brand but compete with the biggest selling point of the iPhone – dedicated OS updates for all devices.
From the point of view of a buyer, getting yourself a budget Android device that runs Android 8.0 right of the box is a win in itself. What makes the situation even sweeter is the fact that you can rest assured knowing that Google has you covered for the next 18 months. The current lineup of Android One devices will not only get Android 9.0 and 10.0 as they come out but the latest security updates every month.
Android One devices out right now
After a fair bit of support in India and several other Asian countries, Android One slowed down the roll. African and Middle Eastern nations have now joined the party, along the more developed countries like Japan and Netherlands with their own Android One devices. With Android One is making its way to the US mobile market, the brand is trending a lot more.
Now that Google is partnering up with some big players, the sub-$100 price tag seems to be fading away. The current and upcoming Android One devices feature a mid-tier pricing compared to the budget mobile phones of the past. The complete list of the current Android One devices is on the official Google website, but here’s a quick look at the most popular Android One budget mobile phones available right now.
HTC U11 Life
Made in the image of the flagship HTC U11, the Android One edition of the HTC U11 Life is the first device to come with Android 8.0 right out of the box. The device comes with a stunning Liquid Surface design with features like IP67 dust and water resistance. It also includes the iconic Edge Sense that allows you to activate features by simply squeezing the phone.
Under the hood, HTC U11 Life packs some decent hardware with the Snapdragon 630 processor at its core. The 64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 256GB) along with 4GB RAM and a powerful 16MP snapper is impressive. While the missing headphone jack might be disappointing, you get USonic earphones in the box to make up for it.
Motorola’s first Android One device released for the US consumers is the Moto X4. The phone is also currently among the cheapest Project Fi capable budget mobile phones right now. When it comes to specs, the Moto X4 matches the HTC U11 Life at every point but comes with a lot more than just the same Snapdragon 630 SoC and 4GB of RAM.
With the Moto X4, you get IP68 dust/water resistance and a beautiful glass build without ditching the headphone jack. The 3000mAh battery capacity should easily get you through the day, and the dual-lens 12MP camera surely beats the competition. While the almost $400 price tag does not make it the cheapest Android One phone, it certainly is among the best ones in the market right now.
Xiaomi Mi A1
Just like the Moto X4, Xiaomi’s first Android One device, the Mi A1 got updated to Android 8.0 Oreo recently. Apart from the dual-lens 12MP camera that makes it a great phone for photography fans, it’s relatively cheaper too. The Mi A1 is the face of the Android One platform, with an expected rollout to more than 40 countries.
While the Snapdragon 625 processor is not the top-of-the-line, the 5.5” phablet with 64GB storage and 4GB RAM can rock. The lower price point does come with its set of compromises, with no water resistance and mediocre low-light photography performance. If you can look past those small caveats, Mi A1 is your best bet at the pure Android experience.
Android One Japan
The Asia Pacific is a huge market for upcoming smartphones, including Android One which is rolling out through multiple vendors. The first name on the list is Sharp S1, packing an MSM8937 processor, 16GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM. Under a similar name, Kyocera S2 is rolling out with an MSM8917 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage.
Both the devices are entry-level budget mobile phones with some premium features like water resistance and powerful 13MP cameras. Sharp also has an improved and more premium version in the Sharp X1, with a 5.3” HD display. With 3GB RAM capacity and 32GB storage, the device runs on MSM 8490 SoC and packs a powerful 3900mAh battery.
The upcoming brand is betting strongly on bringing the pure Android experience to its users with multiple Android One devices. The GM5 and larger GM5 Plus devices in Turkey, along with the GM6 in Netherlands, Italy and other markets are taking up a huge chunk of the user base.
Far cheaper than the competing international Android OEMs, these Android One devices are powered by processors from both MediaTek and Qualcomm. The GM5 and GM5 Plus are designed to be the budget mobile phones with the most bang for the buck. Whereas the GM6 does offer a rich feel with a rubberized back plate and a fingerprint scanner for a premium look.
What is Android Oreo (Go edition)?
You thought that spending the minimum of $100 on an affordable Android One phone was the best you could do? Google is redefining what good budget mobile phones on Android can do with the Android Oreo (Go edition). Android Go is designed to be a lightweight version of the Android 8.0 Oreo OS, along with its own set of “Go” apps. The Android Go version is specifically built to run on devices with as low as 1GB of RAM capacity.
Google is committed to bringing Android Oreo Go to dirt cheap smartphones very soon, with an official webpage already up. The AndroidOreo Go OS itself is expected to take up only half the space of the original Android 8.0. This is definitely a godsend for cheaper Android devices that with minimal internal storage space. Not just the Android OS, but Google’s also launching an entire suite of Google apps with the “Go” branding.
With a 50% smaller app size for Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and more, Android Go will make every megabyte count. The apps are also systemically designed to take up fewer resources, so the little RAM and internal storage that the device has is used effectively. Android Go will reportedly also get a souped-up version of the Google Play Store with exclusive apps.
Of course, it won’t be perfect since if it was, we wouldn’t need the regular version of Android at all. Restricting apps to a certain file size or resource management makes them less powerful, which in turn limits the activities. For instance, the data saving mode on Chrome disables a bunch of issues, and the same goes for most of the third-party apps.
However, the goal of Android Oreo Go is to facilitate entry-level devices and make the limited hardware work efficiently. There is always the possibility of Android One for the upgraders who need devices that can do the heavy lifting. So the Android Go platform could be the perfect way to bring good performance to ultra-cheap devices.
What devices will run Android Oreo Go?
As MKBHD puts it – good phones are getting cheap and cheap phones are getting good. Even by those standards, Google is pushing the absolute limits by bringing the latest Android version to super-cheap devices. While the details aren’t clear yet, there are rumors from India that Google is partnering with Micromax. There’s quite the buzz that the Indian Android OEM will bring out a $30 Android Go smartphone.
While we can’t put a timeline on it, we do have some good news for the Nokia 2 users. Not only is the device confirmed to receive Android 8.0 Oreo, but will be powered by Android Oreo Go edition. Nokia CPO Juho Sarvikas confirmed on Twitter that the Android 8.1 update will bring support to devices with 1GB RAM (Nokia 2).
Hi! It will receive Android Oreo. 1GB RAM devices will be supported on 8.1 release where many of the Android Go memory management improvements will be integrated. Nokia 2 performance will only get better over time!
— Juho Sarvikas (@sarvikas) December 28, 2017
Considering that the Nokia 1 is will be cheaper than the Nokia 2, it’ll be powered by Android Go too. Either way, we’ll keep you updated on the topic with our weekly Android software roundup posts. What are your thoughts on Android One the future of budget mobile phones with Android Oreo (Go edition)? Be sure to let us know in the comments section down below.
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