Why Android Go still needs to evolve

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Google promotes at least three different programs to help people select Android devices: Android One, Android Enterprise Recommended, and Android Go edition. Android One promises regular operating system updates for a period of two years after a device’s release. Android Enterprise Recommended identifies devices that meet specific hardware specifications. Android Go edition indicates that the operating system, apps, and software store have been optimized for an affordable, entry-level system with less memory, storage, and processing power than other devices.

Most people who purchase phones for an organization will want to purchase recently released devices that appear on both the Android One and Android Enterprise lists. That gives your organization devices that meet a minimum standard of hardware requirements and that will receive consistent updates.

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

However, the low price of Android Go devices may attract buyers with constrained budgets. For example, as of February 2019, you can purchase a Nokia 1 for about $60, a Verizon-only Nokia 2V for about $70, a BLU Vivo Go for about $80, or a Samsung Galaxy J4 Core for about $120. Or wait for the release of the Xiaomi Redmi Go.

Of these, only the BLU Vivo Go arrives with Android 9 Pie (Go edition); the other phones listed above, shipped with Android Oreo (Go edition)—an older operating system—at launch.

The BLU Vivo Go hardware specifications also seem attractive: It has a 6-inch diagonal screen, with 720 x 1440 resolution (268 pixels per inch), 16 GB of storage and a microSD card slot, 1 GB of RAM, and a quad core 1.5GHz processor. The back camera is a dual 8MP and VGA camera with LED flash, and a front 5MP camera with flash. It also includes a fingerprint sensor on the back of the device.

SEE: Blu announces its $80 Android 9 Pie Go phone for the US (CNET)

Since the BLU Vivo Go has reasonable hardware specifications and runs the Go edition of the most current Android operating system, I bought one and tried it.

The good news is the device works pretty much like any other Android 9 Pie device—I can adjust settings, install apps, browse the web, edit documents, and watch video. The phone arrived with Go edition apps installed, such as Google Go, Gmail Go, Assistant Go, Maps Go, and so on; these are Google apps, optimized for this type of device. The Google Play store on a Go edition phone also features Go edition apps, which means I see a long list of apps that developers suggest will work well on a Go edition device.

The BLU Vivo Go also includes a hardware button above the volume controls, on the left side of the device’s screen. This button provides one-click access to two options: Accelerate or Powersaver. Powersaver changes the display from color to gray-scale, turns off location access, and puts the device in a power-preserving mode. Accelerate kills processes and frees up memory.

SEE: Google: Expect Android Pie Go on new phones this fall with more storage space (ZDNet)

On one level, the BLU Vivo Go does seem slow. In response to complaints from buyers on Amazon, the manufacturer seems to indicate a software update will improve the speed. However, as an Android Go phone buyer, I’m not promised regular updates.

On another level, the BLU Vivo Go is impressive for the price. In my case, when I compare the BLU Vivo Go to the Honor 7x, which costs two-and-a-half times as much as the Vivo Go, guess which one is better? When I compare the Vivo Go to the Nokia 7.1, which costs four-and-a-half times as much as the Vivo Go, guess which one is better? The more expensive phone wins every time.

I admire the intent of the Android Go program to bring usable devices to more people, but I find the key features of Android Go differently defined than other Android programs.As a buyer, I look for Android One, since I know that will give me access to updates. As a buyer, I look for Android Enterprise devices, since I know those meet basic hardware specifications. And as a buyer, I look for Android Go, because it will give me a device that is less slow than it otherwise would be.

SEE: Best Android Apps for 2019 (CNET)

To me, Android Go seems to be defined by negatives: The storage, RAM or processing power that a device doesn’t have, and the slowness that no one experiences because of optimization efforts by developers and engineers. When I use an Android Go device, I can only experience the performance that it delivers.

Android One ensures updates. Android Enterprise Recommended ensures hardware specs—those are positive attributes a buyer desires. I’d love to see Android Go evolve to be a badge that people who want to purchase a low-cost phone seek.

Also see

Photo of a Nokia 7.1 (left) showing Android One logo, and BLU Vivo Go (right) showing Android Go logo

Photo: TechRepublic/Andy Wolber

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