There's a huge following for Vanilla Android or more commonly known as Stock Android as it offers mostly a clean and bloat-free experience. Google's Nexus line and now the Pixel line of devices have been offering just that for a long time now. Google then started to bring the same Stock Android experience to OEM devices with the Google Play Edition concept. But most of these GPE smartphones were high-end devices. So Google then started the Android One project meant for lower-end OEM devices to deliver the same stock Android experience as on the Nexus and Pixel smartphones.
But, in recent times the Android One Project is catering more towards the mid-range smartphones, the notable ones are the Xiaomi Mi A1 and the Moto X4. This is because the Android apps in general along with the Android OS itself has started to demand more hardware resources for a snappy performance. This has hence left a void in the budget and entry-level smartphone category without a clean stock Android flavour running on top. Google noticed this void in late 2017 and announced the Android GO project starting with India.
The Android GO edition, in a nutshell, is like a lighter version of the Android ONE project made specifically for low specced entry-level smartphones. Very soon (as soon as this month), there will be smartphones running Android Oreo GO Edition on the market with an extremely affordable price tag ($50>). To not hinder the Android experience despite the low hardware, Google has revamped the OS in three prime areas to cut down on CPU and storage resources by a huge margin. These areas are- the firmware itself, Google Play Store and the Google Apps suite.
The OS has been developed to run on devices with RAM space as low as 512MB while still managing to run apps 15% faster than what a regular android phone with the same hardware would. Google also claims that the Android Oreo GO edition takes up 50% less space compared to a stock Android Nougat OS. There's also data saver enabled by default on these smartphones and the OS is capable to pick up internet connectivity even under bad signal coverage.
On the Play Store side of things, there's not really much changed except that the Google Play Store on the GO Edition smartphones has a special section of recommended apps that will run well on low powered devices.
The major change, however, comes with the Google's suite of preloaded apps. For the Android GO project, Google has developed a number of GO versions of its existing apps such as Youtube GO, Google Go, Google Assistant GO, Gmail GO, Google Maps GO and some new apps such as the Files GO all of which consume less space and data than their full-blown counterparts while keeping a lot of the same features intact.
For now, Google hasn't officially announced the full list of OEMs that will be making Android GO Edition phones. But in recent times, we have got the news that Micromax will be one of those OEMs who has come onboard to make Android GO edition phones. Their first smartphone is expected to be released by the end of the month under its Bharat line of entry-level smartphones as Bharat GO with an expected price tag that is as low as $30 (Rs. 2,000) hence bringing Stock and feature-rich Android experience to the masses. Nokia are also rumoured to be making an Android GO device called the Nokia 1 but as of now, we have no solid details regarding that.