We've seen an immense improvement in the quality and capabilities of low-cost smartphones in the last few years. But there still are millions of people around the world who simply cannot afford them. Low cost devices, such as Jio Phone in India, though not smart enough, are serving to the appetite for data and voice connectivity of such people. But in many other parts of the world, they don't actually have much of a choice. That's when Google came up with the idea of Android Go, the striped down version of Android Oreo.
Well, its not the first time that big guns have tried to develop an operating system for low-cost budget smartphones, the most recent being the Samsung backed Tizen OS. Samsung has so far released only four phones running the Tizen OS, and none of them could do big business. But we hope Android Go is different, after all it is backed by Google, and Android has a very big market share already.
Google had promised to introduce the first set of Android Go smartphones at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, and true to its word it did. A number of Android Go smartphones from different vendors were unveiled at the mega event. The list includes devices from Nokia, Micromax, Huawei, Lava, ZTE and more. Let's have a look at the selected few.
Nokia 1 seems to be the most promising Android Go smartphone of the lot. This rudimentary device features a 854 x 480 4.5-inch display with thick bezels all around. Powered by a quad-core MediaTek MT6737 chipset operating at 1.1GHz, the device has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage with microSD card expansion.
The device houses a 2,150mAh removable battery that charges over microUSB. It has a 5MP rear camera, and a 2MP front facing camera. The phone will be available in early April for $85 (roughly Rs. 5500).
The Lava Z50 also runs on the same MediaTek entry-level MT6737 processor, paired with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage. The 4.5-inch display has a resolution of 854x480p, similar to Nokia 1. It is the first Android Go smartphone in India and will be available below Rs. 5,000 on over 100,000 retail outlets after 15 March.
Indian phonemaker Micromax had announced the Bharat Go phone last month itself. The phone has similar specs to the Nokia 1 and Lava Z50 - 4.5-inch FWVGA (854x480p) screens, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. Not much about the phone is available yet, but it is expected to cost under $50 (approximately Rs. 3,247).
Alcatel 1X was the first Android Go smartphone unveiled at MWC. The phone has a 5.3-inch 960×480 18:9 display, quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. What separates the phone from the rest of the Android Go smartphones is the built-in facial recognition feature.
The last major Android Go release at MWC was from ZTE. The Tempo Go packs a Snapdragon 210 processor, just 1GB of RAM, and only 8GB of storage. It has a 5-inch 854×480 display, 2,200 mAh battery, a 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front facing camera. The device features both GSM & CDMA compatibility. ZTE has priced the device at $79 (approximately Rs. 5100).
Android Go has the potential to open up an all new category between feature phones and fully featured smartphones. But for that to happen, Google needs to ensure strong support from both from third party developers, something that Tizen OS lacked, and smartphone manufacturers. Google itself should be well aware of it, thanks to the failure (well almost) of its previous similar venture, Android One. The company can't afford to repeat the mistake this time around, and the world can't afford to lose one more potential platform to bridge the gap between feature phones and smartphones.