What’s the difference between Android Go and Android One?

At MWC 2018, Google, in collaboration with different hardware partners, announced a batch of new Android Go and Android One devices.

Today, Google offers its Android mobile operating system in three different configurations: Android, Android Go, and Android One, the latter two of which are aimed at the budget spectrum.

Since there’s seems to be some confusions regarding the two, in what follows we’re going to try and clarify how the two programs differ from one another. But to be clear, Android Go doesn’t mean the end of the Android One. Instead, the two will co-exist.

Android Go

Alcatel 1X

Google unveiled Android Go during the I/O 2017 conference, as a stripped down version of Android 8.1 Oreo optimized to work on smartphones running 1GB of RAM or less.

Google sees most of these devices costing less than $100. Case in point, the ZTE Tempo Go was announced at MWC 2018 with a $79 price tag, while the Nokia 1 should go on sale for $85.

Android Go doesn’t mean the end of Android One

Android Go as an operating system was designed to take up less space on the phone and even if these devices will ship out with only 8GB of storage, there’s still going to be plenty of free space left (up to 5GB) on board.

Go devices all come with the Google Play Store installed, but also with a host of Go Edition apps like Google Search Go, Gmail Go, YouTube Go or Google Assistant Go, lightweight versions of the fully-fledged apps intended to save space. By the way, you can install the standard versions too, there’s no restriction.

What’s more, Android Go also includes tools for mobile data balance like for example a data saving mode installed in Google apps such as Chrome.

Google promises Android Go devices will receive timely software updates, although there’s a catch here we’re going to discuss later.

Android One

Moto X4

Here’s where the confusion arises;  many assume that what goes for Android Go also applies to Android One. Well, the two programs aren’t the same and you’ll soon see why.

For starters, there are specific requirements partners must meet to release an Android One phone, which isn’t the case for Android Go. Google is a lot more protective of this programs, especially since these phones come with the Android One logo plastered on them.

Back in 2014, Google launched the Android One program as a means to provide emerging countries with decent affordable Android devices and coherent software updates.

But, unlike Android Go, the Android One program doesn’t include only low-end devices, but also mid-range phones with quite respectable specs.

Xiaomi Mi A1

On top of that, Google says all Android One products come with a few guarantees including regular software updates for two years and regular security updates for three years.

In the case of Android Go, updates will be handled by the manufacturers which will decide when to roll them out. In contrast, when it comes to Android One, Google maintains tight control over the software, so customers can expect to get updates faster.

Read: Moto X4 Android One review

Furthermore, Android One promises to deliver a vanilla Android experience, without proprietary skins and bloatware from hardware manufacturers. Android Go is a bit more permissive by allowing device makers to include some of their software.

Google still imposes a limit on the number of apps that come pre-installed on Go phones, but this decision mostly has to do with ensuring enough free space is available.

Let’s recap

Android One encompasses a more controlled vision of what Android for budget phones should be like, masterminded by Google.

Smartphones in the Android One program are bound to receive updates faster and offer a clean stock Android experience without additional bloatware or major changes to the UX.

Android Go is a bit more flexible, allowing OEMs to bundle some of their own apps on board. Additionally, any carrier or manufacturer can use Android Go and sell the devices in any market.

This is in opposition to Google’s initial approach to Android One, where the search giant suggested markets were the products should launch. Now that Android One phones are making the transition to the mid-range category, we’re also seeing them appear in traditional markets. The best example is the Moto X4 which is currently also available in the US.

What are some Android One phones?

  • HTC U11 Life
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
  • Nokia 8 Sirocco
  • Nokia 7 Plus
  • General Mobile GM8

What about Android One phones?

  • ZTE Tempo Go
  • Nokia 1
  • Alcatel 1X
  • General Mobile GM8 Go
  • LAVA Z50
  • Micromax BHARAT Go

While at least on paper the Android One program seems to be more advantageous (software updates might not arrive as fast as advertised), Android Go does offer a unique benefit.

It allows device manufacturers to release dirt cheap devices running with the latest version of Android on board. But the real question here is will Android Go devices be able to withstand the test of time? Will phones like the Nokia 1 still be usable in one year? We’ll just have to wait and see. But we dare say there are no such concerns with the Moto X4.