One out of three feature phone users in India is expected to upgrade to a data-enabled phone by the next year, according to a study by International Data Corporation. Sensing a huge opportunity, phone companies have been on a low-budget smartphone manufacturing spree - ones that come with lower specifications but support mobile Internet. However, bundling a fully-loaded Android operating system in these entry-level smartphones was a futile move. Devices slowing down and the perennial shortage of storage left consumers discontented. When Google's Android Oreo Go edition - a trimmed down/ optimised version of Android's latest version - tailored for smartphones with 1 GB or less of RAM was launched, entry-level smartphones found their match.
Explaining what the Go Edition is, Sagar Kamdar, Director of Product, Android says, "Android Oreo Go edition is specifically optimised to bring the magic of Google and Android to smartphones with limited memory and processing power." It focuses on offering more storage and better performance without compromising on security. Google has designed a set of apps that consumes less memory and storage space, and offers the same experience as Android Oreo.
With the app size halved and fewer pre-installed apps, the user would get almost double the internal storage (available for use) as compared to smartphones with the same internal storage running on Android Nougat.
Lava is one of the first few handset manufacturers to have adopted the Android Oreo Go Edition. And this is what it discovered: in a smartphone running Android OS, of the 8 GB internal storage, only close to 3 GB was user accessible. But with the optimised Android Oreo Go edition, users will get close to 5.5 GB (out of the 8 GB internal storage) for downloading apps and storing content. This also helps in increasing the RAM performance by upto 50 per cent, enabling applications to open quickly.
The Go edition comes with apps such as Google Go for information, YouTube Go for watching videos with limited connectivity, the Google Assistant (voice assistant) and the Files Go app to get rid of unwanted content. The optimised version will offer the same security features as on Android Oreo; the apps come will come with built-in mobile security and the Find My Device feature. Besides, users will be able to download almost any app from the Play Store - the apps designed for the Go edition will be highlighted.
"Currently, roughly 55 per cent of smartphone sales still come from the sub-$100 category. If this really is an optimised OS, it will help devices that don't have the high processing power, high battery and high memory to process applications and deliver a great experience," says Anshul Gupta, Research Director, Gartner.
Several handsets powered by the Android Oreo Go edition will soon hit the market. For instance, Lava's Z50 will have a 4.5-inch, 2.5D Curved Corning Gorilla glass display, powered by 1.1 GHz Quad-core Mediatek Processor, paired with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage and supports 10 Indian languages including Hindi. There is a 5 MP rear and front camera, too, with flash. Although Lava has not yet revealed the price of Z50, it will be bundled with a cashback offer of Rs 2,000 from Airtel.
With an eye on first-time smartphone users in India, Airtel and Google have partnered to bring a range of Android Go based 4G smartphones to the Indian market under its 'Mera Pehla Smartphone' initiative. Micromax's Bharat Go, expected to be priced around Rs 5,000 with basic features such as a 4.5-inch display with a resolution of 854x480p, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of onboard storage, is a part of this initiative.
Leading chipset makers Qualcomm and Mediatek, too, are supporting this platform. The latter is working closely with Reliance Jio for an Android Oreo Go Edition smartphone. Nokia, too, has announced the launch of Nokia 1 - a compact smartphone with a 4.5-inch display, 1.1 GHz Mediatek processor, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage.
The new platform is expected to breathe life into the jaded low-end smartphone category. "People were not moving from feature to smartphones, opting to buy another feature phone instead. If there is a quality smartphone, not only in terms of hardware but also in terms of the experience, feature phone users will feel encouraged to upgrade to smartphones," adds Gupta of Gartner.