Android Go is perfect for your burner phone

Go could help make Android bearable on the phone you give your kid, your overseas friends or throw in the car for emergencies.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
3 min read

Supercheap phones are great to give to kids as their first devices or have on hand for backup. But the low-end components that make them cheap typically also make them slow and frustrating to use.

Android Go, Google's new, light version of Android Oreo (and beyond) promises to work smoothly on extremely inexpensive, ultra-entry-level phones. Specifically, those that have 512MB to 1GB of memory (RAM).

These devices are usually laggy nightmares compared to high-end handsets like the Google Pixel. They're often slower to take photos and struggle playing games.

But Android Go has a set of tricks that will help even the most basic phone run better than it otherwise might, and also save you money.

The first Android Go devices will run on Android Oreo and will arrive in 2018.

How Android Go helps your phone

Google has made the Go software demand less from on lower-performing processors, smaller banks of memory, and a need to dial down mobile data consumption. Some Google services apps that run on Go will rework a set of apps to be lighter and leaner.

The Google Play store will even highlight apps and games that work better on these phones.

Watch this: What is Android Go?

A data management tool in the quick settings will show device owners how much data they have left, and offer an option to top up with the carrier from there.

The mobile Chrome browser will ship with Google's existing data-saver feature turned on by default. And apps like YouTube Go (which is in beta in India) will preview videos before pulling people into an expensive, data-heavy video.

In YouTube Go, you can choose a lower or higher streaming quality, and can see how much data each option will cost you against your allotment. Offline videos and peer-to-peer sharing will also help the effort to make Android device ownership affordable and easy for cost- and data-conscious buyers.

What does an Android Go phone look like?

Phones running Android Go would probably look a lot like the freshly announced Moto C, which has a low-resolution 5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel fixed-focus camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera with flash, and 8GB of storage. In other words, outfitted with essentials and little else.

The one cutting-edge thing it does have: Android 7.0 Nougat. Motorola's Moto C clearly makes a case for the cheap, modern handset.

Who else is Go good for?

If you roll around town with premium hardware like the Google Pixel, it's easy to turn up your nose at phones like this and Android Go.

But Go, which isn't to be confused with Google's Android One initiative, is also an important link in Google's mission to bring computing to people in developing communities, many of whom start with a phone.

"There are now more Android users in India than there are in the US," said Sameer Samat, the VP of product management for Android and Google Play. "Every minute, seven Brazilians come online for the first time."

Whether it's bringing more stable mobile computing to billions in emerging countries, or making Android better on Junior's first phone, there's a lot of potential benefit to go around.

This article was originally published May 17 at 11:18 a.m. PT and was updated May 19 at 3:33 p.m. PT and August 21 at 9:40pm PT.