Android Go will significantly lower the barrier to entry for smartphones in emerging markets.

For a few years now, Google has been saying that its next billion users will come from countries like India. With a projected 500 million users estimated to make their way online for the first time over the next five years, Google sees a lot of potential in catering to this market.

The company even has a Next Billion Users team that designs products and solutions for the Indian market. Helmed by Caesar Sengupta, the unit has rolled out payment services like Tez, a minimalist app that hooks into the government’s UPI interface for seamless bank transfers, a lightweight storage manager in Files Go, free public Wi-Fi at thousands of train stations across the country, and much more.

Its most ambitious bet is Android Go — a lightweight version of Android optimized for entry-level devices. Google has tried its hand at the budget segment previously with the Android One initiative, but Android Go is a reimagination of the budget segment entirely. During a visit to the country last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that budget phones need to cost in the vicinity of $30 to be viable for the millions of Indians to consider making their first smartphone purchase. The Android Go platform is the realization of those efforts.

Android Go isn’t that different from the regular Android

Android Go uses the same foundation as the standard version of Android, but with several stability and performance tweaks thrown in to ensure it works on devices with underpowered hardware. The first version of Android Go is built on Android 8.1 Oreo, and the OS also has data management features integrated at a system-wide level, giving you the ability to closely monitor data usage.

And like all devices certified by Google, Android Go phones will come with Google Play Protect out of the box. The security suite leverages machine learning to look for malicious apps on your phone. It also constantly scans your app installs — even those that haven’t been downloaded from the Play Store — to ensure your device is secure.

The platform comes with its own suite of apps

As Android Go is designed primarily to run on phones with less than 1GB of RAM, Google has rolled out lightweight versions of its apps tailored for the platform.

Designed from the ground up, Google Go gives you the ability to query the web and find recommendations, delivering a similar experience as the full-fledged Google app for a fraction of the install size.

That’s the same story with Google Assistant Go, which brings Assistant to devices with less than 1GB of RAM for the first time. Assistant Go has been available in India for a few weeks, but it recently launched globally on the Play Store. There are certain things Assistant Go can’t do, such as set reminders and control smart home gadgets, but it does allow you to set alarms, send texts, open apps, ask questions, and a ton of other functions.

As for Gboard Go, the lightweight keyboard retains the same feature-set as the standard version — autocorrect, voice typing, multilingual language support, emojis and GIFs — but in a smaller package. The same holds true for Maps Go and Gmail Go as well. Chrome in Android Go will have Data Saver enabled by default.

Files Go is Google’s new storage manager, and it is fantastic. It does a great job of removing old files and cleaning the device cache, and it also comes with a feature that lets you easily send and receive files.

Another entry in this series is YouTube Go. YouTube Go was previously only available as a beta, but it’s since launched in more than 130 countries. You can use the app for watching all your favorite YouTube clips, and Google even lets users download videos for offline use in Basic, Standard, and High quality without the need for a YouTube Red subscription. Better yet, these videos can be shared with other users without any sort of data connection.

The lightweight apps combined with fewer pre-installed apps means you’ll get double the amount of storage on a phone with 8GB of internal storage when seen against the standard version of Android. The Play Store on Android Go devices will highlight lightweight apps that are designed to work best on the platform.

Qualcomm and MediaTek have pledged support

Both Qualcomm and MediaTek have announced support for the Android Go platform. Qualcomm has mentioned that low and mid-tier Snapdragon chipsets will be powering Android Go phones, and while we don’t have more to go on, but the fact that we’ll see Snapdragon branding indicates we’ll see some 2xx or even 4xx chipsets making their way to these phones.

As for MediaTek, the company has announced that the MT6739, MT6737, and MT6580 platforms will be used by upcoming Android Go phones. The MT6580 will be used by 3G-only devices, whereas the MT6739 and the MT6737 will power 4G-enabled handsets.

Coming later this quarter for under $50

With decent budget phones from the likes of Xiaomi available for under $100, Android Go devices need to cost significantly lower for them to be attractive to buyers in emerging markets. If early rumors are any indication, it looks like the first wave of devices will retail for around the $30 mark.

That’s for the Micromax Bharat Go, which is likely going to be the world’s first Android Go device. The device is slated to make its debut in India in the coming weeks and is estimated to be priced at ₹2,000 ($32), which gives us a baseline for what Android Go devices will generally cost. We don’t have a lot of details on the hardware powering the Bharat Go, but it’s said to feature 512MB or 1GB of RAM along with 8GB of internal storage. With an official unveil scheduled for the end of January, we don’t have to wait long to find out what’s in store.

With Android Go, Google is aiming to show that it’s possible to deliver a decent user experience on sub-$50 devices. By optimizing the software to run effectively on low-powered hardware and introducing lightweight versions of popular apps, Google is finally on track to provide a cost-effective solution for those looking to make the switch from feature phones.

Your thoughts?

What do you think of Android Go? Let us know in the comments!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Android Auto is a fantastic way to get important content from your phone onto your car dash. But it’s not without problems.

Android Auto is a wonderful way to get the important parts of your phone — navigation, music, phone calls, and (limited) notifications — onto your car’s head unit or as a simplified interface on your phone. It’s super cool, and miles ahead of every car manufacturer’s built-in dash interface. Having said that, Android Auto isn’t without its pitfalls.

I’ve been using Android Auto since late 2015 on both a Pioneer 4100NEX and Sony XAV-AX100 and with six different Android phones from various manufacturers. In this time, I’ve gotten very comfortable with having all of my important phone features in an easy to tap format to use while driving. But I’ve also had my share of issues.

I got 99 problems…

Android Auto is rather complex and some problems have cropped up for me over the past two years. This applies to Android Auto being projected onto car head units, not the interface running on a phone.

Android Auto requires a few components to all work together correctly to actually get an image from your phone onto the head unit. Those pieces are:

  • A compatible head unit
  • The USB cable from the head unit to your phone
  • The wiring of your phone’s USB port
  • The Android Auto application on your phone
  • The latest version of Google Play Services installed on your phone

If any of those pieces misbehave, you’re in for a bad time. What’s worse is that all of those pieces mean it’s hard to diagnose exactly which one is causing the problems. Worse still, just because Android Auto is working perfectly when you leave your house doesn’t mean you won’t have problems when you’re driving down a highway. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been driving when all of a sudden, my music stops, my head unit is back to its standard interface and my phone is unresponsive.

Buy Sony XAV-AX100 In-Dash Receiver

And no solutions

I get that technology is hard at times, and I can sympathize with Google trying to come up with a solution that it can update on its own when smartphone manufacturers refuse to update phones. But that doesn’t help me when I’m just trying to safely drive to an open mic night and my navigation system goes out 8 times in 20 minutes. Any technology related to driving needs to be rock solid, and over the past two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that using Android Auto on a head unit isn’t.

I haven’t used a car that came with Android Auto in its stock head unit, but Google’s product support forums are filled with issues for those as well. There doesn’t seem to be one single culprit behind the connection issues, just like with the third-party head units. Again, no tech is perfect, but when a user just spent $1,000 on a head unit — or worse, tens of thousands of dollars on a car — it’s only right for everything to work. Especially when the technology is supposed to keep people safe while they’re barreling down the highway.

There may be some hope coming, but it will require even more money from the user. Wireless Android Auto units are on their way, and these will eliminate two of the five pieces that go into projecting Android Auto onto a head unit. But I’m not ready to call these new head units a magical fix until people start getting them installed and get some real world use. On a more subjective matter, none of the wireless Android Auto head units are appealing to me since none have a volume knob or hardware forward/back buttons. It will also be a few years until new cars come equipped with wireless Android Auto.

Again, Android Auto is miles (pun intended) better than any interface that comes loaded on head units. And when it works, it’s fantastic. Over the last two years, I had a mostly seamless experience using Android Auto. But on a tool I need to use when I’m driving, any hiccup could be life threatening. I’m currently monitoring Google’s support forums for solutions, but if there isn’t a solution in the next few months I’m going to move back to a dumb head unit, aux input, a good car mount and the Android Auto app on my phone. The Kenwood unit I’m looking at is simple, has a nice big volume knob, and won’t cause my phone to crash while I’m driving down the highway.

Buy Kenwood DPX502BT In-Dash Deck

Do you use Android Auto?

Have you had your fair share of Android Auto issues? Sound off in the comments below and let me know if you were able to fix them!

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

HTC has announced a handful of discounts to help you celebrate Valentine’s day. At $650, the HTC U11 is still one of the cheapest flagship smartphones from 2017, but the company is hoping to entice you a bit more with … Read More

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Here at HTC Source, we know that you’re always looking for the next great smartphone to add to your collection (ok, maybe that’s just us), but we also know that there are a lot of ways to improve the longevity … Read More

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