[UPDATE: Now in open beta] Google’s new Files Go app may be our first look at apps geared for Android Go

Google has recently been busy launching mobile applications that are targeted at users in emerging markets.

The company has been testing a new “Search Lite” application targeted at users of its Android operating system in Indonesia. Search Lite, according to Android Police, “aims to make things faster and more data-friendly for some markets by working on slow connections, supporting offline features, using less data and thus taking much less time to finish tasks.” Earlier, the company had been testing, and subsequently went full throttle, an application meant to make it easy for users in areas where either network connectivity is not the best hence slow when browsing and consuming heavy content like videos or it’s too expensive and an inhibitive factor to enjoying the full Google experience, YouTube Go.

Google is not alone in this. Other Silicon Valley-based companies with popular applications with a global following like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all taken this route. LinkedIn has LinkedIn Lite to do the same things that Google’s “Go” and “lite” apps do while Facebook has Messenger Lite, Facebook Lite and an optimized Instagram app to do the work for users in countries far away from its United States base. Most recently, Twitter launched a 400KB app as an extension of efforts started with the mobile web-based Twitter Lite.

Back in May, at its annual developer conference, Google I/O, the company announced Android Go, an initiative meant to bring a rich Android experience to the most basic of smartphones without the costly complicated features found on high-end devices while still guaranteeing timely updates. Android Go, set to be released in 2018, is supposed to be based on the current version of Android, Oreo and not act as a standalone operating system as most of us quickly interpreted Google’s announcement as soon as it was demoed on stage.

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Since Android Go is supposed to be all skinny and easy on system resources and data usage, it makes sense that Google will be looking to preload a number of lite apps for use on devices running it just like it does with standard Android devices, right? That thinking could explain the emergence, on the Play Store, of Files Go, a previously unheard of app developed by Google itself.

The unreleased app’s description on the Play Store makes it clear that it is simply a file manager but made with the user who wants as little a footprint of apps on their device as possible in mind. The app is a measly 10 megabytes.

Hands on with Files Go

A quick look at the app reveals that it is geared at making sure the user is not bogged down by files on their device that are no longer needed. There are dismissable cards that remind the user (can be disabled via settings) of large files and apps that remain unused for over a month, cleaning the cache as well as doing the obvious, when one is running out of space. It will even offer to delete any duplicate content while at it. Handy.

Instead of an out and out file manager that allows direct access to any storage media on a device, access is limited to shortcuts to downloaded content, received files (more on that in a moment), documents and multimedia content (photos, clips and audio files).

Additionally, bearing in mind the user base it is targeting, Files Go lets users to send and receive files on their devices without requiring an internet connection. It manages to do this by using Bluetooth. With all the necessary permissions granted, the app simply switches Bluetooth on and off whenever it is required to receive an incoming file from a remote device or the vice versa (send).

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How to get it right away

Access to Files Go via the Play Store is limited (you’ll get an error link telling you that the early access program is already full if you click the link quoted herein) but fear not, you can head over to APK Mirror or simply grab the APK from our growing Telegram channel (which should be much easier).

UPDATE: November 9th, 2017

Files Go can now be downloaded via the Play Store as it is now in open beta.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com