Almost a year ago, Google announced Android Go, a slimmed down Android variant based on the current version of the mobile operating system. As of this moment, Google’s latest version of Android is 8.x, Oreo. As such, what we have is Android Oreo Go Edition.
Part of the appeal of Android Go is what we can call Go apps. These are, just like the operating system itself, variations of already existing popular apps but stripped down to the bare minimums so as to occupy less space, use less system resources like memory and battery and consume minimal data. This is all done with users in emerging smartphone markets, like Kenya, in mind so as to increase the uptake of the kinds of services that the apps in question provide.
All these apps are already available through the Google Play Store. However, Google has been restricting access. For users in Kenya, starting today, it is possible to download and install Google Go after the company opened up access to the app. The same is the case for Android users in 25 other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Like the other Go apps, Google Go is meant to provide users with the same experience as those using the standard Google app to search. This means being able to find images, videos as well as what’s trending in the country. The latter is more important to Google now since it’s a space that has been aggressively taken up by another company that has quite a history catering to users through apps that don’t gobble up much data: Opera. Opera’s new Opera News app became Kenya’s most downloaded application within a month of launching in the country and listing on the Play Store, ahead of other new players like video on-demand service Viusasa.
The Google Go app is just a little over 3 megabytes. According to a statement from Google, it uses the “latest version of Google’s advanced compression algorithm, using up to 40% less data to display search results.”
“Search results are also cached on the device, enabling internet users to quickly re-access previous searches, even when offline, without incurring further data costs. In the absence of internet access, Google Go retries failed search requests in the background and alerts users as soon as the results are ready. With Google Go, web pages load quickly, even in data-saving mode, or on 2G connections.”
Additionally, voice search has also been improved so as to recognize local accents and work on slow networks.
The app is available on the Play Store for any user with a device running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It also comes pre-loaded on devices running Android Oreo Go Edition like the Nokia 1, which starts selling in the country in a few days, and the trio of F-series smartphones from Tecno that will be showing up.