Google has made public the first release of Android Go—the optimized version of Android for low-end phones targeted toward developing markets, which was announced in May at I/O 2017. Rather than let OEMs stick to outdated Android versions when shipping budget phones, Android Go brings a full, up-to-date experience for devices which ship with 512MB or 1GB RAM.
According to the release announcement, Android Go is centered around three pillars for improving usability for low-end devices. First, the base ROM for Oreo Go is about half the size of a full Nougat ROM on the same hardware. Second, the Go apps suite—a lite replacement for the standard Google apps suite—uses half as much space as well. Google claims that this doubles the available space on a phone that has only 8GB storage on board. Last, Play Store Go will showcase apps intended for low-end devices, like Facebook Messenger Lite.
Google also notes that the Go apps are designed for "lighter updates." While the Play Store has long supported delta updates, it is unclear if this means less frequent or just smaller updates for these apps. Android Go has a number of data-saving and storage-conscious features, including a data saver for the entire OS, a Chrome-specific data saver for viewing webpages, and a file manager and storage cleaner in Files Go, which also exits beta today.
Android Go also brings support for Google Assistant to low-end phones. Previously, Assistant was only available on phones which had more than 1.4 GB RAM.
Because Android Go implementation rests with device makers, the complete experience will not be available until low-end devices begin to ship with Android 8.1. Individual apps, like Files Go, can be installed separately, and are usable on non-Go edition devices.