HMD Global confirmed in September that the entire line of Nokia phones would be updated to Android 8.0 Oreo. The confirmation didn't explicitly mention the Nokia 2, because it hadn't been officially announced at that point, leaving some to wonder if HMD's super-budget model would be left on Nougat. Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer at HMD Global, has confirmed on Twitter that the Nokia 2 will actually jump straight to Android 8.1.
Hi! It will receive Android Oreo. 1GB RAM devices will be supported on 8.1 release where many of the Android Go memory management improvements will be integrated. Nokia 2 performance will only get better over time!
— Juho Sarvikas (@sarvikas) December 28, 2017
Earlier this year, Google announced Android Go, an optimized build of Android Oreo designed for devices with 512MB or 1GB of RAM. It finally launched earlier this month, and uses Android 8.1 as a base. HMD wants to use some of Android Go's memory management tweaks (and other improvements) on the Nokia 2, hence the jump straight from 7.1 to 8.1.
Savrikas went on to say that the Nokia 2 will not be a 'true' Android Go device, as "a product can not be upgraded to Go." Instead, HMD is taking pieces from Go to improve the Nokia 2. There is currently no ETA for the Nokia 2's Oreo update, but it will presumably come after Oreo reaches the 6, 5, and 3.