Android Go, announced yesterday during the I/O 17 keynote, is Google’s new initiative to bring a speedy and optimized version of Android to sub-$100 devices. But since the long-available Android One platform aims to accomplish similar — albeit not identical — goals, we thought we’d ask Google exactly where Go sits in the new lineup. Not only did Google clarify the difference between them, it also (perhaps mistakingly) touched on the long-rumored launch of Android One for the US…
We already knew based on yesterday’s announcement that Android Go is distinctly different from Android One. Google isn’t focusing on restricting the hardware of partners to fit Android with Go. Rather, Google wants to focus on building a flavor of Android that can run on the “lowest common denominator” of Android devices. Basically, rather than force partners to use specific hardware and push the latest letter version of Android, Google wants Android Go as a software platform to meet hardware makers where they are — and thereby accomplish a similar endgame.
Google’s lead for the Android One project is Arpit Midha, who was a Product Manager on Project Loon at Google [X]. As he said during the session this evening, Android One was Google putting a lot of restrictions on its partners, but that resulted in Android One not being “able to reach enough users.”
So, when we launched Android One, the focus was on delivering a core Google experience … which was also very secure. So we focused on security updates. We focused on OS letter updates and to do so we had to put a lot of restrictions on our partners in terms of what hardware components and chips they could use. That created a friction in the market that the partners were not happy with. And eventually we were not able to reach enough users.
He went on:
In Go, as you see, the focus is not to restrict hardware at all. The focus is completely to make the apps and the OS work on the lowest common dominator. So, therefore the ecosystem adoption will be higher and we still will try to get the best parts of Android One (which is security updates) to continue to go on on this one.
So Google’s bet with Android Go is that they’ll forgo the “friction” that happened with its partners and get a lot better adoption than Android One. And it seems that Go is also going to be aimed at lower-tier devices going forward than Android One. I asked Arpit if Android Go was going to be effectively replacing Android One, but instead of turning down that suggestion, he instead seemed to imply that Android One will instead move to focus on “middle of the market” devices.
“The new Android One that we saw launch in the US is targeting somewhere the middle of the market,” Arpit said. This part is especially interesting considering Android One has not launched in the US. And yet, he stated this as if it’s commonly-known fact. Android One’s US launch has been rumored by typically-reliable sources to be in the works, however, with one report earlier this year saying that it was scheduled to launch sometime in the middle of 2017. It could be, perhaps, that Arpit misspoke. Or maybe — just maybe — this ex-Google[X] lead could actually know something we don’t and accidentally let it slip.
We published some whispers we heard form a source earlier this year regarding the Android One US launch. In that report, we said that Project Fi support is coming to “Android One” phones for the US, mentioned a couple of launch candidate phones, and also heard that these phones could have price points that are more toward the middle-of-the-market in terms of their price tags and specs. That would line up well with Arpit’s suggestion that “as we saw” (which we didn’t) Android One’s US launch is targeted at the “middle of the market.” Amir over at The Information said that the phone Google launches on Android One at some point would be $200-$300.
Everything is up in the air at this point, and for all we know this is something that will never materialize. We reached out to Google about it, and their official word on the matter is that Android One has not launched and is not available in the US. We already knew that, of course, but we’re hoping to hear back soon on exactly what Arpit might have meant with this statement. In the meantime, listen yourself: