Why Android Go is a game-changer for cheap smartphones

Google recently launched its Android 8.1 Go operating system, designed specifically for smartphones with low-end specifications.

The streamlined OS retains the interface and core features of Android 8.1, but reduces it install size for devices with small storage capacities.

Google said Android Go also offers better performance, data savings, and overhauled applications for affordable smartphones.

One of the first entry-level smartphones to ship with the operating system is the Nokia 1, which is priced at R999 in South Africa.

To see how Android Go performs, we purchased a Nokia 1 and hands-on tested the operating system.

Interface and features

When we first booted up the Nokia 1, we immediately encountered the familiar Android 8.1 interface.

The Home Screen is simple and lightweight, and manages to retain some advanced features from the full-sized OS.

Pressing and holding on Home Screen icons still delivers app-dependent actions in a pop-up menu, and widgets can be installed for various applications.

Many advanced features such as inline notification interactions are not present in Android Go, however, but the core features which make Android 8.1 easy to use are all present.

Settings are also much more simplified than standard Android 8.1, making the software easy to navigate and customise.

Android 8.1 Go even comes with a compact version of Google Assistant pre-installed, which is impressive considering the memory and processing constraints of low-end devices.


Despite the Nokia 1’s low-end specifications and limited RAM, Android 8.1 Go runs smoothly on the device.

The Nokia 1 only has 1GB of RAM, but multitasking with standard applications is smooth, and there is no lag in more-demanding applications such as Netflix.

Even using Google Maps navigation and Uber on the Nokia 1 delivered a smooth and streamlined experience, with no lagging or freezing.

Boot-up times are equally great, thanks to Android 8.1 Go’s smaller package size.

Android 8.1 Go also has a number of pre-installed security features, including Find My Device and app security scanning.

Additionally, the lower-end specifications in combination with apps made for the Android Go system mean the battery life of the Nokia 1 was better than high-powered smartphones performing similar tasks.

The compact operating system manages to deliver great features without drawing too much power – letting the phone run longer between charges.

Nokia 1 Netflix 2


The optimised applications on Android 8.1 Go are an excellent feature, and their simpler interfaces and lower performance overheads make them perfect for devices like the Nokia 1.

This includes software like the new Google Go app, which offers popular queries, top websites, and apps – making it easy to navigate with minimal typing.

Another useful application in Android 8.1 Go is Files Go, a file explorer and manager included with the OS.

Files Go allows you to explore saved content on your device, securely transfer files to other Android devices, and manage your storage capacity to improve performance and save space.

Android 8.1 Go supports many popular Google Play apps, although demanding applications like 3D games are not expected to run well on entry-level smartphones.

Netflix, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Uber are all compatible with the OS and its associated devices.

This makes Android 8.1 Go a potential game-changer for cheap smartphones, turning a class of devices that were previously limited by their software into usable smartphones with modern features.

Now read: Nokia 1 – What it’s like to use a R999 smartphone

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Why Android Go is a game-changer for cheap smartphones