The new program, called Android Go, was announced at the
Alphabet Inc. division’s I/O developer conference on Wednesday in
Google releases a new Android operating system every year, but most devices running the software use older versions. These phones do not get as frequent security and feature updates, a persistent problem for the company.
Android Go has a feature that more easily tracks mobile data usage and ties automatically with the billing systems of wireless carriers, Samat said. Google also designed the service to minimize data usage on bandwidth-hungry services like YouTube.
Previously, Google tried to solve this low-end phone issue
with a program called Android One. The service was designed to tailor the
latest Android operating system for phones costing around $100 or less.
However, it failed to take off in key markets, like
In an interview, Samat said that the Android One program is continuing, although it dropped the earlier effort to work with phones at the $100 price point.
Less Data Usage
Android Go will only be available on phones that run Google’s upcoming software version, available next year. So far, most manufacturers have avoided shipping the latest Android on cheap phones to save costs. But Samat said the changes coming with Android Go will convince the hardware partners to change course.
The new software is designed to run versions of Google apps that require less data. Samat mentioned YouTube as one app, but declined to name others. Google will also be curating a list of apps in its digital store that are designed for light data usage. "That’s a selling proposition that people can get excited about," Samat said.
Facebook Inc. tried a similar app-curation strategy picking a suite of services to "zero-rate," or subsidize the data
charge. That effort fell flat after considerable pushback in countries like
On stage, Samat demonstrated a novel way for Android users to track their mobile data usage and even pay their monthly or pre-paid mobile-phone bills via Google Play. Google has set up carrier billing options in its Play store in 55 countries with 140 telecom partners. The company doesn’t disclose its Play store sales. Samat declined to share any carrier or manufacturing partners Google has with Android Go.