Google will reportedly make Android Go the default for low-RAM devices once the 11th major version of the mobile OS is released.
A copy of Google's "Android 11 Go Edition Device Configuration Guide" obtained by XDADevelopers shows that all new Android 11 devices with less than 2GB of RAM must use Android Go.
Android Go is a pared-down version of Android intended for cheaper, weaker smartphones – typically in the $30 to $100 range. It contains changes to multitasking to take advantage of the limited amount of RAM that can be drawn upon. Meanwhile, apps are optimised for the invariably slower processors included, with the Google Play Store prioritising similarly slimline apps.
Android Go debuted in 2017, winning support from vendors such as Nokia and Samsung along the way. While it has largely been up to OEMs whether they wanted to use it, this move from Google suggests that it's prepared to be more aggressive in pushing it towards users.
The documentation also suggests that new devices released after Q4 2020 running Android 10 and with 2GB RAM or less will be forced to present as an Android Go device. Existing low-RAM Android 10 devices will remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, devices with less than 512MB RAM will be unable to pre-load Google Mobile Services (GMS) altogether. While it's exceedingly uncommon to find a device with less than 512MB RAM in the UK, a cursory glance through Indian shopping site Flipkart highlights several phones that fit the bill, like the Itel 1409 and the Nuvo Alpha NS35. Both phones retail around the £30 mark.
These changes are unlikely to have much of an impact in the Western world. Very, very few new devices with 512MB RAM are released these days – and the two phones highlighted above run much older versions of Android.
However, the 2GB rule could have some affect further up the line. Some of Nokia's cheapest devices ship with the full version of Android, but include 2GB of RAM. In this scenario, they'll be forced to choose between adding an extra gig of RAM (and thus increasing the component cost) or running a potentially unfamiliar version of Android. ®