Google plans to make Android Go required for new low RAM devices

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In 2017, Google announced a modified version of Android for low-end devices. “Android Go Edition” was built specifically for devices with 1GB or less of RAM. In conjunction, Google has released lightweight “Go Edition” versions of many of its popular services. Android Go has never been a requirement for these low-end devices, though. That could change soon, however.

According to a leaked copy of Google’s “Android 11 Go edition Device Configuration Guide” (dated April 24, 2020), Google plans to make Android Go Edition a requirement for newly launched devices with 2GB of RAM or less. Here are the new requirements that will be put in place:

    • Beginning with Android 11, devices with 512MB RAM (including upgrades) are not qualified for preloading GMS.
    • All new PRODUCTS launching with Android 11, if they have 2GB RAM or less, MUST return true for ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice() API, and launch as an Android Go device.
    • Starting in Q4 2020, all new PRODUCTS launching with Android 10, if they have 2GB RAM or less, MUST return true for ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice() API, and launch as an Android Go device.
    • Previously launched 2GB RAM devices in standard GMS configuration SHOULD NOT convert to Android Go configuration via MRs or letter upgrades. They will remain standard Android

What that all means is that starting later this year in Q4 2020, any new Android 10 device that launches with 2GB or less of RAM must use Android Go Edition. Furthermore, any device launching with Android 11 that has 2GB or less of RAM must also use Android Go. Basically, there’s still some time for low RAM Android 10 devices to slide under the requirement, but new, low RAM Android 11 devices won’t get that chance.

As mentioned, Android Go was originally intended for devices with less than 1GB of RAM, but it wasn’t required for OEMs to implement. The introduction of Android Go devices with 2GB of RAM is actually somewhat new as well. It appears the change happened late last year, with Google updating its website to reflect this change. The inclusion of 2GB RAM devices brings the 64-bit kernel/userspace into the Go Edtion ecosystem.

These upcoming requirements should make a pretty big change in how low-end Android devices are perceived. Dropping Android 11 GMS (Google Mobile Services) support for the ultra-low end 512MB devices means we won’t see any of them in the future. And Android Go being installed on 1GB and 2GB devices means better performance overall. Devices in this range can be very popular, which makes it important for the Android experience to be as good as possible.

We heard from a source last week about this upcoming change and this document corroborates what we previously heard. However, it’s possible that the information from our source and this document are outdated and Google may have retracted this requirement. We’ll keep an eye out for any public announcements from Google as well as any updates to internal documents to see if we can find out more information.

Thanks to Tillie Kottmann (@deletescape) for finding the document with this information!



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