If you’re in the market to buy a budget android phone, it’s very likely that you’ll come across terms like ‘Stock Android’, ‘Android ONE’ and the newly introduced ‘ Android GO ’. We understand that all these fancy terms are completely baffling, so let’s clear the air and understand them one at a time.
Let’s start off with the very basic and the most widely used term in any android community, ‘Stock Android’. If you hang around in any android community for long enough, you’ll come across people on one side with their Pixels and on the other sides with their Galaxy phones. Each running the flavour of android the way their respective OEMs want it to run. The user experience offered by these phones is very different in some ways and very similar in the others. Surprisingly neither of these devices run stock android. Stock Android essentially is just the software framework and the hardware interface which can run applications and communicate with parts that are needed to keep it running. Stock Android, also known by some as vanilla or pure Android, is the most basic version of the OS designed and developed by Google without any sort of modifications. It’s an unmodified version of Android that can be compiled from source, each OEM then adds a custom flavor to it. The picture below shows the comparison of a Samsung Galaxy S4 and near stock android Nexus 5.
Coming to another perplexing topic, we have the Android ONE. Unlike the previous one which is mainly software oriented, this one is a blend of both the software and hardware coming together to form a series of smartphones which run the unmodified android operating system. These devices are manufactured in accordance to a set of software and hardware standards set by Google. The main objective of the Android ONE line-up was to provide a consistent user experience and improved security over the years through frequent updates from Google. This was mainly targeted at emerging markets like India focusing on entry level devices but now, in the recent times it has evolved into Google’s principal mobile program. As of now, the program kind of died out and it’s since been revamped as a stock android program, which is great but not what the program started out as. Currently one of the most successful Android one device is the Mi A1 which was launched in partnership with Xiaomi for about $200 as seen in the picture below.
If you’re used to spending $600-$700 on a phone with specs like an octa-core processor, 6 to 8 Gigabytes of ram and a powerful GPU and a huge internal storage, these are flagship specs which provide a great user experience, but there are a lot of huge markets like India where most people cannot afford such phones rather most use phones which cost under $150. Here the android experience isn’t that great, its sluggish and unresponsive to the point that its mostly unusable.
Now Google is trying to fix the phone experience with something called as Android GO, technically Android OREO (GO edition) but that’s a mouthful. Android Go is basically a stripped-down version of Android Oreo designed for phones without much processing power and RAM.
At a glance it might not look any different than your normal Android Oreo, but its optimized to work on phones with a gigabyte of RAM or less. The Android system itself takes very little space, a little over 3 Gigabytes that opposed to the 5 or 6 Gigabytes beforehand. This is essentially huge spaces savings considering the entry level phones having only 8GB of storage to begin with. A cherry on top was seeing Google assistant running on such low-end devices, pretty smoothly. Google has also added GO variants of all their apps, which are essentially compact versions of their full-sized counterparts. Google got rid of the extraneous features that they thought weren’t useful in such markets. A few added quirks like the popup in YouTube GO which shows you how much data you’re going to be using while you stream a video on multiple quality settings and other similar optimizations for countries where data plans are limited and expensive, are really welcomed.
Android GO isn’t going to change the cheap smartphone experience overnight or maybe not even this year, but it does seem to be moving android in the right direction.
To summarize, Stock android is the unadulterated form of android to which each OEM adds a custom flavour. On the other side we have Android one devices, these are a series of aimed for the lower and the mid-tier segment aiming to provide a consistent user experience with proper timely updates. Last but not the least, the Android Go is a program to give a great Android experience to even entry level smartphones. All of these represent the different flavours of the Android OS.