Android One De-Mystified

May 15, 2018
2 mins read

Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Kit Kat, Oreo… and One? PAT PILCHER explains what Android One is, and why you might just want it.

With so many Android flavours, it’s no small wonder that smartphone operating system stuff is more than a tad confusing.

The naming convention for Android means each new version gets named after a sugary treat based on the first letter of the name – so Android ‘I’ is Ice cream sandwich, Android ‘K’ is Kit Kat and so on.  The latest flavour is Android ‘O’, or Oreo, and Android P is not far away either.

While there’s little debate that all this sugary goodness is great (unless you’re at the dentist!), the liberal the use of diabetic assists instead of numbers doesn’t make things very intuitive.

To add even more confusion, there’s also Android One. You could say that Android One is the odd one out. You could also say it sticks out like a proverbial pair of green droid bollocks – so what is it?

Android One, which launched at Google’s annual developers’ conference in 2014,  is aimed at new smartphone users in emerging markets. Android One phones are plain vanilla Android phones. Unlike Pixel phones, they’re not built by Google. Instead they’re made by partner manufacturers so are more Nexus phone-like.

Being an Android One (the rear of the phone should have ‘Android One’ on it) phone means you get a stock version of Android. There’s no crapware, bloatware and so on. This means your phone’s user interface isn’t caked in liberal layers of custom skins. These are often disliked as they slow things down and add to user confusion. With stock Android, everything feels easier, faster and smoother.

So why do Android One? Google want to highlight Android’s UI design. This, they say, will happen by marrying a stock version of Android with hot, affordable smartphones.

The first Android One devices launched in India. It’s a smart move. India is the second largest smartphone market in the world next to China. Since then Android One has made its way into mid-range hardware such as the Nokia’s 6.1 and is available globally.

Stock interface and bloatware free design aside, what other benefits on offer with Android One?

For a start, buyers get all the Google software (which includes goodies such as Google Duo) and Android One phones also have Google Play Protect baked in. This will reduce the odds of your Android phone getting hit by malware.

The other headline act is Google Assistant. All Android One phones should, in theory, play nice with Google Assistant. Google Assistant should get called ‘Google crack cocaine’ because using it is very addictive, thanks to its sheer versatility. Its capabilities range from being able to look up a business’s phone number (so all you’ve got to do is say “ok google call Acme Inc” and it’ll do the rest). Then there’s bad dad jokes, games, weather forecasts, hailing a taxi and dictating text messages and so on. In short, there’s a lot to like with Google Assistant.

Best of all, every Android One owner receives up to two years of upgrades to the latest version of Android. Buying an Android One Oreo phone means that you’ll end up with Android Q (what confectionary that’ll get named after is a real head scratcher).

Instead of relying on the phone’s manufacturer and your telco to roll out an update, Google does it. In theory this should translate into much less waiting. The icing on the Android security cake is that Android One devices also get three years of Android monthly security updates.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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