And when it comes to keeping those devices up-to-date, Project Treble is here to help. At its core, Treble keeps the Android framework separate from the software chipset-makers create to ensure compatibility and device performance. The wall between the two means Android can be updated without chip makers necessarily redoing all of their custom work. Long story short, this should make for easier, more frequent software updates. Between Google's focus on getting Android O and Go running on phones of all performance levels and Treble's ability to make sure updates can happen faster than ever, we might see the O experience spread like wildfire. The obvious upside is that people around the world, from very different economic and technical circumstances, could share in O's modern software foundation.
To be clear, I'm just extrapolating — Samat definitively said that Android O wasn't designed to "solve fragmentation." Even so, this is very good news for anyone who buys an entry-level phone in the near future. What's still unclear is what happens to people out there who already have devices that fit the Go criteria.
On one hand, Google seems unconcerned about the problem. Samat pointed out that many devices that fit the Go spec are running much older versions of Android, so they wouldn't necessarily get new updates anyway. "That is not something we've historically focused on," he added. "We're focused on moving this forward."
Even so, there are devices — like the newly announced Moto C — that only have 1GB of RAM and run Android 7.0. What happens if that device, or one like it, gets an Android O update? Will it get the Go experience or not? Samat says Google is currently in discussions with device makers, but nothing has been locked down yet. The issue is that Android Go has multiple parts, like that specially modified suite of Google apps. And therein lies the rub.
"The problem is that once you have a phone with updates, we can't just change the apps on you," Burke told us. "If you were to buy a new phone that was Android Go, you'd have a different set of Google apps."
Samat and Burke left the upgrade question on an uncertain note, but their willingness to point at ongoing conversations with device makers offers some hope that upgrades to Go-flavored Android O are possible. If nothing else, though, Samat said Google is "likely to make the Google apps that receive the Go treatment available to download" even if you don't have an entry-level phone.
It's still early days for Android O and Go, so it's no surprise that many questions are still unanswered. While it may lack the whiz-bang features that get tech pundits drooling, Android O has the potential to be a more impactful success than any of its recent predecessors.
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