Google had to give up a lot to get Assistant working on devices with 1GB or less of RAM, but that doesn't mean the Assistant isn't worth using. It's perfectly adequate for setting alarms, finding nearby restaurants and controlling your media, among other things. The basics are all accounted for, and more importantly, Google has said it'll make more features available over time.
Through the process of testing Android Go, only one Go-friendly app has completely driven me up a wall: Google Maps Go. That's partially because it isn't a standard Android app at all: It's a progressive web app that runs directly in a browser window. As with Assistant, the basics are definitely here: You can look up points of interest and get directions from one place to the next without much trouble. That said, scrolling around the map is often sluggish, and the web app doesn't support turn-by-turn navigation at all. (If you try to get turn-by turn directions between locations, you're directed to download the full-blown Maps app instead.) Most puzzling is the fact that there's no way to save local area maps to the phone like you can with the full app. Remember, these phones are meant to help a new generation of smartphone users get online. The ability to download maps over WiFi would be a great addition for people in markets where data connections are spotty and costly.
So yeah, the apps you'll find on an Android Go phone are currently a mixed bag. Unfortunately, the process of finding Android Go-friendly apps could (and should) be a little easier. To Google's credit, the Play Store treats Go devices differently than normal ones: It highlights Go and Lite versions of apps at the top of the store's landing page, and you'll be notified if an app you're looking at has an available Go or Lite variant. Every app you check out also makes its file size impossible to miss, so people can instantly weigh how each download will affect their limited storage.
That sounds great ... until you realize the numbers themselves actually aren't that telling. Let's look at Google Pay: The Play Store listing said the package was 12MB, but when I started downloading the app, the install meter said I was downloading 7MB of material. Well, maybe 12MB is how much space the app takes up on a phone after installation. That would be helpful, right? It would be, but that's not it either: Google Pay ate up north of 20MB once installed. A little more clarity around those file sizes would be helpful, considering the limits these Android Go devices have to work with.