Android One: What You Need to Know

All about the pure Android OS available around the globe

Android One on Nokia phone
Android

Android One is a pure version of Android available on several smartphones including models from Nokia, Motorola, and the HTC U series. The program launched in 2014 with the goal of providing affordable Android devices to emerging countries, such as India, but has since expanded to mid-range phones available around the world, including the U.S. Now it's a cheaper way to get the pure Android experience than buying a flagship Google Pixel smartphone or another premium device. Google has an updated list of compatible Android devices on its website.

The benefits of Android One are:

  • At least two years of Android OS upgrades.
  • Regular security updates.
  • Built-in Google Play Protect security software.
  • The full suite of Google Apps.
  • Optimized for Google Assistant where available.
  • No bloatware (aka pre-installed apps that aren't removable).

Google Play Protect scans your devices and its apps regularly to check for malware and other issues. It also offers the Find My Device feature, which lets you track down a lost phone, call it from a web browser and erase its data if needed.

How Android One Stacks Up to Other Android Versions

In addition to Android One, there's regular Android (Oreo, Nougat, etc.), and the Android Go Edition. Plain old Android is the most common version and is updated annually with the next confection name in the alphabet and an array of new features and functionalities.

The downside to regular Android is that, unless you have a Google Pixel smartphone or another "pure Android" model, you'll have to wait longer for software updates, as you'll be at the mercy of your manufacturer and wireless carrier. Most manufacturers and carriers have agreed to push out regular security updates, but it may not be at the same clip as Android One and Pixel updates. Slow updates (or even a lack of updates) are one of the biggest complaints Android users have, and Android One is one way the company is addressing these concerns.

Google Pixel smartphones and other models that have the pure Android OS are guaranteed timely security and OS updates. Android One phones are made by third-party manufacturers, without the oversight Google provides for its Pixel line of phones. Smartphones that run Android One won't support Pixel-specific features, such as the Pixel camera, but have all the other features available in the latest version of the Android OS.

Android Go Edition is for entry-level phones, even for those with 1 GB of storage or less. The program continues Android One's original goal of enabling access to low cost, reliable Android smartphones to customers around the world. It's a lightweight version of the OS, with apps that take up less memory. There are also fewer pre-installed Google apps on Android Go phones, though they still ship with Google Assistant and the Gboard keyboard app. Android Go also includes Google Play Protect. Manufacturers including Alcatel, Nokia, and ZTE make Android Go phones.