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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The first Android Go phone is here

Last spring, Google said it was taking another shot at reworking Android to keep it running fast and smooth on lower-end devices. The initiative was called Android Go, and the very first phone running it — technically, “Android Oreo (Go Edition)” — is being announced today by Alcatel. It’s called the Alcatel 1X, and, well, it’s not all that much to get excited about.
That’s partly because the 1X is a low-end phone, which means it has to impress on value rather than specs and flourishes. But it’s also because, in our initial hands on with the phone, the operating system didn’t run smoothly at all, despite Google’s optimizations.
Google later told us the phone was not running a consumer build of the OS, and an Alcatel representative indicated issues may be due to us using a preproduction device, since the phone doesn’t ship for another two months. Stay tuned as we’ll have more impressions on Android Go throughout the week, so we should get a sense for whether these problems are unique to the Alcatel phones we tested.

I just had my first Android Go experience, which was to have the screen freeze up on me while moving an icon across the home screen. Auspicious start.
The first unit of the 1X that I tried out was so sluggish as to feel broken. The app drawer stuttered every time it was flung open, the camera couldn’t hold an image, and I somehow watched the dialer render from low to high res after it opened. I didn’t know that was possible.
I tried out a second unit of the 1X just to see if all was the same, and for some reason, that unit was working much better, despite there being no apparent hardware differences — there was still stuttering all over the interface, but the phone was at least fairly quick about getting through it. The experience wasn’t exactly good, but it at least didn’t feel broken.

The 1X’s specs are appropriately minimal: it has a quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 5.3-inch 960 x 480 display. It charges over Micro USB. The one bright spot is that the display has an 18:9 aspect ratio, so the bezels are somewhat trimmer on the top and bottom. One not-so-bright-spot is that some models of the phone won’t include a fingerprint sensor. (They will include Alcatel’s “Face Key” facial recognition feature, though.) The phone will launch in April for €100 for a single-SIM variant and €110 for a dual-SIM variant.

Update February 25th, 1:55AM ET: This story has been updated with comment from Google and Alcatel.

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