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Best Android Go smartphones available in the US today (and more to come)

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Best Android Go smartphones available in the US today (and more to come)
Google has been known to take both hardware and software risks other mobile tech companies can’t really afford, trying different things, starting different programs and initiatives, constantly rebranding products and refocusing efforts in an attempt to meet existing customer needs, as well as anticipate new trends, requirements, and preferences.

This often leads to confusion and market overcrowding, like in the case of the search giant’s plethora of messaging apps or the Android One and Android Go platforms, which may sound similar but are in fact quintessentially divergent.

It’s important not to mix the two up, because while phones running Android Oreo (Go edition) aim to offer a “powerful” user experience leveraging “the best of Android”, these are at their essence far humbler devices than the Android One-based Moto X4, Nokia 6.1, or HTC U11 Life.

Fortunately, they’re also significantly more affordable, fetching as little as $80 stateside. That includes pretty modest hardware, but at least in theory, Google’s optimized software should make the best possible use of the most limited resources.

Android Go handsets come with the highest level of mobile security available right now, as well as a pre-loaded set of Google apps designed specifically to save storage space, data, and maximize performance by eating up as little memory as possible.

With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at the only four Android Oreo (Go edition) smartphones up for grabs in the US at the time of writing, as well as a couple more that could soon be expanded:

Asus ZenFone Live

Buy from Best Buy ($109.99)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the very best Android Go phone available stateside is also the costliest of the bunch. Internationally unveiled way back in May, the Asus ZenFone Live (L1) came to Best Buy just around a month ago, sporting a relatively large and sharp 5.5-inch HD screen with a trendy 2:1 aspect ratio and respectably thin bezels.

Now, we know the IPS panel’s 1440 x 720 pixel count may not sound ideal by 2018 mid-range standards, but as you’ll notice in the following lines, it’s not something Android Go device manufacturers consider as standard or obligatory stuff. Quite on the contrary.

It’s also rare to see one of these ultra-affordable bad boys offer 16GB internal storage space when 8 gigs are more than enough, at least according to Google, to accommodate all your essential apps and services. You might need the extra hoarding room to stash photos taken with a decent 13MP rear-facing camera featuring f/2.0 aperture and Phase Detection Autofocus, while a 3,000 mAh battery promises to keep the lights on for up to 18 hours of continuous Wi-Fi web browsing, also thanks to a frugal and reasonably speedy Snapdragon 425 processor.

Another key selling point is the separate inclusion of dual SIM trays and a microSD card slot, letting you use all three at once, although it’d have sure been nice to get a fingerprint sensor as well.

Alcatel 1X

Like the newer ZenFone Live, this Android Go veteran comes with a generous 16 gigs of on-board storage space. But the “social-ready” 8MP main camera here is likely to be used less often. On the bright side, you could do a lot worse in the unlocked sub-$100 price bracket than the 5MP f/2.2 shooter mounted on the front of the 1X, which has flash illumination, also supporting a number of neat proprietary features like Instant Collage, Photo Booth, and Social Square.

Interestingly, the Alcatel 1X supports fingerprint recognition and NFC technology, both of which are absent on the pricier Asus ZenFone Live (L1). But obviously, everything else is not as good on the 1X, starting with a smaller, lower-res, bigger-bezel display. The battery is considerably smaller, the MediaTek SoC probably slower, and the overall design is... actually not that bad. A little generic, but sometimes, simpler is better.

Alcatel 1


This was oddly released after the 1X, at a slightly lower price, with an even smaller screen and battery in tow. Why would you buy it over its big brother if the $10 difference doesn’t seem important? Mostly for a more sophisticated design, with a brushed metallic finish that’s obviously not real metal but it’s still pretty sleek. Or maybe you’d just like a smaller, lighter 5-inch phone with the same 2:1 aspect ratio, mediocre 960 x 480 resolution, and unfortunately, a thicker profile. 

ZTE Tempo Go

Buy from ZTE ($79.99)

Technically, you can’t purchase the Tempo Go right now. This has been out of stock for quite some time, but with ZTE back in business, it could always make a return. While waiting for that to happen, you might be wondering if... it’s worth waiting. 

Well, there are a few things that could make this interesting for a cash-strapped buyer. First and foremost, while its three main rivals and fellow Android Go family members are all limited to GSM connectivity, the ZTE Tempo Go supports LTE speeds on both GSM and CDMA networks. That means it works on Sprint and Verizon in addition to AT&T and T-Mobile.

There’s also that Snapdragon 210 processor that’s probably faster and more reliable than the MediaTek 6739 inside the Alcatel 1 and 1X. On the not so bright side of things, the 5-inch screen not only sports sub-par 854 x 480 resolution, also featuring an outdated 16:9 aspect ratio. And the 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras are obviously nothing to write home about either.

More to come

There’s no official news on the next wave of Android Go smartphones, but Android Pie (Go edition) has been unveiled, with more hardware “options” promised for this fall.

Until all-new devices are released, you probably shouldn’t rule out seeing the Nokia 2.1, Samsung Galaxy J2 Core, or the Moto E5 Play with Android Oreo (Go edition) expanded stateside by the end of the year.

The Nokia 2.1 is quite the affordable beast, squeezing a Snapdragon 425 SoC and massive 4,000 mAh battery into a robust aluminum frame. The Galaxy J2 Core is, well, made by Samsung, which guarantees its mainstream popularity, while the Moto E5 Play can be bought from a number of US carriers already in a non-Go variant praised for its battery life and silky smooth user interface in our in-depth review.

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