TAIPEI — MediaTek and Qualcomm have announced that they are system-on-chip (SoC) partners for Google’s recent release of the Android Oreo (Go edition) operating system designed for entry-level smartphones.
Android Go is a version of the Android Oreo operating system that’s designed to run on smartphones with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. By comparison, flagship handsets on the market today use as much as 6GB of RAM. The no-frills phones will use the Go versions of Google apps such as the main Google app, Google Assistant, Google Maps and Gmail.
After working with Google, MediaTek said that its MT6739, MT6737 and MT6580 SoCs, among others, have board support packages available to run the Go edition of Android Oreo. Google said it worked with MediaTek to ensure that the Go edition works well on MediaTek’s line of processors, enabling a faster time-to-market mechanism for device manufacturers and ensuring a quality Android smartphone experience that is secure and affordable.
“Entry-level devices are the gateway to the internet for many people, and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience when they use these devices,” said Sameer Samat, Google vice president of product management. “We’re excited that Android Oreo (Go edition) will significantly improve storage, performance, data management and security.”
The announcement sets the stage for new entry-level smartphones running SoCs that are optimized for the latest version of Android, Android 8.1 Oreo, which has been released to the Android Open Source Project. Without naming specific SoCs in its product line, Qualcomm made a similar announcement earlier this week.
As nearly a fifth of the world’s 7.5 billion people now own a smartphone, and feature enhancements are slowing with each new generation, smartphone makers have been shifting their aim toward steadily increasing middle-class consumers in emerging markets like India and China.
Go uses the existing Google Play Store ecosystem to deliver apps that run smoothly on low-memory devices, helping to cut bill of materials (BOM) costs for phone manufacturers. The cost savings provide the 400 million users who buy entry-level smartphones every year a better option, according to Google.
With Go, Google has optimized its OS platform, and the Google Play Store to improve the capabilities of entry-level devices, which up to now have been limited by processing power and storage. Google created Go to address these issues and ensure that the devices are secure and that users have more control over data usage.
MediaTek said the announcement builds upon its existing work with Google, including a recent collaboration on Google’s GMS Express to speed up the certification process. Under GMS Express, Google and MediaTek have joined to launch a new Android conformance and compatibility program which will help smartphone makers build devices using MediaTek SoCs that are installed with Google’s Mobile Services (GMS), including Google Play, Gmail and YouTube.
“With Android Oreo (Go edition), we are partnering with Google to tackle the performance challenges of lower-memory phones, improving the user experience of entry-level smartphones for consumers in key markets across India, the Middle East and Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia,” said TL Lee, general manager of MediaTek’s wireless communication business unit.
Go uses MediaTek’s turnkey reference designs and chipsets to reduce product development time and compliance testing. A range of MediaTek SoCs support Go, including the MT6739 and MT6737 for 4G devices, as well as the MT6580 for 3G devices, allowing handset makers the flexibility to design products for specific price points and markets.
Go smartphones powered by MediaTek SoCs will be available worldwide by the first quarter of next year. Go smartphones based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processors will be available in early 2018, according to Qualcomm.
—Alan Patterson covers the semiconductor industry for EE Times. He is based in Taiwan.