Google’s lightweight Maps Go app is built for low-end Android devices

google maps go header
It’s been roughly a week since Google announced the launch of Android Go — a pared-down version of Android 8.1 Oreo, designed to run on lower-end devices packing between 1GB and 512MB of RAM. Mostly useful in developing markets like Brazil and India, Android Go is focused on reducing the install size of the operating system to less than half of that of Android 7.0 Nougat, and ensuring that essential services can run on a device with significantly less power than most smartphones running Android 8.0 Oreo.

A big part of this drive is the creation of a number of smaller, “Go-style” Google apps, made to work on lower-end hardware. Essentially pared-down versions of existing Google apps, Google also announced that we should expect more compact versions of Google Maps, YouTube, Google Assistant, and Gmail. Files Go, a slim-line file managing app has already been launched, as has a lightweight search app, Google Go, and now low-end users can access a lightweight maps app with Google Maps Go on the Google Play Store. Google Maps Go gives users the ability to see their location, get directions to a place via car, train or bus, or by walking, and even allows users to add filters to their map to see satellite imagery, public transport, or an overlay of the current traffic.

google maps go vs google maps
A comparison between Google Maps Go (left) and Google Maps (right) on the Galaxy S8

The app will only be downloadable for a specific subset of Android smartphones; any device that has less than 1GB of RAM, and is running Android 4.1 or newer. It’s a very specific band of users, and unlike the implementation of Files Go, which was made available as a general file managing app for any Android smartphone.

Key to the low impact of the app is that it’s not really an app at all — the app icon is a link to a Progressive Web App (PWA) version of Google Maps (as noted by Android Police). PWAs allow users to access apps without downloading them, and this means that they’re extremely low-impact on a device’s resources. It also means you can try out the app for yourself without needing a compatible phone. Simply access this link on your phone or PC, and you should be able to access Google Map Go — it may try to send you to your normal Google Maps app, but you can circumvent that by holding the link and opening it in a new tab.

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