There's a new version of Android 11 designed to make cheap phones run faster

Android 11 (Go edition)
Android 11 (Go edition) (Image credit: Google)

Android 11 has been released and if you've got a compatible smartphone you're able to download it and check out the new operating system (OS). More phones will become eligible over time, but the software is too burdensome to run on super-cheap or low-power phones - that's where Android 11 (Go edition) comes in.

Like the Go edition of Android 10, the Android 11 (Go edition) software is a lightweight version of the 'full-fat' operating system, designed to work on phones with low RAM and memory that might struggle to run the full version.

The Go edition of Android 11 is designed to work on phones with 2GB of RAM or less - that basically encompasses super-affordable phones, because many cheap phones have 3GB or 4GB of RAM now and premium devices have up to 16GB.

There's no compatibility list for Android 11 (Go edition) at the moment, as manufacturers will have to make versions of it for their phones, but in the coming months we could see brand new phones launched with the software already running.

What does Android 11 (Go edition) do?

Perhaps the most useful feature of this light version of Android 11 is its speed boost - apparently apps will launch 20% faster on the software, which should save you precious seconds when using your phone.

Like in 'full-fat' Android 11, the Go edition brings a change to notifications, so ones from chat-related apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger get put in a separate 'conversations' tab to other notifications.

Another big change, that's been in non-Go Android phones for a while, is the introduction of gesture navigation. Enabling this removes the three navigation buttons at the bottom (the square, the circle and the triangle), and instead to navigate you swipe up from the bottom of the screen or across from the sides to get around. It's an intuitive and quick way of getting around your phone, but it takes some getting used to so it won't be for everyone.

Your files in Android 11 (Go edition) will also be better protected than before, as you'll be able to add PIN requirements to folders if you want, to stop people getting access to your personal data, images, videos and more.

Finally, some of the privacy options from the last few generations of Android operating systems are coming to the Go software now. Chief among these is improved permissions, so if you want you can grant an app access to your camera, location data or health information on a one-off basis, instead of permanently. In addition, permissions like these will reset if you don't use the app for a while.

Those are the key Android 11 (Go edition) update features, though it's possible there are more tweaks and changes that Google didn't mention in the initial announcement.

This new operating system is generally designed for people who don't know too much about smartphones, like seniors or those who just need a communication tool, and this lightweight version of Android 11 will hopefully make the phone experience easier for that user base.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.