At Google I/O, this June, the Android maker announced that it will partner with smartphone manufacturers around the world to create smartphones which will give existing and first time smartphone buyers, and, new and existing mobile internet users, a high-end internet experience on smartphones, without burning a hole through their pockets.
Android One is a program announced by Google’s head of Android, Chrome web browser and apps Sundar Pichai back in June which promised rich smartphone experience on low-cost devices as Google will set minimum standards on hardware and software to be used by handset makers.
In a few hours from now, Google will launch in India the first set of these Android One smartphones.
Google aims to bring user experience found on high-end smartphones to the affordable end of the device spectrum by controlling the hardware and the software, kind of like what Apple does.
Micromax, Karbonn and Spice will be the first three handset makers to sell these devices to customers, as Google aims to extend the reach of Android into emerging markets, especially India where only 29% of about 920 million mobile phone users own smartphones, offering a far higher potential than markets like China or the US where smartphone penetration is nearing its peak.
With Android One’s adoption in India, where smartphone market doubled to 44 million last year and has touched 36 million devices in the first half of 2014, Google will be able to deliver latest OS updates faster, reduce variations of the OS, which in turn will help them to update apps.
The smartphones are expected to be be priced under $100 or roughly ₹6100.
“It will be interesting to watch if they are able to maintain that Rs 6,000 price band or whether it will go to Rs 7,000 – Rs 7,500 since Google is also specifying the hardware,” said Karan Thakkar, senior market analyst- mobile phones and tablets at research firm IDC.
Online retailer Flipkart had briefly put a listing of one such Android One phone by Spice – Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498.
Along with the obvious latest version of Android, 4.4.4, the smartphone sports a 5MP rear camera with LED flash, a 2MP front camera,is powered by MediaTek SoC with 1.3GHz quad-core CPU and Mali 400 GPU, a gig of RAM, and 4GB of built-in memory with microSD card slot. It features a 4.5” FWGA IPS display, 1700 mAh battery and dual-SIM support.
The offerings by Karbonn and Micromax are supposed to carry the same feature set as the Spice smartphones.
With high stakes riding on the launch, Google is said to have set aside more than ₹100 crore with its partners on advertising and marketing.
“What they (Google) need to look at is having a tie-up with the telco providers, so that internet also comes to them,” said Vishal Tripathi, principal analyst at Gartner.
Reports suggest that Google has tied up with India’s leading carrier Airtel to offer bundled internet usage.