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Android One enters India's budget smartphone market

Posted: 16 Sep 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Android One  low-cost smartphones  Google  India 

Google is penetrating the emerging markets of low-cost smartphones in India with the launch of its Android One handset on Monday. Priced at ₹6,399, Google's smartphone is designed to address a nagging problem among earlier entry-priced Android smartphones, which are said to offer an inconsistent and fragmented user experience.

Under the Android One project, Google takes more direct control over low-cost Android phones, building in a set of mandatory features. Google has also sourced several components to help cut manufacturing costs.

In launching budget smartphones in India, Google teamed with Indian mobile players such as Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice Mobiles, and Taiwan's leading mobile chip vendor, MediaTek.

Google Android One

Android One comes with a set of features and specifications determined by Google. They include front/rear camera, quad-core processor, micro SD card, all-day battery, and dual SIM cards. Source: Google

In essence, Google declared its intention, on behalf of OEMs and ODMs, to tune the phone, work out the bugs, keep it secure, and update it.

Racing to exploit the growth in India

Google's Android One launch comes on the heels of new low-cost smartphones running Mozilla's Firefox operating system, just rolled out in India a few weeks ago.

Mozilla, in conjunction with China's leading mobile chip vendor Spreadtrum Communications, had promised at the World Mobile Congress in February to offer ultra low-cost handsets targeting first-time smartphone users. The company delivered in India a smartphone that retails for 1,999 rupees, about $33.

Meanwhile, Samsung is rumoured to launch in India low-cost smartphones that run the Tizen operating system, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google's Android One project is a critical step for Google to protect its stake in the more than five billion people still without a smartphone. On the company's blog site, Google wrote:

While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world's population—over five billion more—do not. That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people.

Whether Android One-branded handsets, priced at Rs 6,399, are enough for Google to lead in emerging markets, however, remains to be seen.

Consider India.

Reportedly, there are more than 80 smartphone brands in India, many manufactured by China's white box vendors. Companies such as Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft's Nokia, and China's Xiaomi are also racing to exploit the boom in India.

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