One of the biggest, underreported announcements made at Google I/O 2014 was Google’s plan to gain its next billion active users. The big announcement was Android One, the small-priced but big-ability handset. Aimed at the developing market, specifically India to start with, Android One’s low-cost handsets will receive a big push from Google.
The search giant will work closely with Indian manufacturer Micromax as well as Spice and Karbonn to develop Android One handsets that are sub-$100 – roughly Rs 6,000. Android One handsets will have Google experience Android, and be updated directly by Google. This will eliminate low-end users stuck on old, slow, buggy, and insecure versions of Android.
The Next Billion
Some reports state that, in its quest for the next billion users, Google will be spending anywhere up to $1 billion on Android One. Much of the supporting advertising and marketing will be targeted at possible Android One users in India, people which may have already been tempted by similar moves by Xaiomi and Microsoft. A new report from the Economic Times reports we should see the handsets as soon as October.
A report in The Information claimed “the program will focus on India to begin, it will include a $1 billion advertising component, and Google is even willing to subsidise handsets to get them under $100.” This is in stark contrasts to Sundar Pichai’s resounding “no” when asked if Google would be subsidising the handsets. Pichai was clear that Google’s role was purely to help with Android One hardware design and providing the software updates.
Despite the discrepancy between the report in The Information and statements by Pichai, Google clearly has control over the Android One hardware. On stage at Google I/O, Sundar highlighted the expected hardware for Android One users, such as dual SIM ability, SD card, 4.5 inch screen and FM radio. These are all things Google believes Indian users expect.
So, it’s a mixed message with Android One, but what is clear is this programme may become the low-cost Nexus device which has been rumoured. Featuring stock Google Android and fast updates, this will show Android off to the best of its ability. Tailoring the software built specifically to the phone will bring out all the capability. But it’s unlikely Google will be sending their Android team to India to test out the hardware locally a la Facebook!