Google has finally revealed more specific details of its new Android One program, an initiative announced earlier this year that aims to bring standardization and a better user experience to affordable Android smartphones.
Economic Times reports that Android One has launched with three local handset-makers as its initial partners: Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobile. The US company held an event in Mumbai today at which it revealed that the first devices will be priced upwards of 6,399 INR, that’s approximately $105.
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While affordable, that price does make them more expensive than a range of truly budget Android phones, but it seems that Google is banking that a bevvy of features and a ‘premium’ approach will make them more desirable. That said, Google also said that other devices will launch at price points that are both above and below that initial price range.
Google is targeting India because smartphone penetration remains low — feature phone still account for 70 percent of all shipments — while most of the one billion-plus population uses pre-pay contracts and has a modest disposable income. Unlike China, where internet access from smartphones has just overtaken that of the PC, India has vast potential for growth.
Android One isn’t an India-only initiative, however. Economic Times interviewed Google’s Sundar Pichai before today’s launch event, and the Android chief said that the program will expand to Indonesia, Philippines and other parts of South Asia before the end of this year. It is scheduled to roll out to even more markets in 2015.
— Shilpa Kannan (@shilpakannan) September 15, 2014
So what can customers expect from these devices?
Google is imposing more rigid controls on apps and software to help improve the general experience, and prevent fragmentation which can lead to phones falling behind on updates. Android One devices will be among the first to get the new ‘L’ Android update for, for example.
From Google’s blog post:
Android One aims to help tackle these challenges. By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable. They have lots of processing power, so you can get information quickly. They have high-quality front- and rear-facing cameras. And for all those pictures, along with your apps and videos, Android One phones will have expandable storage. We also added features that people in India will find particularly useful, like dual SIM cards, a replaceable battery and built-in FM radio.
In India, the phones will come with support for seven languages — including English and Hindi — with multi-lingual support for many apps. The devices will also include voice-based controls, dual-SIM support, an FM radio and other “features that people in India will find particularly useful”.
Operators will bundle data services with the devices, to help consumers get online to make the most of the phones, Economic Times also reports. The first Android One devices will go on sale in India today via the country’s three top retailers: Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart.
Headline image via intellectdigest.in (with permission)