Google launches $105 Android One smartphone in India
Google is taking smartphones to the masses in emerging markets like India with the new Android One device.
Google has been onto a winner with its Android operating system in the past few years. It’s the biggest rival to Apple’s iOS and used on a wide range of devices by different manufacturers, and it’s associated with lower costs than rivals running Apple’s software. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that Google is using Android to gain a foothold in emerging markets.
Earlier this week, Sundar Pichai – Google senior vice president at Google and overseer of Android, unveiled the Android One range, a new line of smartphones that will be offered in India in the latter months of this year. With a price tag of around $105 (£64), they’re aimed at markets where incomes are relatively low but demand for technology is growing.
Google says that Android One is simply intended as a reliable and affordable way for users in emerging economies to get online.
Just one in ten among more than 900 million mobile phone users in India have smartphones, so there’s certainly a massive potential market of users looking to upgrade from their feature phones.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr Pichai told press in New Delhi that Internet adoption is rocketing in India, largely on the back of mobile. Given the relatively high setup and component costs of desktop PCs and even laptops, that may not be surprising.
Google will be able to update the device software remotely without manufacturers’ assistance, which it says will help it to improve the user experience.
It also helps the firm protect its own brand by giving it more control over what users see and do when they interact with the Android platform. With Samsung and Motorola already heavily involved in promoting their devices in India, this is likely to be as important in terms of generating brand loyalty as it is in keeping the software up to scratch.
It’s loyalty that underscores this whole process. Smartphone users in developed markets often stick with the same operating system when they invest in a new device because they already know and understand its various functions. As India grows, incomes rise and tastes become more sophisticated, the Android One could give Google a huge advantage in a massive market for more expensive and high-end products.
< Top image: Sam Churchill >