It is not lost on anyone the popularity of low end smartphones. They are attractive to the masses not because they can do much other than basic social networking and calls and many a times terrible battery life but because they are very affordable.
People in emerging markets want a smartphone but at a price they can afford. That explains the popularity of previously unknown players but now very popular. That is the likes of Tecno Mobile in Africa and Micromax, Karbonn, Spice and others in India. There are countless others in China that have for a while now cashed in on this market. The likes of
Nokia Microsoft truly understand this hence devices like the Nokia X have been allowed to exist even though their underlying software is from a competitor. Google had a taste of this during its time as the owner of Motorola when the Moto G went on sale. That is why it is announcing Android One, a new Nexus-style program meant exclusively for the emerging markets.
Google will provide OEMs with reference design guidelines which they will follow to build cheap devices that will be loaded with stock Android that will be directly overseen by Google hence guaranteeing instant updates. One of the main selling points of Android 4.4 KitKat was that it could be loaded on even low end smartphones with as low as 512 MB RAM. That never worked since device makers stuck with their bloated skins that complicate updates for budget devices and they end up being neglected as all focus is on the top selling flagship devices and the low end user is left to just buy a new phone in the event updates are an issue. Still, such skins affect the user experience as most get an awful experience thanks to low end specs and heavily customized software running on top. Not anymore. Google will only allow “locally relevant” apps to be pre-loaded besides Google apps.
Google announced that Android is now is used by over 1 billion active users. Definitely getting the next billion Android users is now its mission and to get them, this is the way to go.
Android One starts its initial rollout in India where Google has partnered with Spice, Karbonn and Micromax to bring to market the first stock Android budget devices that are Moto G or Moto E class. Google’s Senior Vice President of Android and Chrome demoed on stage an unnamed Micromax device with dual-SIM support (this is a big deal in emerging markets), a microSD card and FM radio.
Android One devices are expected to be priced sub $100 and while India is the first market, it is expected to expand to other emerging markets like Latin America, several countries in Asia and of course Africa.