Android One, Google’s partnership with hardware makers and carriers in emerging markets has kicked off in India with three smartphones from its first partners: Spice, Micromax and Karbonn.
Canvas A1, Dream Uno and Sparkle V from Micromax, Spice and Karbonn respectively are the first three smartphones under the Android One program that is aimed at providing a near-stock experience of the Android platform to everyone who can’t afford the not-so-cheap mid-range devices while still giving them the chance to get updates from Google. That (updates) is something that has been the reserve of Google’s Android enthusiast favourite Nexus devices and till now almost everyone buying a budget Android smartphone is not guaranteed any updates. The only way to update is to buy a new device. Google’s aim is to reach the next billion smartphone users (it already has over 1 in the fold) and to do so, Android One is what it is banking on. Newer versions of Android like KitKat have already focused so much on optimizing the experience for lowly specced devices and Android L is expected to push that even further.
The three devices have almost similar specifications. A 4.5 inch (845 x 480 pixels) display, 1 GB RAM, 4 GB internal storage (expandable via microSD upto 32 GB), a dual-camera setup (no, not like HTC’s One M8 dual camera. Just front and back cameras at 5 MP for the main camera and 2 MP for the font-facing camera. A front-facing camera is usually missing on devices at such a price point so it’s worth noting) and a quad-core Mediatek processor clocked at 1.3 GHz. There’s also a 1700 mAh battery.
The interesting bit is that as much as Google will be central in providing software updates to the devices, the target market may not necessarily be in a position to get those updates since they are usually heavy (over 100 MB) and it is a big deal in developing countries where 3G coverage is still a privilege. Google is partnering with mobile network operators (Airtel in India) to allow users to access updates for free as well as at least 200MB worth of applications per month for six months for free.
The devices are all priced between 6000 and 7000 Indian Rupees or in other words just slightly over $100.
Android One devices will face competition from the likes of the low cost Lumia devices, the outgoing Nokia X lineup and budget Windows Phone smartphones like the Canvas Win series from Micromax and others that are yet to come. Still, it stands a chance of making the biggest different in a market that has positively embraced other low cost devices like the Moto E and Moto G in the past.
Android One devices will launch in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia next. They should be launching in more countries after that.