Google’s Android One initiative, outlined at I/O 2014, is designed to bring quality, low-cost smartphones to developing countries, catering to specific needs while tackling key issues with the current crop of locally available hardware. Today, the company has taken the wraps off the first wave of certified smartphones that are available to purchase in India right now.
While smartphone use in major markets like the US has reached (more or less) saturation point, there are still more than 5 billion people in the world who don’t own a smart handset. That’s a lot of potential customers, making it easy to see why Google is keen to make its mark.
As the company points out, when it comes to smartphones, there are several issues with the status quo in markets such as India. In a nutshell – quality hardware is too expensive, devices run out-of-date software, and many smartphones either don’t support data, or plans are too expensive.
The company plans to tackle the issues by providing reference designs and helping manufacturers pick components. Devices that qualify for Android One status have to adhere to certain standards, such as having quality front and rear cameras and expandable storage, as well as region-specific features such as dual SIM compatibility and built-in FM radios.
The devices will also benefit from the latest 4.4 KitKat flavor of Android, as well as software updates straight from Google. The company has promised that One handsets will be some of the first devices to make the jump to Android L.
Google has also worked with Airtel to provide users with cheaper data. If you’re an Android One user with an Airtel SIM you’ll receive free Google updates for six months and 200 MB worth of app downloads, neither of which will contribute to your data allowance.
The first three smartphones in the initiative are available right now in India and exhibit identical specs. They’re made by Karbonn, Micromax and Spice, and pack fairly expansive 4.5-inch 480 x 854 displays, Cortex A7 1.3 GHz quad core processors, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB expandable storage. There are also dual SIM slots on board, as well as 5 MP and 2 MP cameras.
The devices retail for Rs.6,399 (about US$105), and are just the first of many certified devices to hit the region, with manufacturers including HTC, Asus, Acer and Lenovo gearing up for releases by the end of the year.
Google’s ambitions aren’t limited to India. There are plans to extend the project to South Asia and the Philippines by the end of the year, with further expansion planned for 2015.
Check out the video below for more on Android One in India.