Has Google’s Standard Served Its Purpose?
Google unveiled the Android One programme at its Google I/O event in June 2014. Android One smartphones are based on a standard Android build maintained and updated by Google, with early hardware made from a reference design by the company. Features included dual SIM, FM radio and an SD expansion slot. Smartphone makers can use Android One to lower development and maintenance costs and increase scale, pushing prices down to about $100 and encouraging the shift from feature phones to Android products and Internet use.
However, our checks indicate that Android One has had a limited direct effect on the market, despite initial enthusiasm for the programme. Sales of Android One-based smartphones began more than half a year ago in India, but volumes don’t stand out.
The first Android One products came from Karbonn, Micromax and Spice, with more familiar brands expected to begin adopting the platform. Acer, Asus, HTC, Lenovo and Panasonic were among the smartphone manufacturers listed by Google as partners in the project, but this interest appears to have stalled.
The fading momentum of Android One is an indication of the expanding selection of equally well-specified, low-cost smartphones and tablets in emerging markets. Hundreds of models are available at $100 or below — a once impossible price band has become very ordinary.
There’s nothing special about the cost of Android One phones to consumers, with other Android-based products and several Windows Phone models competing favourably on specs and price. Some touch-based feature phones are nearly indistinguishable to smartphones, and are likely to be good enough for many first-time users.
Google’s key objective is connectivity, and has used Android One to place the spotlight on functional, low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. There’s little unique about the products, but Google created a tidal marker with Android One.
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