There are plenty of handset makers that are producing Android-powered smartphones. In order to differentiate itself from the rest, and have its own little ecosystem running on top of Android — allowing them to push their own content — several companies heavily customize the stock Android operating system. We have seen this with Xiaomi, and now the Indian OEM Lava is prepping to do the same.
The Noida-based manufacturer is introducing Hive, a heavily customized Android-based OS on their smartphones on August 6th. The company will be deploying the Hive OS on its upcoming smartphone Xolo Play 8X-1000.
We have seen many companies going this path over the past few months. Xiaomi, the world’s fifth largest smartphone manufacturer, puts Android-based MIUI OS in its smartphones. The Chinese giant is not alone, Amazon has been doing the same on its Kindle Fire devices, and so did Nokia with the Nokia X series.
However, in the latter two cases, the vendors were using Android’s AOSP and had cut the cords of Google Mobile Services. In case of Xiaomi, however, despite the presence of its own apps and content streams, you can still fire up the Google’s Play Store and download apps right from there. This is what Hugo Barra calls – Compatible Fork of Android – which means their forked OS still passes Google’s compatibility test.
Lava aims to mirror the Xiaomi’s strategy, and says that it will make its own apps and content available to the users. “Lava has developed the entire custom ROM (Android-based operating system) and UI (user interface) by itself. We will be going out in a Xiaomi kind of direction. Xiaomi has a custom ROM and they try to push a lot of content and they try to keep their users more engaged,” SN Rai, cofounder of Lava international told Economic Times.
Lava has become one of the leading manufacturers in the country. Its premium smartphone brand, Xolo has been faring well in the market. The company is aiming to trickle up its market share from 6 percent to 10 percent.
At the I/O event few weeks ago, Google announced Android One, a program that will help the company bring $100 smartphones in the developing nations starting in India. Google has partnered with Micromax, Spice, and Karbonn for producing the handsets that will run the stock Android and let the devices snag updates more often and faster.
While Lava hasn’t partnered with Google for the Android One project, according to Rai, Hive OS will do the same to them, what Android One will do to Google. Furthermore, Lava could possibly license the Hive OS to other smartphone makers.
“With Android One, Google is trying to control the user experience. They will have the actual advantage with consumer behaviour insights. Under the Android One project, Google is not allowing smartphone players to change anything. Just a few customisations can be done at the skin level,” he said.
We see this as a great move from Lava to differentiate itself from the crowd. But then, the path won’t be easy enough for the company. Xiaomi has managed to garner a huge support from the developer community for their MIUI ROM, which has a user base of over 65 million across devices from various manufacturers. Can Lava manage to do the same? Let’s wait and watch.