It’s official. Google has launched the first set of Android One based smartphones in India starting at Rs.6399 (approximate USD 105). Google has partnered with three local OEMs in India – Micromax, Karbonn and Spice. The phones carry Google’s hardware reference design and will run stock android with fast automatic OS updates handled by Google itself.
Google is aiming to capture the low-cost budget segment in the world’s fastest growing smartphone market. Currently only 29% of about 920 million mobile phone users in India own smartphones. Google is aiming to capture 40% market share with Android One launch in India.
Android One Expansion Plans
Google says it plans to expand Android One to Indonesia, Phillippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014 and in more countries in 2015. More Android One devices are expected to launch in coming months priced above and below the current price band of Rs.6300. Google also announced that Android One will be launched by other OEMs including Alcatel, Panasonic, Asus, Acer, Xolo and HTC. Also, it won’t be restricted to run on Mediatek processors as Qualcomm will join the program soon.
Each of the three OEMs have partnered with an eCommerce giant to sell their first Android One smartphones in India. Micromax has partnered with Amazon.in, while Karbonn has gone with Snapdeal and Spice has partnered with Flipkart for the exclusive launch deal.
As leaked on Flipkart yesterday, Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498 comes with a 1.3GHz quad-core Mediatek chipset with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot, dual-SIM with both SIM card slots supporting 3G networks, 5-megapixel/2-megapixel cameras, 1,700mAh battery and running the latest Android KitKat. It seems all three phones will carry similar hardware with different build and designs.
Update: Karbon has announced the Karbonn Sparkle V Android One smartphone on Snapdeal with nearly same specs as the Spice Dream Uno for Rs.6399.
Google also made it clear that all the three Andorid One devices launched today will be some of the first phones to get the new Android L OS on release. Also, the phones will not be sold exclusively online forever. They will eventually make it to the brick and mortar stores by Diwali this year.
According to EconomicTimes, Android One devices will include support for seven additional languages including Hindi. Android One will come bundled with local language support for Hindi, which is the first language for over 40% of the Indian population, ET reported last week. Indian users will be able to give voice commands, type messages and use almost all major mobile applications in Hindi.
In addition to partnering with OEMs for the handsets, Google has partnered with the local telcos to make internet cheaper and accessible. Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications are likely to offer bundled data plans with the Android One smartphones.
Update: Google has also partnered with telecom operator Airtel to offer 200MB of free data each month (for 6 months) with all Android One phones, which can be used for app downloads as well as software updates.
Also, Google has announced that in coming weeks much of YouTube will be available offline in India, meaning that people can store videos in the YouTube app when they are on WiFi and watch them later — a great benefit for times with a slow connection or re-watching videos without using up the data plan.
On first look, these first set of Android One smartphones look overpriced for what they offer in terms of hardware. Other phones like Xiaomi Redmi 1S and Asus Zenfone 4.5 offer much better hardware for same (or lesser) price. Google is hoping that automatic (and fast) OS updates will lure the customers towards Android One phones, but we are not sure how much the consumers in this price segment care about latest OS updates over decent hardware. The other competitor, Motorola’s Moto E also promises near stock Android experience with fast updates, so again, the advantage for Android One looks minuscule on first look.