When the Yunique, the latest product in the YU series of products was released earlier this week, one term was conspicuous by its absence. It did get mentioned once on stage, but it found no mention either in the press release of the product or even on its packaging – places where it had featured prominently in the past.
For those unfamiliar with the whole Cyanogen saga in India, the OS made its first official appearance in the country through the OnePlus One last year. However, within weeks of its launch, it got embroiled in a legal hassle as it signed an exclusive contract with Micromax, which soured its relationship with OnePlus to the extent that many believe it forced OnePlus to work on its own OS, Oxygen (which comes pre-installed on the OnePlus 2).
Now, in India, Cyanogen was supposed to be ‘officially’ available only on products with the YU brandname. And the first three phones from the company – the Yureka, the Yuphoria and the Yureka Plus, all three came with Cyanogen out of the box. However, there were indications that there would be more to the YU brand than just the Cyanogen association – proof of which came with the YU Fit smartband, which opened to reviews that were at best mixed (evidently due to a calibration issue). Then came the YuPix, which was a portable photo printer for iOS and Android devices. Looming on the horizon also is the YU Yubic portable speaker, which is expected to hit the market in the coming days.
But it was the Yunique that provided the clearest indication that YU was looking to life beyond Cyanogen. Yes, it was announced on stage that the phone would support Cyanogen 12.1, but the device itself came with stock Android 5.1 installed on it. And if rumours of the next YU device (which some claim will be called the 5050, and will boast a Snapdragon 810 processor, 4 GB RAM and a 21.0-megapixel camera) are true, then that worthy, which will perhaps be the most powerful device to issue forth from the portals of YU (or Micromax for that matter), will not run Cyanogen either, but will again be a stock Android device that will go for to toe with the OnePlus 2.
Interestingly, YU’s seemingly distancing itself from Cyanogen comes even as the OS is being linked to other brands – most notably Lenovo, which some say will even have a whole range of phones called the ZUK, which will run Cyanogen (that sounds a bit like YU did not so long ago, doesn’t it?). There is also talk – unconfirmed, we must stress – that YU’s agreement with Cyanogen runs out at the end of the current year.
All of which does point towards a new direction for YU, one in which it seems to be more keen to stand on its own feet than lean on association with another brand. The brand has always claimed to be focused on the nation’s geeks and that does not seem likely to change even though its portfolio seems set to move beyond phones and expand into accessories and wearables (a YU smartwatch, some say, is in the works). And judging by some of the cheers that greeted the announcement that the Yunique would run on stock Android rather than Cyanogen, we do not see too many of the geek brigade complaining as long as the brand continues its attempts to serve tech at affordable prices.