Android One is (cynics would say ‘was’) an ambitious project by Google. The company intended to bring sub $100 smartphones with specifications that would deliver decent performance combined with fast, over-the-air updates to the latest version of Android directly from Google.
The Android One initiative was targeted at emerging countries and made its debut in India. The idea was to team up with local manufacturers and create devices that would provide a smooth and updated Android experience at very low prices. The project initially received a good response from a number of manufacturers but then ran out of steam with not too many devices coming out and even the much talked about software updates not being delivered on time. This has been the case not just in India but all across the world. However, there might be life left in Android One yet, especially if some of the rumors making the circles in the tech world are to be believed.
As per the most recent of these, Google is going to partner with Chinese smartphone maker, Xiaomi, for the Android One initiative.
In my opinion, this may be exactly what the Android One project needs to reinvigorate itself. No, this is not a random guess. These are the reasons why Xiaomi could well turn around the Android One.
1. Xiaomi is stronger than ever in India
The Android One project was developed with emerging countries in mind and India is definitely the biggest fish in the pond. If the Xiaomi Android One device does well in India, then that in itself would be a big victory for Google considering the sheer size of the Indian smartphone market. Xiaomi started out as a small smartphone manufacturer in India a few years ago, but as per the latest quarterly results, is now the second largest smartphone manufacturer in India just behind Samsung with a market share of 17 percent as of Q2 2017, and a handsome sales growth of 25 percent on a Q-o-Q basis.
Xiaomi, today, has established itself as a well-known and dominant smartphone brand in India. People have finally begun trusting Xiaomi like they would trust a big brand – something that was not the case a few years ago. Xiaomi’s huge market share makes its word of mouth marketing strategy all the more effective. In short, the number of people that would have second thoughts on purchasing a Xiaomi device is way lesser than before. At this moment, any smartphone that the company unveils has the potential to do really well. And that includes an Android One device.
2. Xiaomi has mastered the specs-price equation
Xiaomi has a knack for creating smartphones that provide surprisingly good specs at very affordable prices. Xiaomi already has the hardware side of things nailed down. In such a scenario, if a company like Google is willing to load up a feature/spec packed Xiaomi Android One device with stock Android and provide it with the latest software updates, then that would be a deadly combination – earlier Android One devices suffered from mediocre hardware and poor design, something that is unlikely to be the case with a Xiaomi phone.
Xiaomi also has a highly active developer community that uses every opportunity to load up custom ROMs on their devices – it would lap up a stock Android-based Xiaomi device.
3. Xiaomi’s highly streamline product portfolio
4. Xiaomi’s online dominance and growing offline presence
One the main reasons Android One had a slow start in India was because of a push back from retailers. The fact that the first generation of Android One devices had launched online first irked quite a lot of large chain retailers which decided not to stock the device. Since the manufacturers of the first generation of Android One devices were offline first and derived a large portion of their sales from the offline market, this had a negative effect on Android One. That, however, is not the case with Xiaomi. Xiaomi started as an online retailer and still derives the vast majority of its sales from the online market – it is estimated that around 80 percent of Xiaomi’s sales come from the online market. But along with maintaining its online dominance, Xiaomi has also started expanding offline by tying up with a number of large format mobile phone retail chains all over India.
5. The timing is right
Indian smartphone manufacturers are at an all-time low, their sales and market position on a constant decline. The only international smartphone maker to still do well in India is Samsung which has managed to cling onto its No.1 spot albeit with continuously reducing market share. Chinese smartphone manufacturers have cornered a large part of the Indian smartphone market and even amongst them, it is Xiaomi that dominates the low-end of the smartphone market which Google aims to target with Android One. If Google plays its cards right, then an alliance with Xiaomi could be the defining move that reinvigorates Android One.