Tech giant Google has unveiled a smartphone platform that aims to win over masses of people it has never reached before -- Android One phones are rolling out in India at a cost of $105.
Google first announced the initiative at its annual Google I/O developers' conference in June. The idea is to manufacture high-quality smartphones that are as accessible to as many people in as many places as possible. It’s all about knowledge -- and offering access to knowledge -- over an Internet connection on a smartphone.
Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome & Apps at Google, said knowledge is a game changer and he’s inspired by the Internet and how it opens doors to opportunity. Google Search offers the same information to a Nobel Laureate at a world-class research center as it does to a young student at a rural school in Indonesia, he said.
Tackling Smartphone Challenges
“If we look at how people are getting online and accessing information today, increasingly it’s through a smartphone. While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population -- over 5 billion more -- do not,” Pichai said.
“That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the Web. We want to bring these experiences to more people,” he added.
Android One addresses what Pichai sees as the three big reasons it’s hard for people in countries like India, the Philippines or Indonesia to get their hands on high-quality smartphones. The first obstacle is the hardware. Pichai explains: “Even entry-level smartphones still remain out of reach for many -- bear in mind that in some of these countries the average monthly income is around $250.”
On top of that, many people in emerging markets don’t have access to the most up-to-date software and the applications that run on top of the mobile operating system. Then there’s the issue of connectivity. Even when consumers in these nations can tap into 3G or 4G networks, a relative few have phones that can support data and plans can be too expensive for the average budget.
“Android One aims to help tackle these challenges,” Pichai said. “By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable.”
Android One Expanding
Pichai said Android One phones also have plenty of processing power that allows consumers to access information quickly, as well as front- and rear-facing cameras and expandable storage. Android One phones even come with dual SIM cards, built-in FM radios and replaceable batteries.
Pichai promised this is just the beginning for Android One. And that beginning includes phones from hardware partners Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice that are rolling out now in India. Google is also adding more manufacturing partners, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, and Xolo.
“We expect to see even more high-quality, affordable devices with different screen sizes, colors, hardware configurations and customized software experiences,” Pichai said. “Access for access’ sake is not enough. With Android One, we not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the Web holds for everyone.”
Google plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of the year, with more countries to follow in 2015.