The Information is back with another juicy Android rumor today, this time on the subject of Google's Android One initiative, the company's effort to launch low-end handsets in developing countries that offer software updates directly from Google instead of carriers or device OEMs.
According to Amir Efrati, Google is exploring an expansion of Android One's benefits for users in these regions, where mobile data coverage is not only unreliable, but also disproportionately expensive compared to the rest of the world. Google wants to help alleviate some of the mobile data burden on users by "zero rating" data transmission for certain applications. That is, Google is attempting to form relationships with carriers and developers whereby certain apps would not use any of the allotted data on your mobile data plan.
The consumer draw is easy to see here. While Android One's offer of a "pure" and up-to-date Android experience may be moderately alluring to enthusiasts, less tech-savvy consumers aren't necessarily going to be all that interested. But if, for example, your WhatsApp/WeChat/LINE texting wouldn't use any of your mobile data, that could be very interesting to lots of people.
Zero rating isn't a new practice, and Google itself apparently tried to launch a zero-rating program for its own apps a few years back in some parts of the world, before eventually abandoning the effort.
Google is starting work on this initiative with companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal in India, along with developers of apps like Ola Cabs and Redbus. The idea is that Google will be a zero-rating middleman: developers work with Google to get their apps zero-rated, and Google works with the carriers to zero-rate all the developers it represents. The program isn't attempting to make all of your mobile data usage free, though, and is focusing on apps that consume a finite amount of data to begin with, at least for now. So, don't expect your VoIP calls or YouTube binges to be getting billed to the big G any time soon.
Google allegedly wants to expand this program outside of the initial Android One countries - if it makes it that far in the first place - but there isn't any talk about the US or Europe in The Information's article, so this seems aimed squarely at the developing world for the time being.
But perhaps we can hope, especially with news that Google may be considering launching its own MVNO here in America. Free YouTube streaming, anyone?
- The information