Android One is an exciting program. Inexpensive devices with standard hardware running stock Android, with lightning-fast updates straight from Google - what's not to like? But according to a report this weekend, Android One hasn't been as successful in its premiere market as Google would have liked. The Financial Times, in an interview with Google's managing director for India and Southwest Asia, reports that big changes are coming to the series. First up: even cheaper Android-powered phones.
When One launched in India last year, the first set of phones were sold at around the 5000 Rupee mark - somewhere in the $80 range in USD. (A later Indian Android One Model, the Lava Pixel V1, targeted the mid-range market with better specs and an 11,000 Rupee price tag.) That's impressive, but in a country where hundreds of millions of consumers are entering the mobile market for the first time and hoping to do it for as little money as possible, Google and its local manufacturing partners still found themselves frequently beaten on price. Supply chain problems didn't help - even those who wanted Android One devices found them thin on the ground, giving the platform an uphill battle against entrenched local sellers.
The plan, according to managing director Rajan Anandan, is to race to the bottom. The next wave of Android devices will try to get retail, unlocked prices below 3000 Rupees (about $47) and possibly as low as 2000 Rupees. That will be coupled with a new focus on local search in non-English regional languages, competing with Indian startups already dominating the market. If selling phones at such a low price seems like it wouldn't be worth it, remember that Google isn't in it for the hardware - they want to be the go-to search/maps/video/everything else provider for the market in the future. "...we’re here really because 10 years from now a billion Indians will be online and when we have a billion Indians online we think that’s going to make a huge difference to the global internet economy," said Anandan. A previous rumor postulated that Google might try to make at least some applications use little to no data specifically to benefit areas where data coverage is relatively expensive.
That's certainly an understandable long-term goal. The question will be whether Google can make Android One worth it for Indian consumers here and now... not to mention Indian and Chinese phone manufacturers who are already working with extremely thin profit margins in an incredibly competitive market. Presumably Android One's second-gen standardized hardware designs would expand to other markets soon after an Indian launch. Financial Times quotes Anandan, who said that the rebooted Android One program would be announced "in the next few weeks."
- Financial Times