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At an event that would rival its own I/O developer event held in the US, Google Inc. on Monday launched the first set of Android One phones in India as part of a larger initiative to bring high-quality smartphones at affordable prices, with support for local languages.
These phones are available on online retail shops in India, beginning Monday, and at stores across the country from early October.
The first three Android One smartphones, unveiled at an event on Monday, are the Karbonn Sparkle V, Micromax Canvas A1, and Spice Dream UNO. The Karbonn Sparkle V (magnum blue, mild grey, wild red and pearl white) is available online exclusively on Snapdeal.com; the Micromax Canvas A1 (black, white) is available online exclusively on Amazon.in; and the Spice Dream UNO (black, white) is also available online exclusively on Flipkart.com.
Prices start at Rs.6,399.
The Android One phones run the latest version of Android operating system (4.4 KitKat). They will be some of the first phones to get the new Android L release — an update that will offer Google’s new design, improved battery life, enhanced security features and smarter notifications.
“Android One is our initiative to bring high-quality smartphones to many new markets like India, which have new potential for new smartphone users. We are very excited because with Android One, we are going a step forward than Android, and we are providing a reference platform, and a menu of choice for our OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners to choose various tested and pre-qualified component so that it’s easier to build a phone. And with that, they get the peace of mind of software backed by Google, with security and updates,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president at Google, who oversees Android, Chrome and apps.
The phones feature front- and rear-facing cameras, 1 GB of memory, quad-core MediaTekprocessor, longer battery life as well as features particularly important to Indians, including two SIM slots, FM radio tuner and a microSD card slot for additional storage. Through Google Play, Android One phones have access to over one million apps, while the company’s apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Search, and Google Translate will come preloaded on the phones.
Pichai said Google’s partners will have choices of vendors, “but all of them would have been tested by us”.
“With Android One, we will update the devices regularly, because we understand the ecosystem. This will give the users a base consistency experience. OEMs can still customize but they will be secure. Android One will provide meaningful differentiation, but if an OEM wants to provide a good camera app, there’s nothing to stop it from doing so. So, we’re trying to balance both,” he said.
Android is the dominant operating system in India and across the world.
The worldwide smartphone market grew 25.3% in the June quarter over a year ago, establishing a new single quarter record of 301.3 million shipments, according to data from research firm International Data Corp. (IDC). This is the first time quarterly smartphone shipments have surpassed 300 million, representing a major milestone for the industry.
Android dominated with an 84.7% market share, followed by iOS (from Apple Inc.) with 11.7%, and 2.5% for Windows Phone. The scene is no different in India, with experts estimating the Android to have over 85% of the smartphone market share.
Bharti Airtel Ltd is offering a promotion to reduce data costs for those who buy Android One phones. With an Airtel SIM card, Android One users will get free over-the-air updates, and 200MB per month worth of app downloads from Google Play for the first six months. Additionally, a data compression feature on Android One’s Chrome browser will help compress the amount of data flowing between the phone and the Internet.
Google also announced that in coming weeks, much of YouTube will be available offline in India.
Pichai also announced an expanded set of hardware partners for the Android One initiative, including Acer, Alcatel One Touch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo,Panasonic, and Xolo, as well as chip maker Qualcomm Inc. Google also announced that that Android One phones will launch in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other countries in South Asia such as Bangladesh by the end of the year.
According to Sanchit Gogia, chief analyst and chief executive of Greyhound Research, “Google Android One is going to be a game-changer in India. Their goal is to reach next 5 billion people in emerging markets and a billion in India. This gives them an edge as compared with Microsoft Corp., Apple and Blackberry Ltd.”
“Android One gives Google tighter control over its operating system, which means standardized user interface. Support for seven regional languages is going to be a solid plus over competitors — this will not only help consumers use vernacular, it’s also likely to help promote apps in regional languages,” Gogia added.
He explained that in India, only less than 10% population has access to smartphones, with a price lower than $100. That said, price alone does not drive demand.
“What is missing till now is education on the ground — once Google decides to sell via retail model, more on-the-ground education about Android One will help promote the platform,” he added.
Gogia believes that Google can expect competition, but none has the wherewithal like Google to be as aggressive and invest heavily in the ecosystem. FireFox and Tizen are competition but far from reaching critical volumes. Firefox (in partnership with Spice and Intex) launched two new smartphones, priced below Rs.2,300, aimed at those looking to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
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The dual-SIM devices will sport a 4.5-inch screen with a quad core MediaTek processor, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB internal storage, which can be expanded to 32 GB. It will feature a 5 megapixel rear camera and a 2 MP front camera with replaceable battery and built-in radio. Continue reading