Android One: Here’s why Google will own India’s low-cost smartphone segment

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Google launched in India on Monday the first smartphones powered by its Android One operating system, pricing them at around 6,399 rupees ($105) to capture the low-cost segment of the world’s fastest growing smartphone market. Google launched the phones in partnership with Indian mobile phone makers Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobiles.

Commenting on the Android One launch in India, Greyhound Research chief analyst Sanchit Gogia says, “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 Microsoft, Apple and Blackberry.”

“AndroidOne gives Google tighter control over the Google OS which means standardised UX. 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 language,” he adds.

In India, only less than 10 percent population has access to smartphones, with a price lower that $100 or Rs 5,000, it is going to be a common man’s smartphone. 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 AndroidOne will help promote the platform, Gogia believes.

Greyhound Research 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.

Both, Microsoft and Apple are not eyeing this market at all, so we can safely expect Google to pretty much own this market. Eventually, AndroidOne will touch tablets as well. Google “AndroidOne surely is going to end the OS fragmentation – standardised OS with the best-fit hardware, tons of apps and no competition!”

Moreover, Gogia feels this launch is very timely given the recent focus by the Government of India on using technology to touch citizens. One of the key use cases will be the use of mobile devices in helping provide banking services to the unbanked. We can also expect increasing focus from the developer community on making apps that will help improve citizen life and information availability.

Greyhound Research also believes that while this launch will help increase mindshare (and marketshare) amongst consumers, a lot of these smartphones will be used in enterprises. This is a critical point given the increase in adoption of a MobileFirst and BYOD policies amongst enterprises in India. This also indicates an increased cost for enterprises to support these devices.

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