In the next few weeks Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and its partners will expand the search giant's Android One phone initiative beyond India to the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The world's first Android One phone was unveiled in September for around $105, and the wider program represents Google's most intensive effort yet to not only expand Android to entry-level phones in emerging markets also to control the user experience.
Caesar Sengupta, a vice president of product management at Google, wrote in a company blog post that the three new countries have a combined population of more than 200 million people. He noted a "wide range of manufacturers and network partners such as Banglalink" will begin to sell Android One smartphones.
"In addition to Micromax, Karbonn and Spice, Bangladesh's own Symphony will launch their first Android One phone with the Symphony Roar A50," he added. "All these devices will give people a high quality mobile experience for an affordable price, running stock-Android with updates from Google."
Sengupta said there will be more hardware partners and carriers launching Android One phones in more countries, and that Google is "excited to see the diverse array of devices our partners will offer in 2015 and beyond."
The Android One program is designed to enable device makers to produce entry-level Android phones that will get the latest Android software updates, have access to all of Google's mobile services and in general be a cut above most cheap Android phones in emerging markets today, which often have low-end hardware and out-of-date software.
The initiative also represents Google's effort to exert more control over how users experience Android in countries such as India, as Android One devices will receive the latest versions of Android directly from Google. That is similar to how Google manages its Nexus device program, in which the devices run stock Android software and Google manages software updates. The program ensures that these phones will come loaded with Google's services, which is partly how Google makes money off of Android--by placing advertising in Google services like Search and Maps.
In India, Google partnered with device makers Micromax, Karbonn and Spice and operator Bharti Airtel. However, Google said it will also work on the program with a wide range of partners, including Acer, Alcatel One Touch, Asus, HTC, Intex Technologies, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo and chipset giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).
As smartphone price points drop around the world, the rush is on among some platform and device companies to grab market share in emerging markets. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone hardware partners have been working on phones that cost less than $200. Mozilla is also working with Intex and other Indian partners to deliver low-cost Firefox OS phones for around $33.
- see this Google blog post
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this ZDNet article
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