Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) sent out invitations for a media event in India on Sept. 15, according to gadget website NDTV, where it is expected to formally announce the first low-cost smartphones as part of its Android One initiative.
In its invitation, the search giant did not reveal any information about the event--only that it would give out more information closer to the event. However, the timing and setting could indicate that the announcement will be geared around Android One, which Google announced in June at its I/O developer conference. Three Indian devices makers--Karbonn, Micromax and Spice Mobile--have committed to supporting the program.
Android One is designed to provide a software and hardware reference design to smartphone makers that Google said will help lower the cost of developing and making Android phones. Google has said that Micromax, for example, can build a 4.5-inch Android device for under $100. Android One phones likely will be available for under $200.
Further, Google is also making sure Android One phones will run stock Android, get automatic updates and access Google's Play Store for apps and media content. The overall effect is to make the hardware and software experience on devices in emerging markets more on par with higher-end devices in the developed world, and to ensure that users can get updates easily.
According to analysts, Android already has a strong foothold in the entry-level smartphone category in emerging markets. "During the second quarter, 58.6 percent of all Android smartphone shipments worldwide cost less than $200 off contract, making them very attractive compared to other devices," IDC analyst Ramon Llamas recently noted. "With the recent introduction of Android One, in which Google offers reference designs below $100 to Android OEMs, the proportion of sub-$200 volumes will climb even higher."
As smartphone price points drop around the world, the rush is on among some platform and device companies to grab market share there. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone hardware partners are expected produce devices this year that cost less than $200.
Specifically, Microsoft is working with Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) to bring its lower-end smartphone chips to Windows Phone devices this year, and is also allowing its partners to use Qualcomm reference design chips, which could reduce device costs. Further, new Windows Phone OEM and ODM partners include Foxconn, Gionee, Lava, Lenovo, Longcheer, JSR, Karbonn, Micromax, Prestigio and ZTE. Many of those companies have strong positions in emerging markets like China and India where devices are cheaper than in Western markets.
Meanwhile, in August Mozilla partnered with Intex Technologies to release the Cloud FX smartphone as the first Firefox OS smartphone available in India, costing 1,999 rupees, or around $33. Firefox OS phones are designed as entry-level devices for customers buying their first smartphone. Jane Hsu, Mozilla's director of product marketing, recently told Bloomberg the company will announce other deals with Indian smartphone makers in the coming weeks, though she declined to identify them.
- see this NDTV article
- see this The Verge article
- see this Engadget article
- see this 9to5Google article
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