Announced at the the Google I/O 2014 development conference in June 2014, Android One is Google’s new reference platform for emerging markets, with a sub-$100 price tag and solid hardware specs, including a 4.5″ screen, dual SIM slots, SD card port, FM radio, etc. Wasting no time, Google has already brought the new platform to market, via initial product releases in India from Karbonn, Micromax and Spice Smart Phones. The new handsets are already attracting some good reviews, with strong marks for the critical areas of screens, performance, and above all, the solid qualities of the stock Android OS iteration basic to Android One.
“Always the latest features. The world’s favorite apps. And hardware that’s perfectly tuned for Android,” reads the Android One blurb. “Introducing a new kind of smartphone: Android One. A phone with a philosophy.”
Judging from the writeups and the rest of the platform description, that philosophy is world domination – starting with the fast-expanding developing markets. The visuals on the Android One site are tuned to a customer base from Latin America to Africa then India and Asia, especially the rising middle classes. As well as Indian manufacturers like Micromax and Spice Smart Phones, the partner roster on the Android One site also includes more familiar manufacturers like Acer, Asus, HTC, and Lenovo, indicating that the new platform is going to enjoy a really broad and deep base of maker support.
Furthermore, the new phones run Android 4.4 Kit Kat out of the box, and the promise on the Android One site is that the platform “automatically gets the new version soon after it’s released. Whether in a month or in two years, Android One phones get better with time.” So the installed user base of Android L could be jumpstarted by Android One as the newest version of the OS goes live.
Massive understatement of the week – the potential for Android One is huge. As The Indian Express points out, India is already on track to be the world’s largest base of internet users, at over 300 million – yet even beyond that number, with over 75 percent of the Indian population still having next to no access to the internet or modern telecoms at all. Google aims for Android One to be one of the key portals for that much much vaster future user base to come online. That could dwarf almost anything that any other competing player has in the market. And Google already has plans for Indonesia and the Philippines to follow with their own Android One devices. Watch these spaces.
It will be interesting to see if this solves the Android fragmentation problem. Obviously, Google sees that fragmentation is perpetuated by the carriers so is this just the first stage in pushing them aside if they don’t snap to it and facilitate upgrades? Clearly, this is a solvable problem but Google will probably have to break a lot of eggs for this omelet. They will have to become more like Apple in this regard, taking over the hardware.
The remaining big issue is privacy/security and this is, by definition, un-solvable for Google because compromising privacy and security (needed for data mining) is their bread and butter. This simply isn’t going to be resolved in Android. Still, millions upon millions will happily trade their privacy for cheaper hardware and software. A kind of social contract?
And, so, the world bifurcates into two camps: those who are willing and able to secure their privacy/security and those who are more interested in the immediate gratification of cheap. Short-run hegemony is a hallmark of the disadvantaged.
Why is privacy at issue only with Google and free products? Amazon has been storing huge amounts of reading habits data of paying customers for years.
@Paolo, Agreed that Google is not alone in monetizing or leveraging data about us but they are probably the clearest and largest example of the practice. Amazon and others collect data too, albeit on a different scale and with different uses. Anyone who collects and stores data about us can be coerced (by governments) or tricked (by hackers) into revealing it against our wishes. Other firms could stop holding onto our data and still survive. Google cannot survive without our data.
It’s arguable that Google collects personal data on a larger scale than other businesses, but I think it’s important to consider that online businesses aren’t the only ones based on that. Credit card companies and credit reporting agencies come to mind, but charities and newspapers and magazines all have also traditionally profited by collecting and selling their subscriber lists. Google isn’t more evil because of its scale.