The homepage of Google India proudly proclaimed ‘Meet Android One’ on September 16 – the day when Sundar Pichai (senior VP, Google) announced the launch of this new, low-cost mobile platform. Here’s a roundup of all the key points about this innovative project from Google.
In all the buzz and excitement about the soon-to-release Android L platform, many mobile enthusiasts missed out on a relatively low-key announcement during the annual Google I/O event (held in June). A low-cost version of the Android platform – codenamed Android One – has been announced for the Indian market (there might be expansions later on). With this platform, Google is trying to strengthen its already dominant share in the smartphone sector. In what follows, we have summed up all that you need to know about Android One:
- Why? – There already exists several low-cost Android phones, so why bother creating a whole new variant of the OS? Analysts from mobile app development companies feel that the reason is two-fold – firstly, it would do away with the customizations that the individual carriers and OEMs do on the original Android codes. Also, the presence of a new platform would serve as a buffer against the threat of Samsung’s Tizen OS (whenever it releases).
- How affordable? – All of us are aware of how Apple promised affordability with the iPhone 5C, and then royally messed things up on the price front. Google seems to have learnt from its rival’s mistake. The Android One phones will be priced from Rs. 6399 (around $ 99). In other words, there WILL REMAIN a significant difference between these handsets and the high-end Android phones.
- On which devices? – Android One is set to debut on three handsets – Spice Dream UNO, Micromaxx Canvas A1 and Karbonn Sparkle V. Since the hardware specifications of these phones are almost identical (under the hood), there would be a feel of uniformity across all One devices. What remains to be seen is whether (and if yes, how many?) other OEMs can be roped in for the Android One project.
- Which OS will power Android One phones? – You will have to wait for Lemon Meringue Pie (or will it be Lollipop?) for some time more. Android 4.4.4 KitKat will be the mobile OS powering the devices included under Android One. If the project turns out to be a success, critics who have been doubting the commercial viability of KitKat will be silenced, at least for some time.
- It’s low-cost, so will the phone specs be sub-par? – Sundar Pichai and his team have promised nothing short of the ‘full Android experience’ on all the Android One phones. Users will be able to download Android apps directly from the Google Play Store (without additional skins), while automatic updates will be available for free as well. The built-in Newsstand and Translate apps have been worked upon, to make them more user-friendly than their earlier versions. Google Now – the digital voice assistant – will be available too. The devices will, understandably, focus more on India-based searches.
- What about the phone display? – Nothing to write home about – but most mobile app developers and analysts in India feel that Android One has promised more than decent value-for-money. The screen size is a not-too-bad 4.5” (only a couple of inches lesser than the ultra-hyped iPhone 6). Apart from generic FM radio and dual-SIM features, the One phones will also come with a surprisingly impressive 845×480 pixel resolution level. It’s nothing out of the world, but it’s definitely better than many phones bearing higher price tags!
- Will Wi-Fi be always necessary for updates? – No, it won’t. Google will be rolling out automatic installs and updates that would work even when a user is not in a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is not yet clear whether free updates will be available on the more basic apps for Android, like Gmail, as well. Oh, and there will be an option to save YouTube videos without streaming them, and view them later offline. If watching videos on mobile is your thing, you will love this feature!
- What about storage capacity? – Once again, the storage features of the Android One platform belies its extremely affordable (read: low) pricing. The three One phones will have 1 GB RAM, along with an internal storage capacity of 4 GB. With microSD cards, the latter can be expanded to a maximum of 32 GB. When you consider that 35 GB of Google Drive space would also be available to Android One users – the deal seems really good indeed. Monthly data usage of upto 200 MB (only on Airtel) will also be supported.
- What is carrier billing? – Carrier Billing is, in fact, one of the standout features of Android One. The phones are targeted towards the lower end of the market spectrum – where making mobile payments via credit cards is not at all common. Carrier Billing offers a convenient alternative to that. After every premium downloads/paid data usage, users will be charged according to their specific carrier charges and plans (pre- or post-paid).
- What will be the battery performance and connectivity features? – The Android One phones will run on 1700 mAh battery, which would give them a battery life (under normal usage) of around ten hours. The latest Bluetooth connectivity platform (Bluetooth 4.0) will be supported on the phones. In the wireless environment, the 802.11 b/g/n connectivity promises a robust performance.
- What processor would be used? – The three introductory Android One handsets will run on 1.3 GHz Quadcore processors (MediaTek). This, in turn, would keep the device speeds fairly high. To minimize chances of app crashes and non-responsive screens, later phones might come with Qualcomm processors as well. According to Android app developers and researchers, the recent tie-up between Google and Qualcomm was an indication of that.
- Will Google offer mobile software support? – Oh yes, it will. On all Android One phones, software support will be available directly from Google (just like on the Nexus devices) for 2 years. What’s more – phones will be compatible with the highly-anticipated Android L platform, which should be launched this fall. There will be no carrier-specific customizations – ‘equality’ will be the main point of the Android experience on these devices.
- Will regional languages be supported? – Well, this is a no-brainer. Given that Android One is making its debut in India, it obviously boasts of multi-language support. To start off with, seven different local languages are supported on the low-cost Google mobile platform (including, of course, Hindi). If the phones are well received, there is every chance that more languages will be included in the project.
- From where can the Android One phones be bought? – For the time being, Android One phones can be bought from ONLINE RETAILERS ONLY. You can get the Karbonn, Micromax and Spice phones at Snapdeal, Amazon, and Flipkart respectively. Depending on the user-feedback received, the next set of devices might become available for sale at physical stores.
There is a buzz among mobile app experts that Android One will bolster the popularity of the Facebook application. Google is going really big on this project – with its ‘Showroom On Wheels’ slated to showcase Android One across 20 Indian cities, at over six hundred locations. It is expected that the project would be rolled out to several other South Asian nations by the end of 2015. Asus, Xolo Lava, Lenovo and HTC are some other leading mobile manufacturers that are likely to join in the Android One bandwagon soon. Apple burnt its hands while trying to make a ‘budget iPhone’, but it seems that Google would fare better with its new low-cost series of smartphones.
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