This article originally appeared in Rethink's Wireless Watch
The eyes of the smartphone industry may be fixed on China, but India will be equally important to growth in volumes, if not profits. Apple is finally making progress in a market where it has struggled, but Android One, the program Google launched last year with India in mind, has reportedly failed to make much impact so far.
According to research by CCS Insight, Android One has had “limited direct effect on the market, despite initial enthusiasm for the program. Sales of Android One-based smartphones began more than half a year ago in India but volumes don’t stand out.”
Android One is a reference platform to support very low cost smartphones, with guaranteed updates for two years so that users would have the latest software versions, even on low end devices. That, of course, was designed to increase usage of web services, particularly Google’s own, which are the centrepiece of the user experience.
It also encourages low end cellphone makers to move up to Android smartphones, by significantly reducing their costs of development and maintenance. Google provides a complete environment including the updates and the initiative targets sub-$100 unsubsidized handsets.
Local vendors Karbonn, Micromax and Spice released the first Android One handsets in India in September, but international players Acer, Asus, HTC, Lenovo and Panasonic – which were announced as partners – have not yet released products. CCS comments that “this interest appears to have stalled”.
This may be because the need for Android One is fading, as more low cost smartphones appear without the help of such programs. “The fading momentum of Android One is an indication of the expanding selection of equally well-specified, low cost smartphones and tablets in emerging markets,” says the CCS report. “Hundreds of models are available at $100 or below – a once impossible price band has become very ordinary.”