In June at Google’s I/O developer conference, the company announced a new initiative called Android One.
Its aim was to increase Android’s push into emerging markets with a set of reference specs for low-cost smartphones that would be able to run the latest versions of Google’s mobile OS.
The first Android One devices were expected to go on sale in the autumn in India, and yesterday, Google announced further details. The first Android One smartphones are being made by Micromax, Karbonn, Spice and MediaTek in India, with Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo and Qualcomm to follow.
The phones all have dual SIM cards (an important feature in India), replaceable batteries and FM radio features, as well as access to Android software updates from Google, and its Google Play ecosystem for apps and media. The phones will start at Rs 6,399 (around $105) with Google inking partnerships with mobile operators to bundle in data.
“While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population — over five billion more — do not,” wrote Google SVP Sundar Pichai in a blog post outlining ambitions for Android One, which will make its way to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka by the end of this year.
“That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people.”
Music implications? For starters, YouTube is getting its long-trailed offline mode for smartphones in India, as part of the launch.
“In coming weeks much of YouTube will be available offline in India, meaning that people can store videos in the YouTube app when they are on WiFi and watch them later,” explained Google’s press release. “A great benefit for times with a slow connection or re-watching videos without using up the data plan.”
We’ll be interested to see whether music videos fall into the “much of YouTube” part of that. But on a wider level, if Android One smartphones sell well in India and beyond, they’ll be an important base for digital music services, if they can negotiate the data usage challenges. Here, too, telco partnerships may be key.