Google introduced Android One in June as a means of setting competitive but low-cost specifications for budget smartphones. India got a first look on Sept. 15 as the company officially released the platform in the country.
Google is teaming up with Karbonn, Spice, and Micromax to push Android One smartphones in India. Expected to retail for about $105, the smartphones are reported to feature 4.5-inch displays, 1.3GHz quad-core processors, 1GB RAM, expandable storage via microSD, FM radios, and dual-sim support.
This isn't the first time that more affordable smartphones have been made available in emerging markets but this is the first effort that Google is putting into creating respectable Android experiences for those on a budget.
Google makes this possible by running stock Android on all Android One smartphones without customizations from manufacturers. By offering software updates, Google seeks to avoid situations where users are stuck on early Android versions because their low-powered smartphones aren't supported by updates.
It makes sense for Google to tap into India first to promote Android One because the country is home to the world's second biggest mobile market. However, it has a low smartphone penetration rate at just 10 percent of over 900 million mobile phone users in India.
"Access for access's sake is not enough. With Android One, we not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the web holds for everyone," wrote Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Android, Chrome & Apps, in a blog post on Sept. 15.
Google has to act fast as well because competition is on the rise. Just last month, Mozilla Corp. began selling its own low-cost smartphone line running on the Firefox operating system and costing under $40 in India. Not to mention it has to stand head-to-head against Samsung, Motorola, and Xiaomi who have all released similarly priced devices.
The first of the Android One smartphones was actually spotted by AndroidOs in an online listing on Indian retailer Flipkart. Called the Spice Dream Uno, the Android One smartphone will be fitted with an 854x480 LCD display, a 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, 1GB RAM, and a 5 megapixel rear camera. It was priced at $115 before the listing was taken down.
After India, Android One will be released in Indonesia and the Philippines and the rest of South Asia by the end of the year. Emerging markets in other countries will have to wait for 2015.