Opinion

Awaiting Android One

Thomas K Thomas | Updated on September 17, 2014

Will the pricing signal be misread by consumers?

Ever since Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, the products and programmes that have emerged from the company’s experiment labs in Mountain View have been nothing short of disruptive, mostly. If the Google search engine redefined the way we use the internet, Google Glass and the balloon-powered internet project called Loon have caught the imagination of millions of users. Unlike technology giants who thrived on users having no option but to buy their products, Google’s success has been primarily focussed on giving customers the best experience through an open source model allowing developers and manufacturers to build innovative products.

Therefore, when the company announced in June its plans to launch the Android One project, aimed at emerging markets, there was expectation that this would be the building blocks for addressing the vexed problem of affordable devices and cheaper connectivity. Led by Sundar Pichai, this is being seen as the beginning of another disruption. But will Android One really change anything? At ₹6,399, the three phones launched initially are not cheap. The three vendors — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — who have partnered Google for the new initiative, have lined up a slew of others with better specifications than the Android One devices at similar price points.

To be fair, the intent to standardise the Android platform for low-end phones is good given that it will ensure faster updates of the software that runs the phone. Most of the Android ecosystem in the low-end segment is in a mess. The move to introduce Android ambassadors or trained personnel at retail outlets to explain the features and functions of the smartphone is another good initiative. If shops selling televisions and air conditioners can have executives giving demos, there was a clear need to have someone explain the features of a smartphone to first-time users. But these are only incremental measures. Nevertheless, Android One cannot be written off yet. These are early days but there is a lot riding on the success of Android One.

(Thomas K Thomas is Corporate Editor)

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Published on September 17, 2014
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