September 4, 2014

Android One - A late Google Bugle?

September 04, 2014 Posted by Vijay No comments
Is Google late into the party? At a time when local players like Micromax, Lava and Karbonn are redefining budget smartphones in India, Google wants to enter the rat race with Android One. Announced in June, Android One is Google's initiative to give a pure Google experience to millions of customers wanting to switch to a smartphone from a feature phone. While the whole intent is to give the pure android and google experience, the end objective is to bring as many users into the Google's internet web. A perfect strategy, but one which could fall flat if local market sentiments are not given due respect.

India is too cost conscious for Google to bring out smartphones priced at over $100. Though on average disposable income is on the rise, the average Indian customer is still very picky when it comes to pricing. Firefox has already made an aggressive entry with phones priced at $30-$40 which is probably more than enough for first timers or those who are from the lower income strata. And then there is the middle class which is equally cost conscious and since the days of Moto G, the choices in the $100 market are abundant. Options range from Windows phones running on the latest 8.1 to the explosive new entrant, Xiaomi. Xiaomi's Redmi 1S phone with its hardware specs and pricing easily beats all local players to dust. Of course, its unique and times frustrating strategy could also backfire.

Xiaomi's Redmi phone is priced less than 100$, Micromax offers kitkat phones at the same price range. So do Asus Zenfone 4 series and Xolo to name a few. Even if Google promises latest software updates to Android One handsets, the pricing of $100 or more could defeat the whole purpose. Instead of being a phone with mass appeal and availability it will end up being a very niche market. Reason being, that a new customer wouldn't care if Google releases a new version or not. All they want is a touchscreen interface, with games, reasonable speed, a quality camera and internet to browse. If a Jelly Bean phone or a Windows 8.1 or Firefox phone can give that same experience it may not really matter.

So it is important more for Google, than Micromax or Spice - to enable aggressive pricing for the Android One smartphones. Those who follow the latest in mobile technology would be excited and willing to invest in the Android One experience - because of Google's support and version updates. But if pricing is not reasonable the whole plan to have a mass android adoption will fall flat. Micromax or Spice may not care much. They have other aggressively priced handsets to keep competing and gaining market share from Samsung and others.