In just about 13 hours from now, Google will unveil the first Android One smartphones at a press conference in New Delhi. Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president for Android, Chrome and Apps, will initiate the proceedings and will unveil his vision of bringing a great Android experience with timely software updates to $100 smartphones.
Pichai unveiled Android One at the company’s annual Google I/O developer event earlier this year. The promise is to bring the “pure” Android experience on affordable smartphones. Think about it as Google’s Nexus program but for mass market $100 smartphones.
At the event Pichai promised that the smartphones will run on stock Android and Google, not the smartphone vendors, will push Android updates as and when they come. These devices will be automatically updated and so will the apps downloaded from Google’s Play Store.
The Android One program would start with India and Google has tied up with Micromax, Karbonn and Spice as its vendor partners for the first Android One smartphones. The first Android One smartphones will come with a 4.5-inch display, dual-SIM card slots, microSD card slot and FM radio. Thanks to the leak from Flipkart, now we also know that these smartphones will have a 1.3GHz quad-core processor from Mediatek, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. On the multimedia front, the phones will have a 5-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front facing cameras. The rear camera is capable of shooting 1080p HD videos.
Apart from the vendors, Google has also tied up with three online retailers. The Android One smartphones will initially be sold exclusively via online retailers, though sources tell BGR India that the smartphones will eventually be sold at brick and mortar stores as well. The online exclusivity could last for just 15 days. Amazon India has been paired with Micromax, Flipkart with Spice and Snapdeal with Karbonn.
BGR India learns that while all the three smartphones are the same devices internally, there might be marginal difference in the industrial design and the prices might vary slightly. All the three smartphones will be priced between Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000. While Flipkart might have “accidentally” made the Spice Android One Dream Uno Mi-498 page live for some time last night and mentioned Rs 6,999 as the price, don’t be surprised if the price is lower when the smartphone goes on sale tomorrow at 3:30PM.
Google is also said to have tied up with carriers for special data plans for Android One smartphones. Sources tell BGR India that the tie-up is unlikely to be a standard partnership where a carrier gives a fixed amount of data for free for a couple of months. Instead, the partnership is likely to involve free access to certain Google services including software updates. This is what Pichai was hinting at when he announced Android One smartphones will get Google Play “auto-installs” and “automatic” updates. This would ensure that the user does not have to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot to update the software or apps.
At the moment, it is not clear whether the free access would be limited to software updates or all Google services including Gmail, Google search and others. Some carriers like Airtel already offer users to access some Google services for free.
However, the most critical piece of the Android One puzzle is still missing – the pricing. The success or failure of Android One smartphones will depend on whether Google is able to deliver on its promise of sub-$100 smartphones. If we go with the pricing Flipkart has leaked and what our sources tell us, Android One is likely to disappoint.
Even Motorola’s Moto E, which too provides stock Android and pushes timely updates, has better hardware at a similar price point and even offers water and dust resistance. Let’s not even talk about Xiaomi’s Redmi 1S that might not provide stock Android but blows everything else away with its specifications and its price tag of Rs 5,999.
We will be at the launch event in New Delhi and will report from ground zero. Stay tuned!