Samsung should be worried right now. The complicated relationship it shares with Google is going to hurt its fortunes in the fastest growing smartphone market in the world. The biggest announcement from Google I/O has to be the Android One program, which is essentially Google arming local smartphone vendors in India with sub-$100 Android smartphones that will get automatic Android updates like Google’s Nexus devices.
Android One is essentially the Nexus program for entry-level smartphones. Google will help Indian vendors like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice to launch sub-$100 Android smartphones running the latest version of Android. On the hardware front, Google will provide reference designs and will ensure that the smartphone works smoothly and knowing Google, it would be much better than the stuff we are used to seeing in the crappy Rs 5,000 smartphones we currently get from these brands.
While we don’t know the detailed specifications of the first lot of Android One smartphones, the Micromax device will have a 4.5-inch display, dual-SIM connectivity, FM radio and a microSD card slot. If Motorola was a pain for Samsung with the popularity of the Moto G and more recently the Moto E, Android One will affect it manifold.
According to IDC, 78 percent of all smartphones shipped in India were sub-$200 and a big chunk of Samsung’s shipment volumes come from this segment. So far, the problem for Indian handset brands has been that of hardware quality and software updates. Android One would take care of both aspects. Google’s Sundar Pichai also announced the company was working with carriers in India to offer low-cost data packs to go with these Android One smartphones.
With Samsung struggling in the high-end segment with increased competition from Apple, in the mid-end with Motorola and very soon Xiaomi, Android One would ensure it doesn’t have an easy time in the entry-level segment either.