Exactly three years ago, in September of 2014, Sundar Pichai announced Android One – its platform for the emerging world. India had reasons to cheer, because Google cared. It was finally looking at the very basic needs of the tech-savvy Indian. Someone who aspires to enjoy the best of technology, and someone who’s keeping a close watch on the spending.
Somehow, the world has changed immensely over the past few years. Pichai has been here a couple of times, Make in India rose in prominence. Brands such as Xiaomi did very well for themselves. Apple grew aggressive. Increasingly brands, Chinese included, announced they were setting up manufacturing plants in India.
What didn’t quite work out for Android One
Google, by its own admission, has hinted that Android One wasn’t quite going the way it expected to. At the time of launch, Google said that devices in the $100 range, would be the benchmark. Or around the Rs 6,000. ALSO READ: Xiaomi Mi A1 hands-on and first impressions: Pure and simple
Unlike Apple, where there’s royalty in the form of its iPhones, Android is split between the emperors such as the Galaxy flagships, and peasants. Over the course of the few years since the launch of Android One, device manufacturers fiercely cut corners, and other than flagships, much consumer activity and device offerings were seen around the sub-Rs 10,000. While that was good for consumers, Android One somehow took a backseat.
Consumers were delighted to have devices that were available under Rs 10,000, but no one wanted to even get a hint that something was amiss, albeit remotely. Consumers are difficult to please. We all want our devices to be the most cost efficient, get software updates first, and last us forever. ALSO READ: Xiaomi Mi A1 Android One smartphone with dual cameras launched in India: Price, specifications, features
Android One reconsidered
Somewhere over the course of its first year, it seemed to the mind of consumers that Android One was a compromise of sorts. Even from a manufacturer’s point of view, Google seemed to have been calling the shots. What should go in, in terms of hardware, what the approach towards software should be, and so on.
The thought seemed good, for that’s what would ensure a better experience. We’ve seen that in the Nexus. And there’s no better example than the Apple ecosystem on the advantages of a closely synched hardware-software ecosystem. Towards the end of 2015, we began to read reports about Android One v2.0.
In an interview in 2016, Mike Hayes, Director of business development for Android and Chrome partnerships said that Android One partners will now have more freedom to “decide everything in terms of specification, pricing and when to launch”.
That was the first sign of the need for change in strategy with Android One. From a manufacturer’s point of view, they needed to have greater visibility. They wanted to be heard. The Lava Pixel V1, back then, retailed for Rs 11,350. We all know the kind of value devices in that price range offer just a year later.
Google’s thought on Android One
In January 2017, Pichai admitted that the ideal price point for smartphones in India is $30. We were looking at a 30 percent drop from what Android One began. A nosedive from $100 to $30. Now that sounds just about right. $30 roughly comes to about Rs 2,000. What’s currently available in that price point offer atrocious experiences for consumers, and that certainly means that there’s immense potential in that price segment. ALSO READ: Google CEO Sundar Pichai says $30 is the ideal price point for smartphones in India
Unfortunately, Android One was wiped out from popular attention over the past three years. It’s a noble project. A noble attempt in getting devices in the hands of the disconnected markets. Where lies a bunch of millions who want to get connected. Who want to explore the joys of data, networking and communication. In order to do this, Google would need valuable partners. And these partners would be of the kind of Reliance Jio, and Xiaomi.
The Xiaomi strength
Similar to Reliance Jio, Xiaomi is at the pulse of the Indian consumer. Facts be told, the performance of devices such as the Redmi Note 4 and similar other ranges in the Indian market have proven the leaning of the Indian consumer. It only makes sense of Google to partner with one of these vehicles to further its pool of consumers.
Over the past couple of visits, Apple has been very impressed with Reliance Jio. Tim Cook met with Reliance personnel, and also made a mention of what burst of data in the Indian market as a result of Jio. ALSO READ: Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Review
Google, it now appears, is working very closely with Xiaomi – a preferred partner that knows India very well. In doing so, Google has brought Android One into popular consideration once again. The price may still not appeal largely to the cause of Android One, but the fact that we’re discussing Android One is a step in the right direction.
If Google takes a similar approach with other manufacturers that have impressive capabilities with product and software design and architecture, we could very well belooking at smartphones in the sub-Rs 5,000 price point that serves its purpose well enough. Either way, smartphones these days have a shelf life of just about a couple of years.