With Google’s Android One, expect sub-$100 phones from Micromax and others

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Google’s Sundar Pichai on stage during the keynote. AP
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Google is working with at least three Indian manufacturers to develop a sub-$100 smartphone for the Indian market this fall, getting Android software into one of the fastest-growing major mobile markets. Roughly that would mean smartphones which are starting at Rs 6,000, though it could be higher, thanks to local taxes.

Micromax was named as one of the major partners along with Spice and Karbonn, and all three will work closely with Google for new phones, which will feature Google-provided software and not software provided by the companies’ production partners as has been the norm so far. Think of them as the new Nexus phones, since Google says software updates will come straight from them.

The project is called Android One and the first phones would likely come with 4.5 inch screens, dual SIM cards and FM radio, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai told the crowd at the company’s annual developers’ conference on Wednesday. Pichai on stage showcased a Micromax device with dual SIM, SD card, 4.5 inch screen and FM radio. Spice and Karbonn Mobiles will also be the OEM partners. “We are going to be launching it around the world, but will launch in India first in the fall of this year,” Pichai said.

The device looked much different than any other Micromax phone on the market with a few stylings that reminded us of the Nexus 5.

What Android One will do is ensure that low-cost smartphone makers have some reference points for basic device features and specs and thus ensure cheaper and faster phones.

There are now 1 billion people using Android devices, Google said as it kicked off its two-day Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco and as Pichai highlighted, Google’s aim is to get the next level of users, the ones who can’t afford an expensive smartphone onto the Android platform.

The Android One initiative sets out to work with smartphone makers and others in the “ecosystem” to pool resources and standardize hardware platforms to provide “turnkey solutions” for making handsets, according to Pichai. There are many people — billions of people, in fact — who still don’t have access to a smartphone,” he said. ”We want to change that.”

Like Nexus and Google Play Edition products, Android One smartphones will get software updates from Google. From a security point of view this is a great step for users who are buying budget Android phones and are often stuck with older version of the OS such as Gingerbread.

Google will be hoping that it can replicate the success of Moto E (which was priced at a reasonable Rs 6,999). And now with Android One, Pichai is making sure that Indian consumers are getting the special treatment from Google.

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