Google Plans a New Android One Strategy
Google has gone back to the drawing board for Android One and come up
with a version 2.0 as it were. Having met with a tepid response for the
first phones based on the system in September last year, it appears to
be reorienting the strategy toward people who've had smartphones before
rather than first-time users, said a person with knowledge of the plan.
That involves a shift in pricing as well.
The latest Android One smartphone, made by Indian handset vendor Lava International, will be launched in Delhi on July 14 and will cost about Rs 12,000, roughly twice what the first phones were priced at. The launch is likely to be attended by top Google executives involved with the project. Android One was devised as a set of specifications that allowed companies to build cheap devices that ran smoothly on the operating system and got direct updates from Google.
Another change relates to vendor engagement, said the person cited above. The latest device has been developed in collaboration on hardware and software with Lava and chipmaker MediaTek. Indian handset vendors weren't involved in design and development the first time around.
"The first-phase partners took devices from original device makers (ODMs) in China and had no say over hardware and software. The latest device is controlled by Lava, which would be in a position to provide an enhanced experience," the person said. Not having done so earlier may have been among the reasons for the muted performance.
There hasn't been too much demand for the first Android One phones, which were made by Micromax, Karbonn and Spice. Analysts said the vendors and Google failed to formulate and execute a robust go-to-market strategy. One of the problems was lack of availability in retail stores with the phones mostly available only online.
"We've learnt a lot from the initial round with our partners and they have learnt in terms of device availability, in channel and others," Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management, had told ET in June. "Initially, when we had launched, people couldn't buy them in all channels... In our future (launches) with our partners, we want to make sure that we're truly available everywhere."
As a result, the new phone from Lava will be available online and in shops. Google is expected to spend around $10 million-15 million on marketing and promotion during the second phase of the Android One project in India this year, said the person cited above.
Google India declined to comment. The new phone will have improved specifications and an optimised Android OS with applications and services co-developed by Google and Lava, said the person cited above.
"Google has made some significant changes to the operating system and has deeply collaborated with Lava to modify the platform as per the product specifications for latter's smartphones," the person said, adding that the product will have enough capacity to stay relevant for a longer period of time in the market.
The device, which uses a MediaTek chipset and has 2GB RAM, will feature a larger 5-inch display. Lava will try to position the device as an affordable Nexus smartphone with frequent software and security updates, the person said.
Nexus is Google's own smartphone and tablet brand. The Nexus 6 smartphone, which is made by LG, starts at Rs 44,000. Globally, Google is working with close to 20 vendors shipping Android One smartphones in seven countries.