Three Indian manufacturers have signed up to make Android One budget handsets in India and the devices have been launched today.
The Karbon Sparkle V is 6399 rupees (£64), runs KitKat 4.4, has a 1,700mAh battery, 1700mAh removable battery, 5MP rear and 2MP front cameras, quad core 1.3GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM with a slot for up to 32GB, a 4.5inch display, and is being bundled with an 8GB microSD card at launch.
The Micromax Canvas A1 is Rs 6,499 (£65). It has exactly the same spec and Micromax quotes a screen resolution of 480 x 854 and a video recording resolution of 1080p.
Spice Dream's UNO mi498 is the cheapest of the trio at Rs6299 (£63).
All the phones are 3G, there is no 4G support and are dual SIM being based on the MediaTek MT6582 SoC (System on Chip) which is ARM Cortex A7-based.
Google has done a deal with MediaTek to aggregate purchases of chips and then sell on to suppliers. MediaTek says: “The processors are managed by MediaTek’s CorePilot technology, an advanced scheduler algorithm with adaptive thermal and interactive power management that delivers superior multi-tasking performance and excellent sustained performance-per-watt for a premium mobile experience.”
MediaTek won’t have it all its own way, though, as Google has announced Qualcomm as a partner, along with a host of other manufacturers: Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic and Xolo. You can expect to see a Motorola-branded Android One phone but not a Samsung device. It’s quite possible that Samsung believes that it can reduce costs with processors it’s rolled itself.
Google is taking charge of the ecosystem – updates will come from Google and not the handset manufacturers - It also means Android One devices will be some of the first to be updated to the Android L release later this year. Just like the man outside the school gates handing out sweeties, the Chocolate Factory wants to get customers hooked on data. If they get an Airtel SIM card, they’ll get the downloads of the software updates for free for the first six months and up to 200MB per month of app downloads without counting towards their tariff's mobile data usage.
Google has announced that it plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of the year, with more countries to follow in 2015.
The Android One programme fits well with the research from the GSMA which says that smartphones will account for two thirds of world’s mobile market by 2020. This research quotes China as significantly the biggest current market for smartphones with more users than the next five countries (US, Brazil, India, Indonesia and the Russian Federation) put together.
Google is doing well to throw its weight behind small manufacturers. There is an increasing trend for consumers to favour local manufacturers and the big players may well find that while they are squabbling between themselves they find market share disappears to the likes of Wiko in France, Xiaomi in China and Micromax in India. It’s disappointing to see that the initial phones for India are quite so generic.
Some time ago, when working for a major phone manufacturer I was on a project where I went to India to research the market and found a number of special market conditions which were reflected in locally optimised phones. These included extra bright screens and dust-proof casings – but of most importance was an AM radio and extra-large speakers.
The love of cricket – which is broadcast on AM – and Bollywood, which shares a Jamaican attitude to volume, makes this something that will make or break a phone sale. Perhaps the greatest advocate of studying local conditions is Jan Chipchase, formerly of Nokia and now at Studio D Radiodurans who had the amazing insight to put a torch into phones.
Android One is an amazing, world-changing programme but it needs to reflect local conditions. That will mean high quality packaging in markets where second-hand value is important such as Latin America, India) and support for SMS based mobile money in Africa. ®