Google Inc. will launch a new Android One smartphone in India that will cost about 12,000 rupees ($190), almost twice the price of the first that didn’t enthuse the country's consumers, local newspaper Economic Times reported on Friday.
The new phone will be made in partnership with local handset vendor Lava International Ltd., and is set to be launched at an event in New Delhi on July 14, the paper reported, citing people familiar with the development.
When the global launch of the first Android One smartphone was held in India in September last year, Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for products at Google, flew down for the event and promoted the handset as one for the masses that doesn’t compromise on the pure Android experience.
Google came up with a set of standards and minimum specifications -- mostly for what goes into the smartphone and other Android Internet devices -- for Android One, to ensure that its latest software would run smoothly.
The aim was to deal with fragmentation of its software as well as provide consumers a Google-sanctioned authentic Android smartphone alternative to the rampant gray market handsets in the emerging economies. Android One is yet to reach Africa, but it has expanded to countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia.
The 3G handsets released in India -- in partnership with Micromax Informatics Ltd., Karbonn Mobiles and Spice Mobility Ltd. -- offered specs that included a 4.5 inch FWVGA screen, Cortex A7 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1700mAh battery, dual SIM card slots, 1GB RAM, 4GB storage and a MicroSD card slot for up to 32GB expansion, and the assurance of software updates direct from Google for two years.
The phones didn’t sell all that well, touching only about a million units in the first six months, in an economy projected to be the second-largest smartphone market in the world by 2017. For a phone that was meant for the masses, Google and its three local handset partners in India inexplicably chose to sell it only online first.
The move backfired as better phones from well-known brands were already available online in the same price range, and while the share of online sales of smartphones is rising, the bulk of phones in India are still sold in brick-and-mortar retail outlets -- demonstrated by the success of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s budget phone Z1.
Many industry analysts also pointed out that, in the first round, Google controlled much of the show and the local partners had little say in the configuration of the phone and other features.
Moreover, updates to the Lollipop version of the Android operating system -- promised to be made first and directly from Google -- were delayed on the Android One phones, contributing to the dwindling interest in the phones, after much enthusiasm in the initial weeks.
This time, however, Lava is expected to have a greater say, and along with Google, it will ensure that the new phone is available online as well as in physical retail stores, the paper reported.
Not much is known about the specs of the new phone except that it will have 2GB RAM, a 5-inch display and ship with a Mediatek processor, the report said. Given the frenzied state of India’s smartphone market today, the new Android One will have to match or better yet, beat, Xiaomi Corp.’s Mi 4i, which is already selling at 12,999 rupees, to become a serious contender.