Google to renew its Indian smartphone efforts

Search giant Google is set to renew its efforts to participate in the Indian smartphone mass market by rebooting its Android One project.

Android One was launched in September 2014 with the stated aim of targeting ‘the next five billion’ smartphone users – i.e. ones that struggle to afford them at their current prices. On top of the cost of the hardware, Google said it also wants to help bring down the cost of data plans and to adapt Android to cheaper devices.

“Android One aims to help tackle these challenges, said Android boss Sundar Pichai at the time. “By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable.”

Initial efforts were served up in partnership with Indian smartphone vendor Micromax, but as with many Google projects, things apparently petered out this year.

In an interview with the FT Google’s MD for India and Southeast Asia, Rajan Anandan, stressed is company remained committed to the project and said the reboot would be announced in the next few weeks. The aim seems to be to produce sub-$100 and sub-$50 versions of the Nexus phones, but if they do become successful that will presumably antagonise vendors like Micromax and Spice.

“Strategically it [India] is very, very important,” said Anandan. “Don’t get me wrong, the revenue is interesting but . . . we’re here really because 10 years from now a billion Indians will be online and when we have a billion Indians online we think that’s going to make a huge difference to the global internet economy.”

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