Android is the world's most popular mobile operating system, with over 1 billion monthly active users as of July. But according to Google that's only the beginning. Android One is Google's initiative to target the other 5 billion people on the planet; people who may live in areas where purchasing the latest $700 flagship device simply isn't an option. In some of the countries Google is targeting, the average monthly income may be as little as the equivalent of $250. This is an enormous barrier for smartphone adoption. At Google I/O the stated goal of Android One was to bring a high quality smartphone experience to the masses in a $100 package. Today the first step is being made, with the launch of three new smartphones in India from manufacturers Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice.

Starting at 6399 Rs (~$105) the devices are slightly higher than Google's initial price projection but still within a price range that should be affordable by many people in countries like India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They feature SoCs from Mediatek, and include features like dual SIM cards and FM radio support which are more popular in those countries than in others like the United States for example.

To avoid the issues that have traditionally plagued performance and software on low-end devices, Google has been working with various hardware suppliers and manufacturers to create a reference platform for Android One devices. This specification consists of a 4.5" 854x480 IPS display, a 1.3GHz quad core CPU from MediaTek, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of NAND, MicroSD support, a 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, and a 1700mAh battery. At $105 that's a very good value proposition.

Google will also be supplying all software support which means that updates will come directly from Google and Android L support is a guarantee. Google has partnered with Indian cell carrier Airtel to allow users to download 200MB per month from Google Play without counting against the user's data allowance. For the first 6 months, software updates will also be free to download over the air using cellular data.

The Karbonn Sparkle V, Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream Uno can be seen at their respective manufacturer's websites. The devices are currently for sale at major Indian retailers including Flipkart, Amazon India, and Snapdeal.

Source: Google

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  • jjj - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    The real barrier is not the cost the device but the data costs and availability. But that's not the point is it , Google just wants to keep it's services on Indian devices and protect it's monopoly, everything else is just a way to spin it.
    The cost of the devices is not that great anyway for India and not even close to cheap considering that the very low end smartphones are at 30$.
    Not an ideal start and things would need to get a lot better than this.
    On the upside Google does need to support Asian SoC makers better and this is not a bad start.
  • junky77 - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    totally agree about the motives

    And yes, such devices were available for less even a year ago, at least from a hardware stand of point.

    I hope, but I don't think, that we'll be a society that is built on honesty (which google/others obviosuly not) and brotherhood
  • Morawka - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    your forgetting these are feature phones that have FM/AM radio. People will buy them and listen to the radio, and browse the web when they get close to a wifi hotspot to check email and play games/apps..

    Google still wins because they are using their services. Not everyone will buy these and buy voice/data plans.
  • bitsandpieces - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I agree people will listen to fm/am radio, but for a market like India, almost every one will rely on voice and data as for most it will be a phone first and then a internet access device. Do note wifi hotspots are not really common in India.

    The market they are targeting at times wont have a computer at home much less a computer with wifi connection. For these guys most time they will side load the apk, run what they need but mostly in offline mode rather than always online mode.
  • craighamilton - Saturday, December 6, 2014 - link

    Well, probably the manufacturer sees this as a start of better technology. /craig from
  • wantthefun - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    I don't agree. Google is not in the business of distributing data connections. I think it is doing right by providing a good experience at a lower price and fixing some of the problem that were existing in the system. There is a large population that would love to get a good device at a low price. The data cost in India is one of the lowest anywhere. You are not looking at more than about 5-10 dollars a month for a small data cap. They are also solving the updates conundrum by getting the data providers to push updates for free. I think this looks like a fantastic start.

    No, this will not provide a smartphone for someone who cannot afford food on a constant basis, but this may be for a large lower income group that is out of abject poverty.
  • Rama TT - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    Its easy for you to live in US or something and make a comment but in countries like India even a $ equates to 60 RS which is a big amount for us or at least the crowd at which these smartphones are targeted at. The free internet connection is also limited to one carrier which is Airtel and Airtel is like the Verizon of US only the rich can afford being on Airtel. The free data limit also only 200 mb. Plus the hardware is not that great either. The Xiaomi Redmi 1S is better than any Android One device on the market right now. Plus Google is not the first one to do this. Companies like Nokia have sold Nokia Lumia 520 at literal losses in India. Plus data related incentives are nothing new. The entire Nokia X line has got better data incentives when launched in India. What Google is doing now has been done by others for a long time now.Its just that people like you in US barely keep their eyes open and appreciate what Nokia had been doing until they got sold.Do you really think the poor fellow bothers about those free software updates?NO.But that would help Google in reducing fragmentation a bit. Amazing to see people get so excited about Android One when other s like Nokia have been doing the same for years now.
  • wantthefun - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    So it is possible that the Indian market may not think the android one is a step in the right direction, as the updates are never valued in the system. My bet is that android one would be better optimized for the hardware and the updates would patch the software vulnerabilities. But my bets could be wrong.

    True that every rupee would be important for the millions below poverty line, but the other millions could benefit from this or continued experimentations such as these. I don't think we could have predicted the impact of regular cell phones 15 years back, and we may be in the same instance with smartphones. With 150 INR (~2.75USD) or so for a gig of data, it certainly is one of the cheapest data markets in the world, albeit with its own networking challenges.

    Between Xiaomi, Nokia and Google, I may trust the latter two because of possible push for updates. As for Nokia, their lower end phones are running an old OS that may be on its way out. Lumina series (WIndows) starts around the same price, and is good value for the OS maturity. But it is difficult to argue with the value proposition of Xiaomi, Oppo, or One+. Besides, it is Google on all these three, and I guess Google has done enough even without Android 1 ;).
  • Rama TT - Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - link

    101% right
  • laytoncy - Monday, September 15, 2014 - link

    This is off topic but I'm looking to drop iPhone and move to Windows or Android in the price point (read $100 or less) but in the US. I'm assuming I can't get this phone in the US. What are the best Windows or Android phones since this is supposed to fit that price point but available in America? I have ATT and don't really want to sign another 2 year as I'm contract free at the moment. I use my current iPhone 4 for Audiobooks, mp3, Netflix, Teamviewer, other RDP apps, HBO Go, Amazon Instant, Evernote, Dropbox and so on...Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

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