Android One Smartphones Released

                      During the last I/O event at Google, one of the first things the conference approached was the announcement of the Android One initiative, which was a collaboration between Google and several OEMs to manufacture cheap and reliable Android devices with decent specs and guaranteed Android updates straight from Google. Now, we finally see the end result of that effort, starting in India, and finally get to see what these devices are all about and what it means for Android as a whole.

                     As we have mentioned, and Google itself admitted, this is an initiative targeted towards developing world markets, which is why it’s starting at India, which is where Google is targeting to get the “next five billion” users of smartphones, that at the moment either have no mobile devices at all, or rely on traditional dumbphones. The Android One initiative thus attempts to marry decent specs for a device with a near stock Android experience (no manufacturer skins or apps), with added affordable data plans by the telecom companies actually selling these devices and preloaded apps targeted for the region being sold in.

                     Taking a look at the Android One devices, it’s easy to see what Google is doing: for a very long time, manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, the giants from the Android device market, have been suffering competition from no-brand Chinese devices, which offered devices with competing specs at a very cheap price that completely were able to undercut the competition. These devices, of course, were far from perfect: there were build issues, absolutely no updates other than the version of Android they shipped with and they often were sold with kernel bugs and many app incompatibilities. They were not fun to use. With this initiative, Google actually works directly with the chip manufacturers and some of the larger companies selling these kinds of devices, and they build a nice product that actually works as expected, due to the software and platform being actively and directly maintained by Google.

                     In terms of specs, these devices will not rock anyone’s world, but for the price, they are more than decent. One of the initial batch of Android One devices, the Micromax Canvas A1 (pictured below), comes with a 1.3GHz Quad Core CPU and Mali 400 GPU, along with 1GB of RAM and both rear and front facing cameras, coupled with a 4.5″ display. The device comes with stock KitKat and guaranteed updates to the latest version of Android for up to 2 years, and is being sold at 6399 rupees (around $105). It’s hard to argue with that. While as of late we have been graced with amazing lower-end devices that actually turn out to be surprisingly decent, like the Moto G, this is a more concrete effort since it stems from Google directly and is being done in collaboration with multiple vendors.

                   Other devices coming soon that belong to this platform are the Karbon Sparkle V and Spice Dream Uno, all with the same base specs as the aforementioned Micromax Canvas A1, since they share the same Mediatek SoC reference platform, and they all should be available for purchase as soon as the program officially enters release phase. However, other manufacturers including ASUS, HTC and Lenovo have already joined the program and should be unveiling their own Android One devices soon. Qualcomm has also joined, meaning you might see actual Snapdragon SoC devices in this initiative as well, in the future.

                   Overall, this program is not only a great initiative, but it represents the embracing of a lower-end market that up until now was not only poorly served, but actually had no choice but to rely on bad, buggy devices with several software and build issues. Now, Android and Google take it upon themselves to take care of this market segment the right way, with cheap devices carrying decent specs and running well-developed hardware. While for now it remains in India, this is meant to be a global initiative and if met with success, could be spread across all markets willing to take it, including the US and Europe. It’s an effort worth applauding, and for many people it will provide an option where before there was none, as Apple and other competitors keep not offering a low-end smartphone option for consumers that truly need it.