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Android Headliner: Can Google’s Passion For Android One Save It?

June 16, 2015 - Written By Justin Diaz

Google are a cheery bunch of dreamers with a talented team of people spearheading projects that span a vast group of different areas. From things like Google Glass to the vast mobile network of the operating system known as Android. Google is involved in so many different projects and technologies it almost feels like it’s impossible to keep track of them all. In reality though there are likely some we may never know about, as Google is not afraid to shut things down if they aren’t working, something they have yet to do with Android One despite it arguably falling severely short of predicted figures and penetration of the emerging markets.

When Android One was announced at Google IO last year, it seemed like a big undertaking but not one which may have been out of reach for Google. “The Next Billion,” a term being used by Google to account for their goal of reaching a vast amount of users in emerging markets by placing affordable, decent smartphones in their hands which had the promise of fast updates and long-life support similar to a Nexus. Android One devices are nowhere near “the next billion” though. Android One hasn’t even reached a reported million handsets yet (although they are close) with the latest report as of May 31st at about 800,000 handsets in India from September of last year when they began shipping units. More or less Android One is seemingly not as successful as Google may have set out to make it.

As Google has made it clear though they aren’t necessarily concerned on the highest level with selling vast amounts of phones. Google seems committed to getting the next billion online with smartphones via the Android One program, but they have never made any promises of it happening overnight, and realistically no one should have perceived it as such, but perhaps it was expected that Android One would make more of an impact than it has from the get go, considering the amount of smartphones shipped in India last year. So, with Android One ostensibly not hitting its mark, why is Google so intent on keeping it around? They seem to have a continued plan for the platform and have made that apparent during this year’s IO conference. Android One isn’t Google’s sole tactic for reaching the next billion, however it does seem to play an important role.

Low priced handsets are important for emerging markets like India, but so are other services like offline Maps and offline YouTube, both of which Google discussed at the developer conference just last month as a means to help usher in more smartphone users as part of the next billion. So while Android One is one instrument for upholding this initiative, it isn’t alone, but perhaps it’s Google’s way of delivering things like Maps offline to emerging markets where internet connectivity is not as readily available as it is for markets like the U.S. Google has stated they’re not backing out of the program, and that they have learned a lot from their initial round of Android One offerings. Google also seems to be confident in the future of Android One stating that they’ll do much better on the sales aspect the next time around. Whether or not the changes they have planned for Android One’s future will have a positive effect to improve the state of things as it is remains unclear, but any answers will have to wait until Google announces the next set of devices. At the very least, having Google continue to be so passionate about the project does what it can to assure a positive uplift for the Android One Program, but will it be enough?