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Android Headliner: Android One Doomed To Fail?

November 9, 2015 - Written By Kristijan Lucic

Android is the most wide-spread mobile operating system in the world. Google’s mobile OS is extremely popular pretty much everywhere, but it sure has its flaws. Many people use the word ‘fragmentation’ when they speak of Android’s software variants. Why is that? Well, that’s because Android IS fragmented. Android is an open source platform and it basically lets OEMs customize the experience to their liking, which unfortunately means updating the software is up to them as well. Some of these software offerings are quite different from stock Android, which makes it rather difficult to update in a timely fashion, that’s why some OEMs take months and months to update Android, and a lot of them basically never do.

There is no way to fix this, at least not an easy way, so Google decided to fire up the Android One program last year. So, what is Android One? Well, it’s basically Google’s way to offer fast updates to budget devices. This program kicked off in India last year and has spread to a number of additional regions to date. Google basically partners up with local OEMs who make the phone, but Google controls the software, which gives the company a way to provide updates really quick, without any interference from 3rd party skins or carriers. Now, in theory, a $100 phone which runs great and has the latest software on it sounds great, right? Well, yeah, but why isn’t Android One successful then?

Well, there are many reasons why, but one of the main ones was Google’s approach to the commercial side of it. Android One sales actually kicked off as an online-only model for three months, which, you can image, angered retailers, not to mention it was unavailable to the consumers who actually to prefer the device in-store. Another reason is, general advertising of those phones which simply wasn’t up to par with other OEMs… and, finally, Google’s control over the whole project. OEMs would like to choose components from a number of different vendors in order to maximize their profit, but Google decided to control that side of it as well. This is actually another reason why OEMs didn’t advertise Android One products, and Micromax (biggest India-based smartphone OEM) even decided to abandon the whole program only two months after signing an agreement with Google.

Now, we all know that these restrictions were actually good for the end user because Google was able to adapt the software to a specific hardware to the fullest, which resulted in the best possible experience. That being said, it seems like things will change soon. According to a recent report from Wall Street Journal, Google plans on giving OEMs more control over manufacturing. OEMs will have more control as to where they get the parts from, and will be able to choose the components as well. So, basically, the vendors won’t have to be approved from Google, which are great news for OEMs. The question is, will this affect user experience on Android One devices? Well, only time will tell. As you probably already know, an India-based OEM, Lava, has already released an Android One device. Well, according to the latest report, they will release another one in the coming months,

To make things even more interesting, Google has changed a part of their original announcement on the support page. The original announcement was as follows: ”To help ensure a consistent experience, Android One devices will receive the latest versions of Android directly from Google. So you’ll get all the latest features, up-to-date security patches, and peace of mind knowing your stuff is always backed up”. Pay attention to ‘directly from Google’ part, well, the changed version actually states ”Android One phones receive the latest version of Android from Google’s hardware partners”. Now, in the end, this really doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I have to admit, it doesn’t sound good at all. Is Android One doomed? Well… it might be, we’ll see.