Reports published yesterday indicated that Google is looking to reboot its Android One project, which was launched with much fanfare last year with handsets launched by three Indian smartphone brands – Micromax, Karbonn and Spice, but has since lost its momentum amidst a complete lack of interest both from OEMs as well as buyers. Multinational companies like Asus, Lenovo and Acer were also reported to have joined the bandwagon to launch Android One handsets, but nothing has come of it thus far. While Google does not officially report sales figures of its Android One handsets, Counterpoint Research claims that only around 3 million such handsets have thus far been sold around the world, including only about 1.2 million in the country which was Google’s number one priority when launching the project in the first place. That represents barely 3.5 percent of the entry-level market in the country which is now one of the three largest smartphone markets on the planet, alongside China and the US.
The major reason attributed to the failure of the Android One project is Google’s overly strict guidelines for hardware parts and vendors, along with customer disillusionment owing to low-end hardware at inflated prices. According to the report carried by the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Kirt McMaster, the chief executive at Cyanogen, when asked about the slow uptake of Android One, said, “Google tried to define too many parameters in regard to device components that were required for Android One, when Indian manufacturers really value supply chain flexibility”. The reports states that it is this anomaly that Google will now look to address, as it looks to inject fresh life into the endangered project, which has now expanded to as many as 19 countries apart from India, but is yet to make a mark in any of them.
According to the report, Google will be far less strict with its guideline and allow OEMs more leverage to select their own vendors, allowing them more options and in the process, save on manufacturing costs. The California-based search giant will reportedly also introduce more hardware options, to allow OEMs to differentiate their products from that of others’. The report further states that with Google now willing to be more flexible with its hardware requirements, Indian smartphone brand Lava has agreed to partner the tech giant and launch its very first Android One handset at some stage in the recent future.
Not everyone is convinced about the future of Android One though. Mr. McMaster believes that “There’s a long way to go before an effective reboot of Android One”. But Google is not likely to give up on the project without a last ditch effort, and according to Mr. Jeff Orr, an analyst at ABI Research, “Google wants traction in the India market for the digital advertising opportunity it has built in other world markets. Putting Android One phones in the hands of India’s citizens enables that platform for the company”.