Google is all set to launch the first set of affordable Android One smartphones from India on Monday. It has tied up with local manufacturers Micromax, Spice and Karbonn as well as chipmaker MediaTek to bring in smartphones which could be priced around Rs 5,000 to the booming Indian market. Achieving the $100 mark here will let Google replicate the model in other similar markets of Latin America and South East Asia.
However, the situation is not as easy as it sounds. There are already a handful of good Android smartphones priced just above the $100 mark in India. Google will have to offer a value proposition that is good enough for these customers to not increase their budget by 10 or 20 per cent and opt for the existing models like Moto E, Micromax Unite or Xiaomi Redmi 1S.
When Sundar Pichai, Google’s SVP of Android, Chrome & Apps, first announced Android one at Google I/O in June, he said the phones will try and bring the ‘pure Android’ experience to the $100 price point with a 4.5-inch screen, dual SIM and expandable memory. But a lot has happened since. For instance, Mozilla has used the Indian market to test its ultra-low cost smartphone models with prices starting as low as Rs 1,990 (or $35).
Also, if the Flipkart goof-up over the weekend, when it listed one of the Android One smartphones before its launch, is any indication, then the price point will need some serious tweaking to get buyers interested. India’s leading e-tailer listed the Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498 phone at Rs 6,999. Given its specs, the phone does not seem to be much better than the existing budget Android phones.
But a lot of people might be wooed by the offer of a Nexus-like pure Android experience, which is unheard of at these price points. Plus, as has been the case with a lot of budget phone launches, there could be a last minute price change that makes the device much more appealing. We won’t be surprised if the final price point is more Rs 4,999 than 6,999. Also, like with the Firefox phones, there could be multiple variants at ever Rs 500 ($10) price point.
According to Forbes, Google has indicated that it “could work with mobile carriers to package the devices with inexpensive internet connectivity”. While this model has never really worked in India, it has the potential to at least get more people hooked to smartphones and the Internet.