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Google announced a new set of manufacturers that will make Android One phones, as the low-cost, consistency-focused handsets went on sale in India.
Android One is a program that helps manufacturers make cheap phones that run on the latest version of stock Android — [company]Google[/company] sets minimum hardware specifications, such as a 4.5-inch screen and five-megapixel camera, and it sources components to lower manufacturing costs. The result is that the new phones can run Android 4.4 and the upcoming Android L and still come in at around $100, whereas many cheap Android handsets already on the market run ancient versions of the mobile operating system.
The Android One handsets that went on sale on Monday include the [company]Micromax[/company] Canvas A1, the [company]Spice[/company] Dream Uno and the [company]Karbonn[/company] Sparkle V, all of which cost $105 and are being sold through various online stores. Google used the launch to announce a raft of new manufacturers: [company]Acer[/company], [company]Alcatel[/company], [company]Asus[/company], [company]HTC[/company], [company]Intex[/company], [company]Lava[/company], [company]Lenovo[/company], [company]Panasonic[/company] and [company]Xolo[/company].
Google also revealed that future Android One phones will be able to include [company]Qualcomm[/company] chipsets – the first batch all run on [company]Mediatek[/company] processors – and the next wave of rollouts would take in Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka by the end of the year.
It’s hard to overstate how important the Android One scheme is for Google, which is also partnering with local carriers to offer over-the-air Android updates and app downloads for free. For a start, it will go a long way towards reducing fragmentation in the Android ecosystem, allowing Google to roll out new features to as wide an audience as possible, as quickly as possible.
More generally, it will help Google push stock, Google-controlled Android in emerging markets, which is where most of the big growth is – recent predictions from the mobile industry have 80 percent of smartphone connections coming from emerging markets by 2020. Making it easier and cheaper to use stock Android may discourage the hot manufacturers in these regions from using non-Google forks of Android, which steer revenue and control away from the U.S. firm.
That said, some of the forked-Android devices we’re talking about here come in at half of the price of the first Android One phones, or even less. The program still has a way to go if Google wants to achieve its aims in countries where people are buying their first phones, and where rivals like Firefox OS and [company]Samsung[/company]’s Tizen may provide attractive alternatives.