Google’s new phone release aims for the “next 5 billion”

Google has taken the wraps off a new line of smart phones designed for the developing world. And while they didn’t attract as much attention in Silicon Valley as Apple’s latest iPhone release, Google is hoping its new Android One phones will be a big deal in India and other fast-growing markets.

The new phones, made by overseas manufacturing partners, are designed to cost less, be more efficient with data and memory, and still take the latest software updates from Google.

As we reported almost a year ago, Android chief Sundar Pichai has made it a priority to reach what he called “the next billion” Android users – or people in poorer countries who until now have only been able to afford phones capable of running older versions of Android, without the latest Google features. (Google has now expanded its target audience to “the next 5 billion.”)

Google says the new phones, which will sell in India for about $100, tackle this problem on three fronts – with inexpensive hardware that’s still capable of running the latest software, with software updates directly from Google (so users don’t have to wait for different telephone carriers to transmit updates) and with subsidies that allow users to download up to 200 MB worth of new apps per month, without counting against their mobile data charges.

The new phones also have other features designed for emerging markets, like big screens (for users who may not also have tablets or PCs), expandable storage and slots for two SIM cards.

This isn’t just an altruistic move. Google has good business reasons for wanting to cement its position as the leading mobile operating system in new markets and emerging economies. And as the news site Quartz points out, Google doesn’t want to see the Indian market go the way of China – where Android is the leading operating system but local app stores and government bans keep most users from accessing Google’s advertising-supported services.

Facebook’s also been working with telecom providers and hardware manufacturers to develop mobile technology that is more economical to use in developing nations.

Google says it’s introducing Android One phones in the fast-growing Indian market but hopes to expand to Indonesia, the Philippines and other parts of South Asia by the end of the year.

(Image courtesy of Google)




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