Android One was supposed to give phone manufacturers an easy way to create good, low-cost Android phones, but after its unveiling last year, the program basically went nowhere. Now, The Wall Street Journal says that Google is taking another shot at it, reworking the requirements for phone makers to get them on board. The results will be a new Android One phone from Lava in the next few months — the first new Android One device in India since its initial run — and Google is certainly hoping that additional phones will follow.
Manufacturers now have much more flexibility
Initially, Google set out strict requirements for the creation of Android One devices, selecting which parts and suppliers manufacturers should use to make them. The idea was that Google would do this so that manufacturers didn't have to, saving them the effort of having to design and source parts for a phone. Google liked this because it wants to fill developing markets like India with low-cost Android phones, and particularly, Android phones that include Google services — another requirement of the One program. But manufacturers didn't love this because they felt it was too limiting, making it difficult for them to save money on parts and differentiate from other manufacturers. The Journal cites a research firm, Counterpoint, which says that only 1.2 million of the first three Android One phones were shipping during their first year in India, making up only 3.5 percent of the $50 to $100 phone market. Only 3 million devices are said to have shipped in total across the 19 countries that Android One has launched in.
Google's new plan, according to the Journal, is to give Android One partners more flexibility on price, parts, and features. In some instances, manufacturers can buy parts from their vendor of choice. In other instances, Google is giving manufacturers a broader selection of choices; there are now five cameras for them to choose from, for instance. The Journal reports that one Indian phone manufacturer now says there's little difference between making an Android One phone and making a standard Android phone, which begs the question of what the benefit is for either party. Presumably, Google is still getting its services and some guarantee of quality on these phones, while manufacturers are likely getting help in either making or promoting those devices.