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Android One launches in six African countries with only one new handset

Google's Android One initiative, which launched last year with the aim of standardizing low-cost smartphones in developing markets, is expanding into six countries in Africa. Google is launching a new Android One smartphone built by Hong Kong manufacturer Infinix in Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Morocco, offering free software updates for the Android 5.1 device (including the upcoming OS Android M) in partnership with South African mobile service provider MTN. Google says it's also working on extending its offline functionality for YouTube to Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Egypt in the "coming months," making it possible for users to store videos locally for up to 48 hours

Google's aim with Android One is reaching "the next five billion"

This expansion into Africa is part of Google's ongoing plan to revitalize Android One after the program's shaky start. Under Android One, Google sets hardware specifications for third-party manufacturers in an attempt to make sure that even low-cost smartphones can run the latest version of Android. This benefits Google by ensuring that customers in developing markets use the company's core services (rather than rival software running on forked versions of Android), while also providing a uniform user experience and building consumer confidence.

The Infinix HOT 2, which retails for $88 and comes with a quad-core MediaTek processor and 1GB of RAM. (Infinix / Google)

So far, though, Android One has been underachieving, with the Google-approved handsets failing to make much of an impact in ultra-competitive markets like India. One estimate from Counterpoint Research claimed that only 700,000 Android One handsets were shipped in the project's first 100 days, with the same number shifted in the next five months. Google says it's not giving up yet though, with the company's managing director in Southeast Asia, Rajan Anandan, telling The Financial Times that Google is still "very committed" to the project. But while the launch of Android One in six African countries certainly expands the program's geographic horizons, the reliance on the same playbook (and only a single new handset) are not entirely promising.