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In the developed world, almost everyone has a smartphone. In just a short amount of time, they have reached a level of near ubiquity. But what about the other five billion? Those who live in the far-east, or in the Indian subcontinent, or Sub-Saharan Africa?

Meet Android One. This is the latest project from Google to bring inexpensive mobile computing to the developing world, whilst simultaneously offering an experience that is consistent with that of high-end smartphones. The Android one program begins with three phones that have just launched in India: the Karbonn Sparkle, the Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream Uno.

With three phones now available and more in the works, how exactly is Android One going to dominate the budget smartphone market?

Quality Phones For All

When Android was first launched, it had a quality control problem. Whilst the likes of HTC had released some quality launch devices, like the HTC Desire and HTC Hero, there were countless other devices that didn’t quite meet Google’s high standards — either due to inadequate hardware or heavy-handed Android skins Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More . This deluge of terrible devices Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports Tablets Compared: Why You Shouldn't Spend Money on Cheap Chinese Android Imports To answer the question regarding the quality of cheap, Chinese-designed tablets, I purchased an ASUS Nexus 7 and a Hyundai T7. Ultimately, I determine whether Chinese tablets are worth importing. Read More  lead to Android being perceived as lacking the finesse and polish that Apple is renowned for.

This was because Google lacked control of both the hardware and, to a lesser degree, the software. This is in direct contrast to Apple, who has control over every aspect of the iPhone, and Microsoft, who has set strict standards for devices running Windows Phone software.

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androidone-components

Not wanting to see a repeat of history, Google has moved to ensure that all Android One devices run pure Android, get updates straight from Google, and have certain minimum specifications. This has lead to all three launch devices coming with pretty meaty specs, including:

A quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.3Ghz

1GB of RAM

4GB of storage

Dual-SIM slots

A removable 1700mAh battery claiming “all-day” battery life

A MicroSD card slot

Front and rear cameras (2MP and 5MP respectively)

Built-in FM radio

Additionally, the fact that these devices run pure Android 4.4.4 KitKat with guaranteed quick updates for at least 2 years puts them in a whole new category — and it means that they’ll be receiving the upgrade to Android L Get The Best Of Android L Right Now Get The Best Of Android L Right Now Itching for the best of Android L right now? We've got you covered. Read More later this year.

Previous budget devices often had bogged down, old versions of Android and never saw an update from Google in their life. The ability to directly control the software and the updates allows Google to stomp out fragmentation What Version of Android Are You Currently Using? [MakeUseOf Poll] What Version of Android Are You Currently Using? [MakeUseOf Poll] We know lots of MakeUseOf readers use Android, but we have never asked what version of Android you're currently using. Until now. Read More and keep these devices running fast, secure operating systems.

And the best part? These devices are retailing between 6,299 and 6,499 rupees (between $103 and $107). They are available both in brick-and-mortar stores and from popular Indian retailers like Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon.

Why Should You Get Excited About Android One?

micromax-canvas-a1

Android One democratizes the Internet. It puts the combined knowledge of the world into more hands, and into more eyeballs. With more people online, sharing their thoughts and ideas and collaborating together, we can finally hear the voices of the other five billion people on our planet who do not own smartphones.

Although Google is going to benefit massively through the Android One program, they ought to be commended for it.

androidone-phone

And Android One isn’t stopping in India. Google also announced on their blog that they’ve partnered with Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and Qualcomm to bring more Android One phones of various sizes, colors, and hardware configurations to the developing world.

Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are next on Google’s list; Android One devices should be on sale in these countries by the end of the year, with even more countries coming in 2015.

But Isn’t There Another Phone OS Doing This?

Mozilla’s Firefox OS project has similar aims. Similarly to Android, it runs on a Linux-based architecture, has an app store Top 15 Firefox OS Apps: The Ultimate List For New Firefox OS Users Top 15 Firefox OS Apps: The Ultimate List For New Firefox OS Users Of course there is an app for that: It's web technology after all. Mozilla's mobile operating system Firefox OS that, instead of native code, uses HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript for its apps. Read More and a developer community, and is being backed by one of the largest technology companies in the world. Interestingly, it can run on a device costing just $25, making it undercut the cheapest Android One devices by a significant margin.

Likewise, Microsoft is also hoping to get Windows Phone 8.1 5 Cool Things You Can Now Do With Windows Phone 8.1 5 Cool Things You Can Now Do With Windows Phone 8.1 Windows Phone 8.1 offers new tools to help manage your digital and offline life. Get the most out of Windows Phone with our tips. Read More devices on some budget devices. In Russia, they have partnered up with a number of hardware manufacturers and dropped their licensing fee, which has resulted in a range of Windows Phones being sold for around $100. This competes directly with Android One on price.

Although, I’m not sure I favor their chances. Windows Phone 8 hasn’t really taken off, and is still struggling to increase and retain their meager market share. Likewise, Firefox OS is still very new, and very formative. Although there is a lot of enthusiasm both by consumers and by the development community, it remains to be seen if it can compete with Android. Can Firefox OS still exist in a world with Android and its massively expansive developer ecosystem, and with Google’s limitlessly deep pockets? I’m not sure.

It will also be interesting to see how Android One impacts other Android hardware manufacturers who make budget Android devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy Y and or the LG Optimus L7. This project directly threatens their existence, as it offers an arguably higher quality product for a similar price.

Will You Be Getting An Android One Phone?

Android One phones are beautiful. They’re cheap. They’re running pure Android, and they’ve got decent specs. They are really something to get excited about.

But what do you think? Are you an Indian consumer with plans to get one? Or are you thinking of buying into the Firefox OS or Windows Phone ecosystem? Let me know. The comments box is below.

  1. Saurabh
    November 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

    At this price point removable battery is not much of a concern. One can literally throw away the phone when the battery dies. My greater concern would be access to the SD card slot without having to remove the battery like I have to do on my Galaxy Grand
    . The other feature which now I find to be an absolute must is USB-OTG.

  2. Abhisheik
    September 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    This is gonna be my first ever comment on makeuseof.com and a pretty long one :-)

    I was a hardcore Nokia lover (when they ran Symbian OS). I had been using a Nokia 5230 (yes the one with Resistive touch). One morning it broke and I had to immediately replace it with a new phone (this was in Aug 2012). With only few hours to research on my new phone, I went for a HTC One V, with Android ICS, 1Gig's of RAM, good screen and HTC "Sense".

    Without any doubt I can say, One V was the worst purchase of my life! The battery didn't live beyond 14-15 hrs, the phone hanged 3-4 times a day, when restarted the phone will take 15-20 mins to start basic apps like phone and messages. Life was, to put simply, hell! in exactly 365 days I switched to iOS. As all of you can guess, I was (and still am) wow'ed by what 512 MB of RAM can do, how smooth apps can work. And how easily Phone and Messaging Apps will open post a restart (I usually do them when I'm bored).

    What made me realise was the quote by Alan Kay, which Mr. Jobs had said during launch of iPhone. "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware."

    I don't think Android can match what iPhone has created. The closest thing, which Google has come to making an iPhone is Nexus.

    • Vivek
      September 22, 2014 at 1:02 am

      The closest thing that iOS has to an Android is the ability to jailbreak, which just opens up those features that Android has without even rooting. People have different choices, my personal preference is I am happily prepared to compromise on app experience for openness, which is not much nowadays thanks to the ever improving quality of apps developed for android. And as for your comment, Android Kitkat solved the memory problem, now 512MB of RAM is enough for phones having the latest version of Android.

    • Prashant D
      September 22, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Once bitten, twice shy. I had a similar experience too with Samsung Galaxy S with Froyo. After years when I am back with Android (note 3), I am impressed.

      No phone can beat iPhone's (not iOS) build quality. But what android (not any specific device) has is, Data. Huge, Big, Sorted, Categorised, Structured DATA.

      iOS works effortlessly. Android may not but it does, in most of the new devices now. Point to be noted is, these new devices are way cheaper than iPhone.

      Where the wheel turns is something to be watched and enjoyed. We are the beneficiaries. :)

  3. DonGateley
    September 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Is there a way to get one in the US for app development and testing?

    • Aniket
      October 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      You can ask someone to send from India

  4. pmshah
    September 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Without a doubt these phones should do well. These have much better specs than the Galaxy Grand I purchased some 18 months ago for around $ 300/=.

    At this price point removable battery is not much of a concern. One can literally throw away the phone when the battery dies. My greater concern would be access to the SD card slot without having to remove the battery like I have to do on my Galaxy grand. The other feature which now I find to be an absolute must is USB-OTG.

    Come January I will gift one to my wife on her 70th birthday.

  5. Vicky B
    September 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    True that.. android one really made some revolution by introducing a whole new level of smartphones. Guaranteed updates to all these phones makes these phones even superior to high end models of Smasung and Sony. As we know, we live in times where only nexus and moto getting direct updates and all other had to struggle a lot to make customized Android OS for their respective popular models.These phones have broken those barriers and become a chance for everyone to enjoy the taste of latest android. I would appreciate a Google for making this move, because updates plays a major role today's smartphones,in case of both in security and aesthetic aspect. I would also add that, even the high end smartphone users would be jealous that they are receiving updates after the android one phones. Way to go GOOGLE.. cheers.. By the way,good article....

  6. Md Mukhtar M
    September 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I would have loved to get this phone , and actually would have bought it , if i havent bought the xiaomi redmi 1s which is available at INR 5999 (100$) from flipkart.com and have better specs than these android one phones , xiaomi is doing great and is the great competitive to these phones , as being out of stock in mere 4.2 seconds with 40000 units.

    Overall xiaomi redmi 1s and android one both are good phones at 100$ , Redmi 1s has advantage of better specs wheras android has advantage of stock android and quick updates.

    • Matthew H
      September 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      Yeah, we're a big fan of Xiaomi at MUO. You're right. The Xiaomi phones pack a lot of welly for not a lot of dough. But Android One is more current, and pretty untouched.

      Cheers for your comment!

  7. jay
    September 19, 2014 at 7:59 am

    no GPS?

  8. Joseph Lartey
    September 18, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Such a great idea. Android is really a poweful OS and is indeed a blessing if it can be obtained for such a low price. Hope it comes to Sub-Saharan Africa soon.

    • Matthew H
      September 19, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Aye, me too man. Thanks for your comment!

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