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Monday, September 15, 2014

Google launches Android One smartphones at Rs 6,399

Google launches Android One smartphones at Rs 6,399

Tech giant Google today launched its
much-awaited Android One smartphones, priced at Rs 6,399 onwards, in
India in partnership with domestic handset makers Micromax, Karbonn and
Spice, a move that will further fuel the fiercely competitive
multi-billion dollar market here.


India is the first country where the US-based firm's Android One
devices are being launched. Roll out across other markets like
Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka will
follow in the coming months.


Google is also expanding Android One programme with Acer, Alcatal OneTouch, Xolo, HTC, Lava, Intex, Asus and Lenovo.


It has also roped in Qualcomm for the chipsets.


Micromax will sell its handset Canvas A1 on Amazon, while Spice Dream
UNO will be available on Flipkart and Karbonn Sparkle V on Snapdeal.


These phones are available for purchase through online channels in
India from today and at retail stores across India from early October.


Besides, to help drive data usage Google has partnered with Airtel for free data.


"India is one of the fastest growing Android markets globally. In
2013-14, it saw more than 3 times growth. Internet can have a
transforming effect. The intent is to take Internet to the next billion
people," Google SVP (Android, Chrome and Apps), Sundar Pichai told
reporters here.


Declining to comment on future pricing of the handsets with new
partners, Pichai said the idea is to give multiple choice to consumers.


In June, Google announced its 'Android One' initiative to bring in
under-USD 100 handsets aimed at bringing the next one billion population
to the Android operating system ecosystem.


The dual-SIM devices will sport a 4.5-inch screen with a quad core
MediaTek processor, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB internal storage, which can be
expanded to 32 GB. It will feature a 5 megapixel rear camera and a 2 MP
front camera with replaceable battery and built-in radio.


Analysts feel Android One will lead a fiercer competition in the
mid-range smartphone market with firms offering better experience at
price points in the range of Rs 6,000-10,000.


Gartner Principal Research Analyst Vishal Tripathi said Android One
devices will be under Google's control thereby ensuring a standard
hardware and software specs, which in turn will lead to a better
experience for the consumers.


"Besides, it will also help to consolidate the highly fragmented
smartphone market in India. No doubt competition will intensify due to
this launch," he added.


Greyhound Research CEO Sanchit Vir Gogia feels Android One is going to be a game changer in India.


Google's goal is to reach the 5 billion people in emerging markets,
including a billion in India. This gives them an edge as compared
Microsoft, Apple and Blackberry, he added.


"Android One gives Google tighter control over the Google OS which
means standardised UX. Support for seven regional languages is going to
be a solid plus over competitors – this will not only help consumers use
vernacular, it is also likely to help promote apps in regional
language," Gogia said.


On the competition to Android One, Gogia said Google can expect
competition but none has the wherewithal like Google to be as aggressive
and invest heavily in the ecosystem.


FireFox and Tizen are competition but far from reaching critical
volumes. Firefox (in partnership with Spice and Intex) launched two new
smartphones, priced below Rs 2,300, aimed at those looking to upgrade
from feature phones to smartphones, he added.


"Both Microsoft and Apple are not eyeing this market at all, so we can
safely expect Google to pretty much own this market. Eventually, Android
One will touch Tablets as well," he said.


The launch is also important for the e-commerce partners as electronics
-- especially mobile phones -- are one of the highest selling items on
e-commerce sites.


Motorola and Xiaomi have successfully launched their smartphones on
Flipkart, while players like Spice and Micromax have sold devices on


ECommerce sites see about 4 million queries per day in India for
smartphones and in two years, one in four phones are expected to be
bought online.


Google also said that Newstand, which provides digital version of
newspapers and magazines, will come to India from tomorrow and has added
30 new Indian publications.


According to research firm IDC, smartphone sales in the country grew
almost three-fold to over 44 million in 2013, buoyed by affordable
devices made by local firms such as Micromax and Karbonn.


In the second quarter of 2014, 18.42 million smartphones were shipped
in India. Though Samsung is the leader with a 29 per cent market share,
Micromax (18 per cent), Karbonn (8 per cent) and LAVA (6 per cent) are
close competitors.


Android One should be playing in the volume sweet spot of the India
smartphone market, Mohammad Chowdhury, Leader Telecom at PwC India,


"This market will generate 80 million plus shipments this year and so there is a lot to play for," he added.


Any new smartphone play in India today has to offer a better user
experience especially for video, and control features that allow users
to cap data usage in the background through apps that otherwise keep
running, Chowdhury said, adding if Android One phones can do this, there
is a better chance to succeed.


While Android is the dominant operating system globally, other OS' like
Windows and iOS (Apple) are also gaining traction. Also, newer
platforms like Firefox and Tizen may emerge as strong challengers to
Google's platform.


Google's attempts also hold importance as it aims to capture a larger share of the entry-level segment.


Last week, Firefox (in partnership with Spice and Intex) launched two
new smartphones, priced below Rs 2,300, aimed at those looking to
upgrade from feature phones to smartphones.