Google aims for an Android in every pocket

If Android continues to grow at its current rate and the cost of handset components continues to fall, there will be 'an Android in every pocket' as smartphones do away with feature phones, Google's Eric Schmidt has said

The cost of entry-level Android smartphones will drop to around $70 — or £44 — within the next two years, as a result of falling component prices, Google has predicted.

Eric Schmidt at MWC

Android phones have hit 850,000 activations a day, Google's Eric Schmidt said at Mobile World Congress. Image credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET News

That could lead to "an Android in every pocket", given the subsequent massive reduction in need for feature phones, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt said in a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress 2012 on Tuesday.

"Next year's $100 phone is this year's $400 phone," Schmidt told the MWC audience in Barcelona. "Many people are working on phones in the $100 to $150 range. When you get to the $70 point you get to a huge new market... Smartphones will cost what feature phones cost now next year."

Android expansion

Schmidt said the number of Android device activations had roughly doubled every six months and now exceeded 850,000 per day, making more than 300 million in total.

"We'll need to produce more people," Schmidt quipped. He added that he hopes market forces will help curb the forking of Android devices — that is, non Google-certified devices — as people want access to Google-specific features such as the Android Market.

We'll need to produce more people.

– Eric Schmidt, Google

"We understood this stuff would happen, it is anticipated and it's fine... We don't prevent them from doing it, we don't contractually require them [to use Android services]," Schmidt said. "We don't sue them. It's their choice, but we hope that pressure from consumers [will] get some of those platforms to see the benefit of joining the larger Android Market ecosystem."

In 2012, Google intends to expand the full Android ecosystem with Ice Cream Sandwich on every device, in the hope of bringing more non Google-certified manufacturers into the fold, he added.

"If you just do the math, the thing is huge — it's a scale you've not seen. There's nothing in the market today with that scale," Schmidt said.

Control of the web

He also talked more generally about the role of the internet and technology, saying these can be a great leveller across the world — in some cases allowing people to rise up against dictatorial regimes. However,  Schmidt also cautioned that 40 countries now engage in active censorship of the internet — up from just four when Google began — and that some Google products or services are blocked in 25 of the 125 countries in which it operates.

"Some governments will always want to try and control and restrict access to the web and technology," he said. "Even in the US we have seen worrying legislative and regulatory proposals, and we will see more of these efforts, but I think they will fail.

"No system of censorship can be absolute... but we need to act now to avoid the rise of a new digital caste system."

During a Q&A session, Schmidt was asked about Google Fibre — the company's super-fast fibre network in Kansas City — and said that its network should easily be able to handle a sustained 300Mbps to 500Mbps connection.

The result of this, Schmidt said, is that the distinction between content formats, such as TV, DVD and high-definition video, will become irrelevant as fibre eliminates the technical limitations on delivery.

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