Google has kicked off an expansion of the rollout of Android One, with the aim of taking the stock Android devices to most emerging markets across the Asia Pacific region.
Following its launch in India this September, the Android One program will now move to Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, adding another 200 million potential Android One users to the billion-plus in India.
Android One is Google's attempt to improve the Android experience on sub-$100 smartphones, the handsets that some analysts believe will define the future of mobility.
Google has worked with with OEMs such as India's Karbonn, Spice and Micromax to deliver Android One, which is a stock version of the OS that lacks UI customisation but offers end-users the latest version of Android for at least two years. Instead of letting carriers hold up Android updates as often happens, Google has struck deals with the likes of India's Airtel to facilitate the OS updatingprocess and ensure Android updates don't count against a data allowance. Before, cheaper Android smartphones would typically be sold on old hardware and stuck on outdated versions of the OS.
Google notes that with the expansion of Android One to three new countries, Bangladeshi smartphone maker Symphony will launch its first Android smartphone, the Symphony Road A50. Existing Indian Android One partners Karbonn, Spice, and Micromax will also sell their devices in the three new markets.
Other countries Google plans on taking Android One to include Indonesia and the Philippines. Google has said it plans to take the OS to further markets but hasn't detailed when or where the program will be expanded further.
The Sparkle V, an Android One handset made by Karbonn, began shipping to the UK last month but the move doesn't represent an expansion of Google's program to the UK - the arrival was arranged by a reseller without official Google support.
Besides improving the Android experience on low-end phones, Android One also gives Google an answer to issues it faces in China, where handset makers such as Xiaomi have forged ahead with custom Android ROMs and apps distributed without Google Play.
The expanded Android One program follows last week's launch in India of Micromax's new Yu branded phone, which ships with custom ROM, CyanogenMod, and offers plenty of UI customisation.
India is the Asia Pacific's fastest growing smartphone market, according to analyst firm IDC, with share of smartphones among all mobile shipments nearly doubling over the past year. In the third quarter, 32 percent of the 72.5 million handsets sold in India were smartphones.
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