​Google to launch $50 handset after early Android One disappointments

Google is planning a major reset of Android One in India as well as a massive investment in coming years to boost connectivity in the country.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

After admitting its Android One program hasn't met expectations, Google is revamping the initiative to create phones under $50.

Launched last year, the Android One initiative was intended to give Android a new edge in developing economies and give Google more control over how the operating system is used in such areas. Under Android One, local handset manufacturers agreed to build sub-$100 Android smartphones to a standard specified by Google.

The project is intended to ensure Android remains a conduit to Google's services as consumers in emerging markets shift to smartphones, often as the primary way of connecting to the internet.

However Android One has faced numerous problems in India -- the world's fastest growing smartphone market - where the initiative launched last year. Analysts estimate its partners have only shipped 800,000 Android One handsets in nine months since the program began in September.

The company was criticised for misreading the Indian market when it initially only sold the devices online, excluding brick and mortar stores. Android One also suffered supply chain problems and tough competition from Indian and Chinese handset makers making low-cost devices.

Rajan Anandan, Google's managing director of India and southeast Asia, told the Financial Times Android One had "not delivered to expectations" but that Google remains "very committed" to the project.

Anandan said the Android One project had faced a few "hiccups", blaming shortages of the devices on supply chain issues stemming from Chinese suppliers.

He added the project would relaunch in the next few weeks, adding that over the next few years Google will aim to deliver high-quality smartphones for as little as 3,000 rupees ($47).

The promised relaunch comes as some of Google's early Android One partners voiced their doubts about the roadmap for the program.

To counter Google's growth challenges in India, Anandan said that the company is planning to develop more products for consumers with slow connections, as well as investing in getting more and more people online.

Though he doesn't detail what that investment will be, it comes as Google also looks to expand its Project Loon connectivity program, last month signing a deal with Sri Lanka to deliver backhaul to local mobile operators in the country.

Despite the setbacks in India, Google has continued to rollout the program across Asia and to Turkey. Following last week's launch in Thailand, Android One devices are now available in eight countries.

While Google's ultimate goal may be to bring the cost of Android One devices down, the second-generation Android handset recently launched in Thailand and India have been both more powerful and expensive than previous models.

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