Google's new low-cost platform Android One has been launched in India, and will be rolled out to other countries in the coming months.
At today's launch of Android One, Google's head of Android Sundar Pichai announced the arrival of the first Android One handsets, which cost roughly $100. He also confirmed that the next markets to get Android One powered devices will be Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka later this year. More as-yet-unnamed markets will follow in 2015, Pichai said.
Pichai told the BBC that Google has no plans to launch Android One handsets in the West, but the company has not entirely ruled out the possibility.
Device and component manufacturers that have signed up to use Android One include Acer, Alcatel, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm.
"We expect to see even more high-quality, affordable devices with different screen sizes, colors, hardware configurations and customized software experiences," Pichai said in a blog post.
But, Pichai added, hardware partners won't be able to change the core software — referring to a ban on the custom UIs that device manufacturers often add on top of Android, which can delay the distribution of new versions of the operating system to devices.
The first batch of Android One smartphones unveiled today have kept to the minimum specs set by Google. The phones' aim is to improve the smartphone experience at the lower end of the market, while giving Google more direct control over the software, in part to address the issue of cheaper Android devices using older versions of its OS.
The Android One smartphones that went on sale in India today are the Micromax Canvas A1, Spice Dream Uno, and Karbonn Sparkle V, which are all priced around the $100 mark (6,000 to 7,000 rupees).
Each of them have a 4.5-inch display at 854 x 480 pixels, dual SIM support, and run a stock version of Android 4.4. They run a 1.3GHz quad-core processor from Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek, and have 1GB of RAM, 4GB of storage, FB radio, microSD expandable storage, as well as a front-facing two-megapixel camera and rear-facing five-megapixel camera.
All of the devices will get Android L when it's released in coming months.
The other notable feature of Android One is the support program Google has put in place with local carriers. Android One owners on Indian network Airtel won't need to use their data allowance to download Android updates for the first six months. Also, they receive a bonus 200MB allowance to install apps from Google Play. For the Indian Android One launch, Google also announced offline YouTube support and localised subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.
Android One devices in India are also guaranteed two-years worth of Android updates, outdoing Google's promise of 18 months for its own-brand Nexus devices.
Google's Android One launch comes as would-be rivals to Android turn up efforts convert feature phone users to smartphones in emerging markets. Microsoft is continuing to launch basic phones in the $30 category as it works on pushing Lumia devices below the $100 mark. Currently, its cheapest smartphone running Windows Phone is the Lumia 530, which costs $144.
Meanwhile, Mozilla has also partnered with Spice to deliver India's first $25 Firefox OS smartphone. Announced in June, the device is still not available yet.