Google I/O 2015: How Google is changing mobile for the next billion users

Faced with a large population with slow, little or no mobile broadband, Google is tweaking its core apps to spread the mobile revolution around the world.

From a market share perspective, Android is firmly entrenched as the mobile platform of choice in countries with high smartphone usage. What about regions challenged by spotty connectivity and people with limited budgets?

For the next billion connected users, Google is adjusting its software and services as it continues to broaden the scope of its low-cost Android One phone brand.

Aside from announcing some of the prominent Android M features coming to mobile devices, Google on Thursday also spent a fair amount of time discussing how it is improving the mobile experience in emerging markets.


Some of these changes are already available. Back in April, for example, Google introduced streamlined Search pages. These load faster, even on 2G connections, and they do so when the phone realizes it has slow broadband service. Users don't have to choose or opt-in to streamlined search; it happens automatically.

Search isn't the only app tweak Google is making for the next billion, however.

Google Maps will, later this year, have full offline support. You'll be able to download and store maps on your phone before traveling around, not needing to worry about finding or paying for a connection later. Offline maps are still searchable for points of interest and best of all: Turn-by-turn navigation will work offline as well.

Also getting new or improved offline support is YouTube and Chrome.

Downloadable videos, for example, can be stored and viewed for up to 48 hours without a connection when Google adds the feature later this year.

Google didn't outline what additional offline support Chrome will have -- my guess is a Reader Mode, currently an experimental feature -- but says that 73 million Android users are benefiting from the browser's data saver mode.

Software, of course, is only half of the story. Hardware is other other half.

In that regard, Google didn't announce any new Android One partners or regions. However, it did note that in addition to sub-$100 phones available in Asia, Android One phone sales recently expanded to Turkey. That market opened up earlier this month with a mid-range handset priced at $262 off-contract.

It's worth noting that Google's Project Loon is a part of Android's expansion strategy as well. Areas that have poor network infrastructure could benefit from the balloons that supply mobile broadband to terrestrial users. Google says the Loon balloons can now supply 4G LTE service across four times the coverage area as before, all while staying afloat for 400 days at a time.

Gallery: How Google is trying to simplify Android