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Google selects India as the market for Android One

MUMBAI: With India emerging as a big market for smartphones, many mobile manufacturers are entering the Indian market to take advantage of the consumer demand for low-cost smartphones.

Xiaomi grabbed eyeballs with its weekly flash sales on online retailer Flipkart. The Chinese smartphone brand in one such online sale witnessed over 300,000 customers registering to buy around 90,000 of its Redmi 1S phones priced at Rs 5,999. In a previous sale, the handsets sold out in four seconds, says a report in the Businessweek.

The report further states that Xiaomi is not the only foreign company looking to take advantage of consumer demand for inexpensive alternatives to the iPhone.

A company that has emerged with an ambitious plan is Google, which last month had made India the first market for its new Android One smartphone operating system. It teamed up with local brands like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice, all of which have recently released low-cost smartphones in the market.

The report quotes Google VP of product development Singapore and head of the Android One project Caesar Sengupta as saying, “India particularly needs better low-cost phones. In the US, when you buy an iPhone, it costs $600 to $700, but you get a subsidy, so to a consumer it feels you are buying a $200 phone.”

He adds that Indian mobile operators do not offer the sort of generous subsidies that consumers in the US and other markets are so used to getting. In India, the cost to the consumer is much closer to the actual cost of the hardware. Moreover, India’s average incomes are lower and handset costs are higher.

“It’s a double whammy. So phones look even more expensive,” he stated.

Sengupta reveals that consumers will soon have more choices, with eight additional brands, both local and foreign introducing Android One phones including Lenovo, HTC and Acer.

Regarding the reason for selecting India as a market for Android One handsets, Sengupta states, “What we found when we started looking at India, the quality of hardware isn’t what it needs to be.”

For example, some cheap phones could feature outdated versions of Android, limiting the ability of consumers to use newer apps, and thus, in turn, curbing Google’s potential to monetise those users.

This drove Google to get more involved in the Android One project, making it easier for brands to work with manufacturers and know just what they can get in a $100 phone.

The next market for Google’s Android One handsets is Indonesia, where the devices will be available by the end of the year.

Google is also reported to be eyeing other parts of Southeast Asia, and next year it aims to explore the global market for Android One.

“Google is targeting the largest 40 or so countries, market by market,” stated Sengupta.