As a part of its awesome Android One initiative, Google just launched three Android phones running a stock version of Kit Kat, the company's latest smartphone operating system, in India. The devices were launched in partnership with local brands and cost a ridiculously cheap $105.
The three new handsets — the Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498, the Micromax Canvas A1 and the Karbonn Sparkle V — pack the same guts. They all sport 4.5-inch displays with a 854x480 resolution, quad-core 1.3 GHz MediaTek processors, dual-SIM capabilities, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 32 GB via microSD. There is also a 5-megapixel rear camera on every device.
Android One is essentially Nexus for the masses. Just like the Nexus program promises timely updates to high-end devices directly from Google, Android One aims to do that for devices that cost close to or under $100. These phones, which were released today, for instance, will get the latest Android versions for at least the next two years. They will support seven languages including Hindi, which is used by almost 40 percent of Indians, directly out of the box. This includes dictation and voice commands. Android One devices will also feature more local publications in the Google Play Newsstand.
The phones will be sold exclusively online with Indian e-commerce websites like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon India to begin with, but they will also head to retail stores by October. CNET reports that Google is expected to roll out more Android One devices to Indonesia, the Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014, with more countries to follow in 2015.
With these specifications, you can bet that Android One will never come to North America, where carriers heavily subsidize high-end phones. But, as Recode's Ina Fried thinks it's a big deal for everyone, because Google is turning up the heat on the rest of the industry by showing how much can be done in just $100. "Even if Google keeps the Android One focus on emerging markets like India, it could be bad news for the big brands in mobile — companies like Qualcomm, Samsung and Motorola, and maybe even for Chinese low-cost brands like ZTE and Huawei," she writes.
More than anything, Android One provides a baseline experience for low-cost handsets controlled directly by Google. For consumers in developing countries used to running outdated versions of Android on cheap hardware with crappy touchscreens, Android One will be a world of difference. [CNET, Recode, Reuters]
Top image: Karbonn Sparkle V