Android One was launched by Google last year, with a lot of promise.
The aim was to target the untapped mobile users in emerging markets with standardised hardware and the promise of the latest software. All of this too at an affordable price point, which is an important buying consideration for many people in developing countries such as India. Google worked with various OEM manufacturers in standardising the hardware for these phones, tying up with MediaTek for their quad-core Mobile SoC chips, almost all phones have either have a FWVGA display or a HD IPS display and batteries range from 1700mAh to 2700 mAh. Google also ensured that the software and security updates are handled directly by them and not by the manufacturers.
The price was tagged to be around the lower and middle segment of the various Android One markets.
Despite all the things in its favour, Android One after one year is classed as a failure. Despite the promise of certified hardware, up to date software and the lower price point, it hasn’t captured the market share it had dreamt of. In this article, lets look at why this is the case and why Google is seriously thinking about Android One 2.0.
If Google wants to target the mass segment in emerging markets, it seriously needs to reconsider its marketing strategy of promoting the phones. It cannot simply depend on the manufacturers to market the phones. Bear in mind that some of the manufacturers like Lava, Spice and Karbonn are small players who may not have that big a marketing budget compared to the Samsungs and LGs of the world. In addition, the margins on the phone may be pretty limited for these manufactures, which can put a constraint on their marketing budget.
Branding and pricing
Google deliberately tied up with low-end manufacturers for Android One phones. Big guys like Samsung et al were missing. These phones are typically priced at a slightly higher end of the lower end segment. From a customer’s perspective it was difficult to choose a higher side of the low range segment (e.g. Karbonn Sparkle) vs lower side of mid range segment (Samsung and LG lower segment phones).
Google put in a lot of restrictions on hardware in the name of standardisation for these manufacturers. This puts them in a tight spot with respect to the pricing of these phones. Traditionally for these manufacturers of lower end phones, one way of getting down the price is to load a lot of bloat with a custom OS on the phones which brings down the price. Google, with their control on software, was not allowing manufacturers to have any control on the software.
What should Android One 2.0 should be?
Sundar Pichai, Google CEO is visiting India on December 16th. It is expected that he will announce something new on Android One front. What should Android One 2.0 look like? What will alleviate some of the problems that it faced in the 1.0 version?
Expanding the hardware options
Google should look at easing some of the hardware restrictions on the manufacturers. They should allow a more wider range of hardware for the manufacturers to choose from.
Expanding the targeted manufacturers
Google should aim to bring on-board some of the big names such as Samsung, LG, Asus etc to create Android One phones. Customers will get a choice for their preferred manufacturer. In fact Google should make it mandatory for all Android manufacturers to have an Android One phone. They should put pressure on them to have only Android One software on their lower end phones. Google should also allow manufacturers to have certain pre-approved additional software pre-installed on the phones to help them with their margins.
In emerging markets, offline retail sales are as important as the online sales. Earlier, Google launched these phones exclusively on the online platform. They should now look at focusing more on the offline sales as most purchaes happen at small retail stores for lower end phones in emerging markets.
There should be certain other differentiation with respect to the Android Operating System in higher end phones and lower end Android One phones. Things like free Internet, free apps with no data charges etc would be a good starting point (Apologies to Net Neutrality comrades!).
Android One was launched with a goal of making phones affordable and reachable to the millions. In this regard Google’s strategy cannot be like Nexus’s limited and exclusive strategy. Google has to learn mass marketing and carpet bombing phones in partnership with the manufacturers.
Here's hoping that Sundar Pichai’s Android One 2.0 will be much more than that.
What do you think of Android One? How should Google make version 2.0 a success? Are you in India and do you agree with our views? We'd love to hear from you!