At its annual I/O conference in June, Google’s head of Android, Chrome and apps Sundar Pichai introduced a new reference design program that the company was working on something called Android One.

Android One aims to standardise the lower end of the Android smartphone spectrum by giving manufacturers minimum hardware requirements. It return, it promises manufacturers upgrades within days of the official release of a new version of the operating system in much the same way the Google’s home-brewed Nexus devices receive them.

The Android One phones will also come with a special version of YouTube that allows them to download videos for unlimited offline play.

The Android One program is kicking off in India, one of the largest markets for budget smartphones in the world and the second biggest smartphone market after China, with three manufacturers already on board, namely Micromax, Spice, and Karbonn.

All of the phones are set to have very similar if not identical sets of specs with quad core 1.3GHz processors, 1GB of RAM, a 4.5 inch display and a 5 megapixel rear camera. The phones will also have dual SIM card support which is one of the main features for a smartphones in developing markets and will retail for Rs6 399 (around $105/R1 160)

While we don’t think that Android fragmentation is necessarily a problem for Android, there is most definitely a desire from Google to get away from the stigma attached to not having access to the latest version of its operating system and Android One is a massive step towards this goal.

Once India has been taken care of the program is likely to expand towards other big markets with Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines and Indonesia already being mentioned as follow ups. From there Google is likely to target Latin America and, hopefully, Africa where low cost smartphones are more popular than their high-end counterparts.

China may pose a problem for Google’s Android One aspirations simply because a large portion of manufacturers there eschew Google’s services including the Play Store installing the vanilla AOSP source code and running their own versions of app stores or letting people download the apps straight from the internet.

[Source – Economic Times]