Smartphones with Android Go platform to come out in India till Diwali
New Delhi,May19: Mobile phone users in India may need to wait until Diwali to get their hands on a smartphone based on the just-announced Android Go platform, Google’s latest attempt at tapping the low-cost or entry-level segment.
Industry experts and analysts said unlike the failed Android One system, Android Go doesn’t dictate hardware standards, allowing Google’s partner handset makers to differentiate their devices from products of rivals on price and experience even while using the same OS.
Indian handset vendors Micromax, Lava and Karbonn, which are major players in the mass market segment that Google wants to target and were also its partners for Android One, said Thursday they are looking forward to working with the US company’s new OS. However, analysts said they may be wary about committing investments for creating another set of Android devices on top of the existing ones, having tasted failure once.
“Android Go could come to India around Diwali. It’s still very early days and conversations are yet to begin,” said a senior industry executive asking not to be identified.
Google didn’t comment on the timing of the devices or the partners it may pick. The search giant will have two versions of its latest operating system – Android O – one of which will be Android Go, meant to work in low-cost phones, on low latency networks and will have Google and apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook that use less memory, storage space and mobile data, key requirements for consumers in smaller towns and cities.
Google’s plan is aimed at bringing in a new set of users who have limited data connectivity and speak multiple languages. The move is relevant in India, where there is potential to upgrade about 400 million feature phone users to smartphones, much larger than any other developing market.
Karbonn “looks forward to partnering with all such initiatives that will help increase smartphone penetration in India enabling a rich smartphone experience even for the entry-level devices,” managing director Pardeep Jain said.
Micromax, Karbonn and Lava partnered with Google on Android One, a 2014 initiative that didn’t take off as their phones competed with their existing portfolio on price, while the Alphabet-owned company was unable to communicate the differentiation or benefits of these devices.
“Google could learn from their mistakes in Android One and they would work with handset makers in the sub-$100 segment as these players, too, most of them Indian, are under pressure to increase sales,” said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research. “In such a scenario, Android Go will help OEMs (device makers) to further penetrate to the sub-$30 (Rs 2,000) segment,” he added.
The pricing of Android Go phones will be the key to success.
“Targeting a $30-40 Android Go phone may be a very marginal incentive for phone makers if it does not give the desired experience and consumers can buy Xiaomi or any other brand at $70-80, which gives them the full experience,” said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.
Gupta said the new OS would require devices to be made with components that support Android Go and it remains to be seen whether handset makers will invest in this set of phones, especially when they can reach the masses through devices with existing versions of Android operating systems even though they’re old.