It's Official - Android One: Google aims for the 'next five billion'

  Google has just announced via their blog that the long awaited Android One initiative is a go.

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According to their post, 1.5  billion people currently have access to a smartphone. But being Google, they are setting their high sights on the emerging markets - and the rest of the world. All five billion people.

Android One is the platform which Google first talked about at this years I/O conference but little has been heard since then - until today.

According to Sundar Pichai, SVP, Android, Chrome & Apps;

By working closely with phone and silicon chip makers to share reference designs and select components, we’re making it easier for our partners to build phones that are not just great to use, but also affordable. They have lots of processing power, so you can get information quickly. They have high-quality front- and rear-facing cameras. And for all those pictures, along with your apps and videos, Android One phones will have expandable storage. We also added features that people in India will find particularly useful, like dual SIM cards, a replaceable battery and built-in FM radio.

The first range of Android One phones are being launched in India today with more markets including Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of 2014 and more to follow in 2015.

All phones released through Android One program will receive updates directly from Google, a status previously only afforded to Google's Nexus line-up, and confirmation that these phones will be getting the Android L update later on in the year. Pricing for the Android One devices seems to be set at around the $100 mark, meaning that Google should be providing the consistent experience of a high end handset but at a low cost.

So far no manufacturers have been able to make a meaningful dent in this market either getting pricing or quality wrong so this could be the kind of device that enables high adoption rates in emerging markets. However, there is a lot of competition from other manufacturers so Google will have to make sure it delivers on its promises of high quality at low prices with a good software user experience. Also announced is that there will be further devices from Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm to come to the Android One program in the future.

In order to sweeten the deal for the Indian market, Google has teamed with service provider Airtel in order to deliver all software updates for free with no data charges for the first 6 months - essentially meaning that Android L updates will be imminent and free to users. If that wasn't quite enough to whet your appetite for the new lineup, Airtel will also provide 200mb of free data to be used for downloading apps from the Google Play Store.

The initial annoucement today launches three new, fairly oddly named, phones;

  • Karbonn  Sparkle V
  • Micromax Canvas A1
  • Spice Dream Uno

All three phones have the same specs;

  • 4.5” FWVGA display
  • Cortex A7 1.3 GHz Quad-Core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB storage (expandable up to 32GB)
  • 2x micro SIM
  • Front and rear facing cameras (2MP and 5MP)
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion, 1700mAh
  • Android™ 4.4, KitKat®

Despite a lot of internet rumours it still appears as though Google will continue with the Nexus line as their flagship devices alongside the new flagship affordable devices from Android One. The new Nexus devices are expected to be announced at the same time as the Android L release (potentially now called Android Lion, with a continued Nestle partnership following Kit Kat).

You can find out more about the Android One program here and for India here and read Google's whole statement at their blog.