News Column

Google working on low-cost, high-quality smartphone

June 26, 2014



SAN FRANCISCO: Google says it is working on a low-cost smartphone aimed at emerging markets, as part of an initiative called Android One.

The handset will be built with a basic set of features, including FM radio, have a screen slightly smaller than five inches and be priced at less than $100 (R1 058), Google senior vice-president Sundar Pichai said at the start of the company's annual developers conference yesterday.

"We are going to be launching it around the world, but will launch in India first, this year," Pichai said.

The news came a day after Microsoft said it would sell an Android-powered Nokia smartphone, at $135, a device also apparently aimed at emerging markets customers.

Google was working with carriers in India to provide affordable telecom service packages to go with the smartphones, which could in many cases provide internet access for the first time, Pichai said.

The Android One initiative sets out to work with smartphone makers and others in the "ecosystem" to pool resources and standardise hardware platforms to provide "turnkey solutions" for making handsets.

"There are many people - billions of people, in fact - who still don't have access to a smartphone," he said.

"We want to change that."

Low-cost phones powered by Android have proven popular in developing markets, but have been vexed by "fragmentation" because handset makers customise the software to suit different hardware or set themselves apart from rivals. The variations result in popular third-party applications typically not working across the array of Android devices, frustrating users who want the latest fun, hip or helpful mobile mini-program.

Android One software for low-priced smartphones in emerging countries could bring some consistency across devices, according to Gartner consumer technology research director Brian Blau.

"Google really needs to have a solution for emerging markets with low-cost devices," he said.

"It is going to be a long, tough road to have an impact there; it is going to take years to bring the next two to three billion people on to the internet."

Google is collaborating with handset makers and others in the industry to field affordable smartphones that are high quality and come with reasonably priced data plans.

Handsets will be made by Google partners and launch with an initial range of "sub-$100" smartphones.

"We've long wondered what potential could be unleashed if people everywhere had access to the latest technology and the world's information," Pichai said. "It's time to find out."

Google and Silicon Valley rival Facebook have made priorities out of connecting with people in parts of the world where internet connectivity is unreliable or just non-existent. |- Sapa-AFP

Cape Argus


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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)


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