As a part of its Android One initiative, Google just launched three Android phones running a stock version of Kit Kat, the company's latest smartphone operating system, in India. The devices were launched in partnership with local brands Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobiles and cost a ridiculously cheap 6,399 rupees (£64.34).
The three new handsets: Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498, the Micromax Canvas A1 and the Karbonn Sparkle V — pack the same guts. They all sport 4.5-inch displays with a 854x480 resolution, quad-core 1.3 GHz MediaTek processors, dual-SIM capabilities, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 32 GB via microSD. There is also a five-megapixel rear camera on every device.
The best part about Google's Android One programme is that just like the Nexus programme, which primarily consists of high-end hardware, these devices with middling specs will get the latest versions of Android directly from Google for at least the next two years. They will also support Hindi, a language used by almost 40 per cent of Indians, directly out of the box. This includes dictation and voice commands.
The phones will be sold exclusively online with Indian e-commerce websites like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon India to begin with, but they will also head to retail stores by October. CNET reports that Google is expected to roll out more Android One devices to Indonesia, the Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014, with more countries to follow in 2015.
With these specifications, you can bet that Android One will never come to the west, where carriers heavily subsidise high-end phones. But, as Recode's Ina Fried puts it, Google is turning up the heat on the rest of the industry by showing just how much can be done for such low cost. "Even if Google keeps the Android One focus on emerging markets like India, it could be bad news for the big brands in mobile — companies like Qualcomm, Samsung and Motorola, and maybe even for Chinese low-cost brands like ZTE and Huawei," she writes. [CNET, Recode, Reuters]
Top image: Karbonn Sparkle V