Google launches Android One devices; will get Android updates for two years

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Google has announced the details of the first Android One devices, a range of smartphones set to target users in emerging markets. The first wave of devices are made by Micromax, Karbonn and Spice and available now in India with prices starting at Rs 6399 ($104).

The initial devices sport fairly modest specs, similar to those we’ve seen from the Moto E, but with Google’s involvement and a stock Android on board performance should be good enough to make the devices a worthwhile proposition.

The key specs include a 4.5 inch display, 1MB of RAM and a quad-core processor from MediaTek. There are front and rear cameras, as well as SD card support. In select markets devices with dual-SIM slots will also be available.

Intriguingly, Google has promised that all Android One handsets will receive updates to the latest version of Android for the next two years.

This could be a significant point for the rest of the market. Manufacturers like Samsung have achieved some success in emerging markets with phones like the Galaxy Young, but these receive minimal support when it comes to updates.

The Android One project is Google’s attempt to put smartphones in the reach of the five billion users globally that currently do not have them.

This untapped sector of the market has been a focus for parts of the industry for some time, for both philanthropic and business reasons. Nokia launched its ‘Next Billion’ strategy as far back as 2010, and launched ill-fated Android handsets as part of this strategy earlier this year.

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Whether a post-Microsoft Nokia will continue targeting this area remains to be seen, although the entry level Lumia 520 has been a success in India, one of the few successes for Windows Phone to date.

With Apple showing no interest in democratising technology and its benefits, Android One could prove to be a important development.

Android one

Other Android One manufacturers

In a blogpost the SVP of Android Sundar Pichai announced that there are numerous other hardware manufacturers on board, set to produce their own Android One handsets.

These include Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic and Xolo. Chipmaker Qualcomm is also signed up to provide processors for these handsets, something that promises potentially significantly improved performance in future.

Global Android One availability

Android One smartphones are available for purchase in India from today.

The Android One program will be extended to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka before the end of the year. More countries will follow in 2015.