If a new report is accurate, Google plans to loosen the requirements for the Android One program, launched earlier this year. The rework comes after a dismal year for the program, managing to hit only three million unit sales across 19 countries.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is working with Lava — a popular phone brand in India, and an existing Android One partner — and may launch a new low-cost phone in the coming months. Google also plans to let manufacturers have more freedom to choose components, potentially remove some of Google’s less popular services, and set different prices. Until now, the Android One program has been tightly controlled by Google, and made it difficult for manufacturers to produce phones down to a low price.
Google will still want to maintain some control, because a key feature of Android One phones is the almost stock operating system that’s treated to frequent updates, much like Nexus devices. Whether these compromises and alterations will be enough for manufacturers to work on the Android One program more often remains to be seen.
So far, Google has only seen three million Android One sales across 19 countries. In India, the flagship country for the program, only 1.2 million Android One sales were recorded, according to research firm Counterpoint.
That accounts for 3.5-percent of the $50 to $100 Indian mobile market, less than half of the 7.5 percent Xiaomi managed to acquire with its similarly priced Redmi devices. Samsung and Micromax are strong competitors for Google in the region, and neither fully back Android. Instead, Samsung pushes its own Tizen mobile OS, and Micromax has partnered with Cyanogen.
Android One is not the only program developed by Google to bring more Indians online. Google’s parent company Alphabet recent engaged in talks with the Indian government on the subject of launching satellite balloons across the country, as part of Project Loon. Facebook is also heavily invested in bringing the 1.2 billion people in the country onto the Web, launching its free Internet initiative in the region earlier this year.