Android One off to a shaky start, as shops refuse to stock the budget smartphones

android one sales stutter in india
Android One is the name given to the budget smartphones Google hopes will bring it success in growing markets around the world, but the new devices have received a frosty welcome from retailers in India, after they were shutout of the initial online-only launch, and the low profit margins associated with the $100 phones.

According to anonymous executives speaking to The Economic Times, eight major electronics retailers in India, totaling 1,800 stores, have decided against stocking any Android One hardware. Launched in mid-September, the three Android One phones announced – produced by local manufacturers Micromax, Spice, and Karbonn – were initially only being sold online. When sales didn’t meet expectations, the hardware was offered out to retail stores.

The director of one mobile store said his chain wouldn’t be stocking the phones, due to the decision not to include brick-and-mortar stores during the all-important, media-hyped launch. Low profit margins are turning off other companies. Apparently, a margin of around 10 percent is the standard, but Android One phones provide around 4 percent. Others are complaining customers aren’t interested in the Android One phones, and despite the low cost, there are plenty of good alternatives already on sale.

Knowledgeable smartphone buyers tempted by the promise of fast, guaranteed Android updates on Android One phones, may be put off by news Android 5.0 Lollipop may not arrive on the devices until 2015. Nexus phones are receiving the update now, but according to Spice’s CEO, the Spice Dream Uno Android One phone won’t see the new OS until January. Motorola, LG, and HTC all hope to have 5.0 Lollipop updates out around the same time.

Google’s plan for Android One is to bring good quality, reasonably priced smartphones to developing markets. It’s also designed to introduce users to the Google Play store, and combat the rise of alternative Android-based app stores provided by manufacturers such as Xiaomi. It doesn’t sound like it’s proving to be an easy sell though.

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