Part of the allure of Android One was that it would bring faster, almost Nexus-like updates to lower end phones, promising an affordable offering that would still provide a decent Android experience. With the slow update to Lollipop and the fact that sale numbers are reportedly not all that high, is Android One delivering on this promise? That’s exactly what we wish to discuss for this week’s Friday Debate. Can Android One prove to be a success, despite a somewhat slow start, or with so many other affordable devices is it a largely unnecessary program?
While many times we showcase at least one or two responses from our community members, this week there wasn’t a lot of replies in the forums and so we’ve decided to simply link to the thread so you can read them at your own leisure.
What Team AA has to say
What I would like Android One to be and what Google intends Android One to be, are probably two different things. Google is positioning Android One as a way to get smartphones into the hands of people in economically poorer countries. What I probably want Android One to be is a replacement for the Nexus program where we get our hands on cheap smartphones and get updates directly from Google.
Although there are reports that Android One isn’t as big as a hit as expected, my guess is that the device makers have probably shipped over a million handsets already. The problem with the commercial world is that businesses are forced to meet expectations, and sometimes those expectations are just wrong. I think a new low-cost initiative that manages to ship a million handsets in its first few months is a success, not a failure.
Also I think that Google is succeeding in keeping the devices updated. OK, it could do better, but the roll-out of Lollipop has certainly been slower than expected. I only got Lollipop for my Nexus 7 a couple of weeks ago and our 1st generation Moto G is still running KitKat. The fact that there are Android One phones shipping with Android 5.1 means that Android One is certainly getting the updates before the rest of us mere mortals.
Of course, what I would like to see from Android One is a set of mid-range handsets that sell internationally for a good price and get updates directly from Mountain View. Unfortunately I don’t think that will ever happen. Google has tried various initiatives including the Nexus series and the Google Play Edition line, but they never turn-out quite as we want or need. This is why the Chinese OEMs are having such success. Low- and mid-range phones at a good price, and in the case of companies like Xiaomi, regular firmware updates. For example Xiaomi just released a new MIUI ROM that works with the Mi 2, Mi 3, Mi 4, Mi Pad, Redmi Note 4G, Redmi 2, and Redmi 1S 4G(TD). You don’t see Samsung doing that!
I think Android One has a long way to go to be close to calling itself a success.
Samsung and MicroMax average around 1.5 million sales a month each in India, Karbonn alone averaged 666,000 a month last quarter, and Motorola achieved 3 million smartphone sales in 11 months (~272,000 a month) following its re-launch in the country. The last figure for Android One shipments was reported at 200,000 devices in October, and falling since launch.
In total, Android One’s shipments for MicroMax, Karbonn, and Spice handsets are way behind the market leaders, and are even smaller than what Motorola has managed to accomplish by itself. In October 2014, Android One devices were expected to account for just 2.5 percent of all shipments into India, a pitiful amount for a smartphone range with the backing of the region’s leading vendors! Android One simply has not had the impact that Google expected, and there’s little that can be done to turn that around.
The stalled release of promised updates from Google has tarnished the only unique selling point that the range had going for it. The update straight to Android 5.1 suggests that Google has had issues porting Lollipop to low-end devices, but in which case initial promises should not have been made or progress should have been better communicated to consumers.
As has already been pointed out, the reality hasn’t matched up with the vision, through a combination of poor marketing, poor support and the impressive products released by more nimble competitors. I don’t think that Android One is necessary, the market is doing a better job at reaching the next billion users than Google thought it could. The project certainly wouldn’t be missed if Google was to pull the plug.
Personally I feel a large part of Android One’s lack of success has to do with Google not being willing to spend money on marketing. It’s trying to sell a major platform for consumers to buy into, and if its own Nexus program is anything to go on, the extent of that push is a mighty weak one indeed. There are hundreds of devices available to Indian consumers, why in the world would they randomly chose one running Android One instead of a competing device with better specs? All the more so if they don’t even know what Android One is. Does Google actually expect the OEMs to go all-out marketing the fact that their under-powered hardware is running a “stock” Android build, as if that matters to most of the population at-large?
Therein lies the real problem here, at least the way I see it: Android One is yet another “vision” Google has yet lacks the attention-span to actually nurture and develop. Look at Google Glass, which was just scrapped and now is going to be rebuilt from the ground up if the latest reports are correct. Look at the Nexus Q. Look at how many times Google has attempted Android TV. I’m honestly quite skeptical of the whole Android Auto project. Even the Google Fiber project seems to be totally random in terms of where the company decides to implement it.
Google has tons of great ideas, and certainly has the cash to make them happen. It also is far more interested in bringing these ideas to market than say, Apple. The problem is that the company has yet to transition itself into a multi-faceted organization. It’s great with ideas and designs and such, but when it comes to hardware or long-term plans, it seems like things fall short. It makes the failure of the Android Silver project (which was never officially acknowledged) all the more logical: there was just no way for Google to have been able to aggressively push devices in stores, because that would have required follow-through.
Now it’s your turn
How do you feel about the Android One program — is it living up to its reputation? We welcome you to leave your responses in the comments below, or you can get even more detailed in the forums.