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Google loosens grip on Android One partners in attempt to revitalize the program

In hopes to expand its low-cost smartphone program, Google is giving Android One partners more options when choosing component suppliers.

Published onNovember 4, 2015

Android One

Android One never really got anywhere, but Google isn’t giving up.

Since its launch back at Google I/O 2014, the low-cost Android One initiative was never the saving grace we had all once hoped it would be. The program promised solid Android-powered hardware, timely software updates straight from Google, a simple and easy to use software experience, and even more ways to save on high data costs. As it turns out, not many people were interested in these One devices, as the lower-cost competition began heating up in these countries, often offering users better devices for the money. Now that it’s been awhile since we’ve seen any new Android One hardware, what’s next for the program?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is taking another crack at it. Sourcing “people familiar with the matter”, this new report claims that Google plans to relax its rules and give Android One partners more options when it comes to choosing features and price.

Google is being much more lenient than it was before
Google and India’s Lava are supposedly planning to release a new low-cost One smartphone in the next few months. This will be the first Android One product under the more lenient, revamped initiative from the company. One major complaint many Indian phone makers had with Android One was the hardware restrictions set in place by Google that would limit the phone makers to only one or two choices for most components. Google required them to purchase from specific suppliers, as well.

This, for Google, ensured the smartphones were able to run the most recent version of Android. But for manufacturers, this meant less flexibility on pricing, and it also slowed down product launches. You see, if you’re making a smartphone that costs $100, every penny counts. That’s why Google had a difficult time getting manufacturers on board with the program, and those who committed to Android One only produced one or two devices.

Android One is coming to Europe, starting in Spain and Portugal (update: also in Netherlands)

This new approach, though, will allow Android One partners more freedom when choosing where each component comes from. Phone makers will now be able to purchase parts from their own approved vendors. Now, according to the WSJ’s sources, there are at least five different camera sensors to choose from. Phone makers can also now use other suppliers for the phone’s main processor, such as Qualcomm.

An executive at one phone manufacturer in India said Google’s more lenient attitude towards Android One “leaves little difference between the program and just producing regular Android phones.” With this in mind, do you think this will bring more sales to the Android One program, or do you think it will still continue to struggle? Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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