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Google's relaunching Android One phones to hit $50 'sweet spot'

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
August 10, 2015
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Google is rebooting its much-hyped Android One project that's supposed to bring low-priced smartphones to emerging markets. The company's managing director in India, Rajan Anandan, told the Financial Times that the program has "not delivered to expectations," due to shortages of the devices. In addition, they have cost as much as $100, limiting their appeal in the price-sensitive region. Of course, Google's ultimate goal is to increase its search business in huge emerging markets by getting connected devices into consumers' hands. It's now going to focus on hitting the pricing "sweet spot" in India -- between $30 and $50.

At launch last year, Google revealed Android One handsets from Indian companies like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobile. The devices were basic, but decent with 4 to 5-inch displays, 5-megapixel cameras and recent versions of Android. Google hasn't said yet who would build a sub-$50 device, or whether it would maintain the same specs.

When we have a billion Indians online we think that's going to make a huge difference to the global internet economy.

The search giant is also planning "very large-scale" investment in content designed for India's culture and language. Google's existing products target mostly English-language speakers, and many don't work well in the bandwidth-challenged nation. As a result of all those issues, Anandan said that local search is one of "several battlegrounds where we are not winning" in the nation. The company is obviously willing to be patient in such a potentially large market, however. "We're here really because 10 years from now a billion Indians will be online and when we have a billion Indians online we think that's going to make a huge difference to the global internet economy."

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