Now Android One is Like Signature PC for Smartphones

Posted on September 5, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 15 Comments

Now Android One is Like Signature PC for Smartphones

Originally conceived as a way to bring Android to emerging markets, Google’s Android One efforts have floundered. But the firm keeps trying, and this week it announced that it will bring Android One to the mainstream.

Those who still mourn for Windows phone and were critical of Microsoft’s strategy of spamming the market with barely differentiated low-end Lumias will appreciate what’s happening here. As I noted back in 2015, Google, like Microsoft, failed in attracting much interest for their low-end smartphones in emerging markets.

In Microsoft’s case, it sold far fewer phones than it expected, and the average selling price (ASP) per unit was far lower than ever before at the time (which, frankly, it should have expected). This failure played a key role in Microsoft’s exit from the smartphone market, which it also announced in 2015.

By comparison, Google’s failure with Android One was less damaging to the company, given its dominance of the smartphone market. So Google has kept Android One limping along since then, and it is always on the lookout for those next billion users.

What’s changed since 2014, I think, is that natural market forces—like lower component costs and ever-maturing technology—have made it possible for Google and its partners to deliver full-featured smartphones at affordable prices even in even emerging markets. Likewise, expectations in these markets have risen over the past three years. And while feature phones will likely limp along for a few more years still, smartphones are very clearly the future.

So where Android One was previously about bringing down costs almost exclusively, Google is now changing the program. Now, Android One is about delivering a pure Android experience via third party handsets. It is, in effect, the smartphone version of Microsoft’s Signature PC line.

“We’re extending our commitment to Android One by working with more partners to build phones that run a software experience designed by Google,” Google vice president Jamie Rosenberg explains. “In the past year, we’ve expanded the program to new partners, geographies and price points. Today, our newest program partner Xiaomi just launched Mi A1.”

Described as “a great example of what Android One represents, a collaboration between Google and its partners to deliver a software experience designed by Google,” the Mi A1 is no throwaway phone. It features an octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of expandable storage, a “flagship” dual camera system, and a 5.5-inch 1080p display. It’s available in black, gold, or rose gold, and costs just $235. It will be available in dozens of countries, including India, Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam and Taiwan, Google says. It’s a gorgeous looking device.

So with this change, Android One becomes just pure Android.

That is, all Android One phones will provide what Google calls “a pure Android experience with a clean design and a small, carefully curated set of preinstalled apps,” optimized Google Assistant experiences, and Google Play Protect security. As important, upgrades are guaranteed: Android One devices will receive “timely upgrades” to the latest Android OS, Google says. And the Mi A1 specifically will receive an upgrade to Android Oreo before the end of the year; next year it will also be one of the first devices to receive an upgrade to Android P.

I like this change quite a bit, but then I’ve always like Signature PC as well. It’s the right way to go.

 

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Now Android One is Like Signature PC for Smartphones”

  1. wright_is

    It will be interesting to see how they fair with updates...

    I took a Nexus 5x last time around, because of security update availability (I previously had Samsung and htc devices which were abandoned within a year or got the zero-day updates about 6 months after they were announced). Now there seems little choice, the Pixels are too expensive and everything else gets slow updates...

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to wright_is:

      Two major updates sounds about right.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Five or six sounds reasonable though. iPhones 5S will be receiving iOS 11 really soon, as will retina iPads mini.


        Four updates so far on the 5S (7 to 11) and five in the retina mini (6 to 11) and each may get one more. Not holding out hope, but it’s possible.


        Thats the standard many of us are looking at. We expect years of updates, since it’s system software and not a chintzy camera app... which OEMs still can’t figure out how to update.


        I really WANT to be able to have that option for Android, and this is the first move made that makes it look possible for me. They just need to do a little better if they want me to spend more than $200.

      • wright_is

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        The major updates are nice, but in the current climate, security updates for the lifetime of the device is a minimum... And most people I know keep a phone for 3 - 4 years.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to wright_is:

      That's why I switched to the iPhone. While as expensive as the Pixel, Galaxy, etc, at least the iPhone gets support for several years and maintains some resale value. It gets fairly regular updates and you get those security patches. Android manufacturers forget about your phone quickly and would prefer you buy a new one once a year.

  2. TheDude

    Android 'One' was replaced by Android 'Go' in Oreo as Google's solution for low spec phones in emerging markets. 'Go' strips down the heavier elements of the UI and even has a set of lightweight Google apps to go with it. Would be great if Android One catches on in its new role, but it seems like manufacturers are addicted to slinging their crap all over their phones to 'differentiate' them in the market.

  3. Waethorn

    Wow. And I thought Google wouldn't bother with Chinese OEM's like Xiaomi. Times, they are a-changin'.


    And about time too. Now, if Xiaomi releases a flagship under the same program, I'd be in line to buy one. They make quality hardware, but previously it's been crippled by Chinese crapware. Xiaomi has even put out porn adware/spyware in their official Chinese ROM's for some of their devices. The International ROM's were a bit cleaner but excluded proper Google support, so Google Mobile Services were always side-loaded from an unofficial source.


    What I want to know is if Google is also giving this the Google Play Protect seal of approval.


    I'd also like to see what Google's official statement is with regards to EXACTLY HOW LONG updates will be available for Android One devices upon release. Will it be the same "guaranteed two years" of updates like it is for Nexus or Pixel? If so, then I think Google has finally solved the biggest problem of Android. The only hurdle at this point is OEM support.


    Speculation: will Google stop production of Pixel to wrangle more OEM's over to the Android One platform?

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Carrier support. OEMs will not support two years outright. They want you to buy a new phone every year.


      Android is still Android. Google cannot centrally control it in reality due to the open source licensing . This leads to OEMs doing whatever they want. The Windows model will never happen on Android. This leads to a ton of unstable apps that vary from phone to phone, performance issues, battery life issues, etc. Your experience on Android is never predictable from phone to phone, even with the same model. It's the nature of the open source license. Google could help a bit by being far more demanding of quality in the Play Store, but that's easy to get around. They can't really make the OS able to prevent apps that don't meet proper standards from running (well, they do, but the standards are very broad).


      I don't see this changing anything. Android will remain horrible, but is cheap and easy for OEMs to load onto devices so it will remain successful because iPhone is the only alternative and its expensive. Android will continue to sell a very small portion of premium handsets and mostly sell low and midrange devices that make customers even more frustrated with it.


      Android can be taken out in a few years, the issue is the chicken and egg problem. Without apps you have no hope of success and without an installed user base you have no apps. This is the sole reason Android has any success. It was there are the right time. I've talked to very few people who love Android or even like it. They like their apps. People do like and love their iPhones.


      So we're stuck with Android until the smartphone is surpassed by something else. Well, a lot of people are stuck with Android. I got rid of Android in my life and it has been so much better without it.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to jrickel96:

        Carrier support is not a problem in Canada. Carriers release updates as soon as the OEM provides them. Yes, I called and asked every single one.

      • James Wilson

        In reply to jrickel96:


        I've got rid of all Android and Google products as well as Facebook. I only use Microsoft and Apple products now and am happy with this.

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to jrickel96:

        I really don't get your issue with apps. People who use common sense have around the same chances as iOS of getting a bad app. Common sense... Don't change the settings allowing sideloading. Don't download apps that haven't been reviewed by a trusted website. It's actually easier than just going and downloading because if you just do a google search for the type of app you want many sites have reviewed them and will tell you the best. So you only download one app.


        Try it. google "best twitter app for Android 2017". See how easy this is. Spend 5 minutes finding the best app for you then go and download it.


        When it comes to phones buying an iPhone or buying a Google Pixel is the same. You decided. You purchased it. You get updates and security patches right away. Why do you care that other companies are selling other phones that don't get this?


        I don't know why you say "Android is horrible". Seems to me you are very biased.

        • nbplopes

          In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:


          I think what you meant is that buying a phone from Google, Samsung, Acer, Lenovo, Huwaii ... and hundreds more is just the same from stability and app support point of view. All of them run Android, iPhone is not Android.


          Is this what you are saying?


          PS: I don't think Android is horrible by the way.

  4. SvenJ

    You'd think that if you wanted to keep costs down, you would already throw on a stock version of Android. No customization or additional features that need to be developed, tested, maintained, and updated, assuming you intend to update the OS. You also don't have to have a marketing budget that convinces people what you added makes it better than stock Android. I assume there is a healthy third party pre-installed crapware market for these cheap handsets, but I expect those are just loaded for a fee, not developed by the OEM. I cant imagine they go so far as to make those craapps permanent, as Samsung has done. That takes effort. (Had a Note, 5 I think, that had Flipboard embedded so deep you couldn't get rid of it or change the gesture that invoked it to something else.)

  5. timothyhuber

    I would love to see Project Fi offer a couple of mid-range phones - maybe this program is the way to do it.

  6. Orangeguy

    I have tried to hop off the Apple train, but they keep dragging me back in. By they I mean the Android phone I purchased last was a motorola Z play. It looked great, was reasonably priced since I waited to buy this last Spring but the battery life without the battery pack was abysmal. Then I looked for the Security update that I had read should be available for android in general but for that handset at that time it was not. i don't know if it is available now or not, but security updates in a timely fashion were not mentioned as a strong suit in the new lenovo/motorola world so back to Amazon it went. I would love a reasonably priced $400-$600 android with NFC / android pay and good battery life. There appear to be several possible contenders but i think I will await the next Pixel to be revealed and see if I can try again. The Android One program if it ensured security updates might be just the ticket. My grail feature I miss from my apple days is resuming the ability to receive and reply to texts from my desktop ala imessages on my Macbook Pro and iPhone. I am sporting a surface pro at home and work with docks that force me into facebook messenger land to easily chat with family members. Blech... FWP - I know.

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