According to figures released by Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president and head of Android and Chrome, the number of active Android users has reached one billion. While this is an impressive figure, Google believes it's just a fraction of the potential for Android smartphones. A large part of Google's global strategy is creating devices and partnerships to expand Android's reach into emerging markets and the rest of the world's population.
Google's initiative to expand the Android smartphone market is called Android One. With Android One, Google is creating solutions to problems that prevent hardware manufacturers in emerging markets from making affordable phones that are up-to-date with ever-changing technology. To assist in making phones more affordable, Google is creating reference hardware that uses inexpensive, easily available components. A hardware manufacturer following this design can save development costs and significantly reduce the time it takes to launch a cutting-edge Android smartphone. Android One makes it possible to create phones for emerging markets that wouldn't have been possible before. In terms of software, Google says that these phones feature the same version of Android as its Nexus phones and can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular market.
Google's first focus with its Android One initiative is India. To expand the availability of affordable Android smartphones in this emerging market, Google is partnering with hardware manufacturers such as Karbonn, Micromax and Spice. To illustrate the kind of device that can be launched thanks to Android One, Google is highlighting one phone made by Micromax for the Indian market that costs less than $100 to manufacture. Despite the low cost, Google says this phone feels like a high-end device and features a 4.5-inch screen, along with features specifically designed for the Indian market, such as dual SIM card slots.
There are several reasons to believe an initiative such as Android One has the potential for success. A similar low-cost Android smartphone, Motorola's Moto G, is already a huge success in India and the company's best-selling smartphone to date. Research firm IDC reports that India is the fastest growing smartphone market in the Asia-Pacific region, with growth of 186 percent over the first quarter of 2014. Despite rapid growth, smartphone ownership in India is still only 10 percent, suggesting a lucrative market with great potential for growth.
Once considered a luxury item, smartphones have nearly supplanted traditional phones in most of the developed world. With lower manufacturing costs, this is beginning to be seen in emerging markets as well. Expanding the reach of Android smartphones through its Android One initiative is Google's top priority. Google has good reason to believe its next billion users are in markets it's targeting with Android One.