Back in June, Google introduced its Android One program to improve the affordable smartphone experience in emerging markets. The project debuted in India in September, and now it is
making its first expansion expanding to cover neighboring Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. (It launched in the UK last month.)
Google announced that a number of devices under the Android One banner will go on sale in these three markets over “the coming weeks.” The search giant said that existing partners Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — which released phones in India, including a dedicated Hindi device — will service these three markets, as well as Bangladesh-based Symphony, which is preparing to launch a phone called the Symphony Roar A50.
(Symphony is the hardware-maker Google partnered with for its ‘internet bus tour’ of Bangladesh, so there is an existing relationship between the two.)
As with the initial launch, Google said that the new phones will “give people a high quality mobile experience for an affordable price, running stock-Android with updates from Google” and that’s hugely important for the company.
It may be a household name for its desktop services, such as search, but in markets like Bangladesh — where most of the population will adopt mobile as their primary internet platform for internet access — Google needs to be as prominent as possible.
Android is already the operating system of choice for most budget devices — here in Thailand, I can buy a no-name Android for as little as $20, for example — but cheap phones often come with heavily modified/buggy versions of Android that will never receive updates or software improvements, and don’t make Google services prominently available. The idea behind Android One is to keep devices affordable but also maintain a high quality experience for users, and avoid leaving phones marooned with a crappy version of Android.
Google previously earmarked Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia for future Android One expansions and it said it will reach “more countries” in 2015. We’ve asked if it has an update on when and where those future launches will be.