A few years ago Google embarked on an ambitious project dubbed Android One. In a nutshell, it was supposed to be the Nexus program for budget phones, delivering an Android experience the way Google intended it to be. But after a good solid year in the Philippines, the project seemed to have lost its way. Google is apparently working on their own take on a lower-priced Pixel device for emerging markets, which almost certainly means the death of Android One.
So where did Google go wrong with Android One? Many will point to the company’s spotty Android One roll-out in India as one of the main culprits of the program’s failure, as Google failed to taget offline retail chains with the first Android One phones, going purely with online sales. Obviously that’s a big no-no in India at the time, since offline sales is still the best way to go in a developing country like that. Even now, offline sales is still a big driver for many brands, something that even Xiaomi, the king of online-only sales has learned during their time in the sub continent.
Another major factor was timely updates. When the first wave of Android One devices were launched, many thought that they would get the latest version of Android as fast as Google’s Nexus brand of phones. That wasn’t the case for the first batches, and while that has improved with the second wave of Android One devices, Google has now handed off the duties of sending updates to Android One phones to their partners, which doesn’t make them all too different from the phones being sold by every other OEM in the market today.
Probably the biggest factor for Android One’s demise is value for money. Most, if not all, Android One devices had lower specs compared to comparable devices when they were launched, making them a tough sell for brands that have better lineups in their price range. While many avid followers of tech sites like Unbox put a premium on using Android devices that are guaranteed to get the latest OS updates from Google, a large swath of the buying public look at the associated specs first before considering things like Android updates down the line.
Is Android One dead? More than likely. Without a mention of the initiative in the many Google events in the past, it’s more than likely that Google shelved the project, as it is won’t to do when something doesn’t work out. Maybe Google’s upcoming, lower-priced Pixel phones will succeed where it failed, as the company will now have more control how the phones are built, marketed and sold, much like what they did with the Nexus and the more expensive Pixel phones. Will people buy it? That remains to be seen.