Google is said to be working on a new set of Android One guidelines that could help budget phone makers to offer decent smartphones that sell for under $50.

The Financial Times reports Google is expected to unveil new specifications within a few weeks, as part of an effort to increase adoption of the Android One platform in India.

android one

The Android One program is Google’s initiative to provide a list of hardware that companies can use to deliver a reliable Android software experience on low-cost hardware. Phone makers can choose from a list of supported hardware while working with Google to provide the latest versions of Android with software that looks a lot like what you’d see on a Google Nexus device.

The first Android One phones launched in India about a year ago, with a series of phones priced at about $100 and offering a stock Android experience. Since then, Google has expanded the program to additional markets, and we’re starting to see Android One phones with better specs than the first-generation models.

Adoption has been less than stellar though, at least in part because there’s not exactly a shortage of cheap smartphones on the market. Models that are part of the Android One program have to compete with other low-cost devices, many of which are also running Android-based software.

Dropping the starting price to $50 or lower could help new Android One devices to become more competitive in India and other markets where many shoppers are looking for inexpensive devices. According to the report in the Financial Times, many of the most popular phones in India sell for just $31 to $47.

It’s not entirely clear what Android One phones in that price range will look like. You probably won’t find models with full HD displays or super-fast processors. But if Google can find a way to get its version of the Android operating system onto entry-level devices with specs that are good enough for basic usage, it could lead to hundreds of millions of additional users interacting with Google’s search, email, maps, and other apps (including YouTube)… which ultimately means more eyeballs looking at Google’s advertisements. After all, that’s still how the company makes most of its money.


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23 replies on “Android One phones could cost less than $50”

  1. At this point Google would be better off if the One program would just try to fix gaps in the ecosystem.
    Working towards faster updates, fast and compact (so cheap, like 20$ ) 2xA72 SoCs in 150$ (China pricing) phones. A huge focus on RAM usage, both on the hardware side and software side, RAM being costly and using plenty of power.
    On the tablet side there is no reason not to have 10 inch 4k at 300$ ( 10 inch 4k means 4x 5 inch 1080p phone screens glued together) and high end phones already have much higher pixel density, but the tablet industry just stopped doing anything 2-3 years ago. Again on the tablet side design is lacking ,folks are not shrinking bezels anymore, it’s the expired ipad design over and over. There are no good buys in pretty much any price range outside China. High res 7-8 inch 16:10 almost doesn’t exists. On the software side the tablet is very important and Google needs to work harder as foldable screens in phones are getting closer. Not being prepared for that could cost them dearly and allow Microsoft and Apple to gain share.
    For Android Wear they should focus on enabling it on 49-99$ devices.
    And so on.Scaling Android on bigger screen and even going after PC.
    How you achieve each goal is another long conversation so not going there here. The point is that there are plenty of big problems that need fixing and Google is just hibernating.Sadly they might need new management to wake up.

    1. For Android tablets, I don’t see the point of a 4K screen. I don’t think manufacturers do either. Android tablets above $250 are a tough sell these days.

      Unfortunately when it comes to higher resolution tablets, most brands are focusing on 4:3 screens, because LG is selling their 2048×1536 panels to brands other than Apple now.

      1. As i said 10inch 4k is the same as 4x5inch screens so you have the same pixel density. High end phones are 1440p now and about to go 4k. If you factor in screen to eye distance, is it much of a difference between tabs and phones? 4k tabs at sane prices should have been a thing 1-2 years ago. As an alternative it can be just a marketing feature. A 5inch 1080p screen now is some 16.5 $ , the touch layer as low as 4$, the cover glass,depends on quality but a few $ max.The touch layer and cover glass pricing scales with area not res so a 4k 10 inch screen bellow 100$ is doable.At first there would be a substantial premium but when volumes and competition reach a certain level ,pricing would be bellow 100$. So tabs with such a screen would start at 500$ but slowly reach lower prices as adoption increases.

        Users aren’t buying tabs because the products are just bad the industry isn’t evolving at all.There is just nothing to buy. Sure in China you can get an ipad like tab with 9.7 inch “high res”(was high res years ago, no so much now) and Atom at 150$ but not so much elsewhere. Asus has a 200$ 8 inch ipad mini clone but at 200$ they sell it with a downclocked Atom not the one they announced it with and that just ruins it.
        After the Nexus 7 second gem, ipad mini gen 2 and things like the first MemoPad HD, they all just pretty much stopped.

        1. You’re not taking into account the fact that the cheaper devices (mostly Atom Z3735) are not capable of outputting video @ 4K. Ontop of that, they are not capable of decoding h265 video at a rate anywhere near acceptable for 4K video.

          The trouble with 4K right now is, it isn’t worth doing unless you can do it at 60hz. Even doing something as normal as moving a mouse cursor around the screen is painful to watch at 30hz.

          I think the Intel Core M is the only suitable SOC for a 4K tablet right now. It could probably decode 4K h265 video using a hybrid GPU+CPU method, but it would be running pretty hot.

          Good luck with your $100 4K tablet.

          1. Never said anything about what chip would drive the screen, not sure why you assume intel, that’s the last option i would consider.
            Decoding video is done on a hardware or software decoder and it’s not a big deal at all. It’s just a small unit on the SoC but 4k video doesn’t matter much for now anyway. There is no reason to equal 4k screen res with 4k video. You also seem confused about the difference between UI, video and gaming. It is true that there aren’t many SoCs that can deal with 4k today but that’s because there was no need to. However even phones are about to go 4k and in tabs you have more TDP room for a faster SoC..

            An ipad Air has the same ppi as a 5.5 inch 720p phone, i can’t call that high res,, it’s not 2012 anymore.

          2. Sure, Hardware decoding is a thing. But I can count on 1 hand the number of ARM SOCs that support hardware HEVC decoding, and I can count even fewer of them that support video output of 4K @ 60hz. I don’t know of any ARM SOCs that do both HEVC decoding, and 4K 60hz output.

            Not to mention, the only Android app I know of that supports the hardware decoding features in some SOCs for h265 is Kodi. Not a very tablet-friendly interface. And Kodi only supports limited few SOCs for HEVC hardware decoding.

            If you have Windows in mind, the only chance of doing full hardware decoding of 4K h265 is if Nvidia comes out with a Mobile version of the GTX 960.

            You could use an Intel Broadwell CPU, which offers some hardware decoding assistance, but to take advantage of CPU/GPU hybrid decoding, you’re going to be limited to using playback software like MPC-HC. Also not very tablet-friendly of an interface.

            Doesn’t look very well for 4K tablets. The hardware that supports 4K playback is expensive, and limited in support.

            Not to mention there actually needs to be some content to watch.

        2. Before you start make these extravagant claims about what customers want, you might want to remember that mobile manufacturers spend countless millions of dollars a year on a little thing called market research. As these companies have found out, the tablet market is not the same as the phone market. You can’t just slap on a new 4k screen (never mind the power requirements) and expect people to come running. Unlike smartphones, which have become an essential everyday device for billions, tablets are still a ‘nice to have’ for most people. They also don’t experience anywhere near the wear and tear that smartphones do, and they have yet to find that ‘killer app’ that defines them, especially since smartphone screens have become large enough to consume video.

          1. There is a huge difference between what customers think they want and what they need and what the implications are when you move forward. As for researching,yeah right. First of all big research firms as insanely clueless and they sing the tune their clients want to hear. Second, the tablet makers are so cheap that they sellout to Intel and cut budgets instead of trying to make a better product. Look at what Google did when it launched Android One in India. It was so bad that chances are they did no research at all before doing what they did.
            Higher res screen in high end , evolving the design, pushing for chips made for tabs not phones would have kept the market growing. Higher res screens would have pushed lower res prices down , by now you lower and mid would be far better than they are now.

            As for the comparison with phones, nobody claimed that volumes would be similar to phone volumes, you just go there for the sake of it. The tablet market has stalled and is declining and the reason is terrible products. Most device makers are PC makers and they still think the same way, while designing products on BOM. If you do that you don’t get anywhere and don’t deserve to make billions out doing nothing.Joe the plumber can imagine the products they make.
            Who is gonna be doing the research? IDC or Gartner the same people that claim year after year the PC market will stabilize? They had almost a decade to figure it out and yet they don’t seem capable to.
            If a product isn’t selling,it’s not good enough. You need to make it better, in every way possible, not the opposite.

          2. Forgive me for being blunt, but you really do not know what you’re talking about. I wasn’t talking about IDC or Gartner. Corporations pay all kinds of outfits (and sometimes in-house teams) to research specific questions of customer preference, and design studies that will tackle the types of issues you keep complaining they’re not paying attention to. You don’t invest tens of millions of dollars in new hardware without some clue as to what will sell.

            Yeah, it’s easy to snark about the failures (if it was that easy, then why aren’t you the highest paid mobile designer in the world?) and claim that you know better than a dozen major corporations whose bottom line is directly impacted by these design and marketing decisions, but then I guess you have never worked in the industry, have you?

            Let me clue you in. The executives in charge of the tablet teams aren’t sitting around with their thumbs up their butts all day. They have a much better idea than you as to what tablets/phones/computers (anything really) will sell than you (or me, for that matter). If there was a simple solution to creating an Android tablet that would knock the socks of the iPad, don’t you think they would have tried it by now?

            And no, “design a better tablet than the iPad” isn’t a real answer — which is essentially all your many comments always boil down to. If only they did this… if only they did that… if only they build a device that’s twice as good for half the price… etc. etc. Once you start with the “if only’s” it’s time to stop.

  2. “Adoption has been less than stellar though, at least in part because there’s not exactly a shortage of cheap smartphones on the market.”

    Nah, not here…

    In Indonesia Android One is a flop IMO because: 1) the phones suck, even for budget phones. For example, all three Android One phones in Indo right now have FWVGA (854×480) screens while better & cheaper competing devices are typically 720p. 2) The phones are still not exactly easy to actually buy.

    The problem with the competing phones (which are better hardware wise) is that they Never get software/security updates – ever. That’s where Android One really shines. But Google throws that advantage away with their crappy phones and inefficient sales channel.

    Where I live Google needs to offer Higher Spec devices for competitive prices. Get that right first and Then start thinking about a $50 phone.

    1. There are definitely some better options between $50-100. The Doogee X5 is coming out soon, with a 720p screen, and Android 5.1 for $65.

      If you were spending more, there are some better options like the Bluboo X550, with a 720p screen, and a 5300mah battery for $150.

      Also for $150, you can get the Lenovo K3 Note. Lots of community support for ROMs, so no worries about updates.

      But if you care about updates, and a vanilla Android experience, then $150 also buys you the Moto G.

      1. Hi Grant, you name some good examples of just the kind of devices that blow away the lousy Android One phones they sell here in Indonesia. But keep in-mind all but one of the devices you mention will NEVER see a manufacturer software/security update; and yes it may be possible to load a custom ROM, but that is not a mainstream solution for most. The Moto-G is the exception. But Motorola phones are difficult to buy here, especially up to date models. I think Lenovo keeps Motorola away to protect its own-brand products from competition. So the market in Indonesia is ripe for Android One if (again) they: 1) Sell up to date devices, and 2) make the devices easier to buy. But it has been over a year since Android One appeared here, and it’s still the same old sad story.

        1. You’re right, David. Unfortunately Android’s carrier/manufacturer-delivered update model has created this situation. There isn’t any money in selling a phone near-cost, and providing long term support for it.

          1. But as we discussed previously, actually the crummy Android One devices currently sold in Indonesia are pretty expensive compared to the competition. So someone is making some money on the hardware. Regardless, the value for Google comes in the things it learns about everything you say and do. The carriers here in Indonesia do well with their plans, even if you bring your own device (which is the norm here). So the carriers are just happy to land another subscriber. The ticking time bomb in your Android One device is how long it will be before Google stops providing software and/or security updates for it. This is a topic that Google refuses to discuss – so far. But time will tell.

  3. I’d be happy with a phone like that on the “better specs” link in the text. Heck it has better specs than my current phone and I don’t miss anything hardware wise. I only want a reliable stream of software updates, especially security updates. I may buy my next phone from some online shop in India then I guess.

  4. I’d buy one if it was standardized enough to get security updates promptly. Screw the lack of advanced features. I want security.

    I’m ready to abandon Android because of lack of security updates. Went from 2.3 phone to 4.1 phone because of lack of updates. Bingo — Heatbleed was announced. It was unpatched for over six months.

    Pre-KitKat devices were no longer supported. Bought 4.4.4 device. Bingo-Stagefright! Wonder whether/if/when it will be patched. I hear new Nexus 6 is still unpatched. My one year old KitKat? Hah!

    Buy a clue, Google. A smart phone is a computing device. Computing devices have security issues. An unpatched computing device with security issues is completely unacceptable.

    I’m not going to take another chance. Either I will buy Apple phone or a feature phone (doing computing on a secure device). Android is an unacceptable risk to me. YMMV

    1. There’s no problem of running a computer with a security hole.. Wait, oh damn, there are phones, too bad Google.

    2. How many times have your phones been successfully hacked or infected? The vast majority of security problems can easily be avoided by:

      a) only installing apps from trusted sources
      b) never visiting dubious websites
      c) never opening spam or emails from unknown sources.

      Even with Stagefright, the odds of your phone’s security being compromised, even if you are unlucky enough to receive an infected message, are extremely small. Really, you are blowing this way out of proportion.

      1. You may be right. The stagefright library processes other media functions. Are there other, zero-day vulnerabilities that are, as yet, undiscovered? Who knows?

        But why would I choose to do sensitive web operations on Android when I could use a more secure operating system? Banking? You’ve got to be kidding!

        Screw Android! Android has proven to be insecure, but without timely patches. I can use Linux or Windows, each of which gets timely security updates, with much more security.

        Google has proven that Android can’t be trusted. The Google Chrome browser and ChromeOS are actually trustworthy. Why can’t Android get serious about security? What the [bleep] is wrong with Android?

        1. Well, Android is a too open and fragmented platform without any significant centralized organized control needed to maintain consistent security…

          Unlike their Chrome platform, which they have much more strict control over and Google alone sets the standards for…

          For Android, aside from the Nexus series very few devices can get direct updates from Google, for example… So it’s an inherent problem with how fragmented the platform is and how many different controlling interests are involved besides just Google…

          Google is trying, with changes like now pushing monthly updates but they can’t even get all devices to be running on the same version of Android… Though, still not impossible to make a secure Android device. It won’t be something that would be applicable to all devices running Android and there are other platforms that can do it more easily…

        2. No idea why you’re getting so angry at an operating system. Every OS has undiscovered zero-day exploits, that’s just a fact of life. There is no perfect security. As CG says, Google is trying to rectify the situation, but given the nature of Android’s ecosystem, it’s not that simple.

          Again, your fear mongering is overblown. Millions of people use their Android phone for banking, yet there is no epidemic of hacked accounts from that — hacked servers (hello Linux) are a far bigger problem because of the scale of the hacks involved. If you’re that worried about Android, you should be so freaked out about server hacks that you’ll go back to checkbook only banking.

          1. Head on over to youtube and watch “Stagefright Demo by zLabs” You can see them get root on Android in under a minute.

            Sorry, but I don’t want to bank on a handset where root is easily and transparently hacked. That really is a *big* deal.

            My daily driver is Debian Linux and I watch the security updates being applied when I do my regular apt-get updates and apt-get upgrades. I trust the Debian maintainers because they have a proven track record of getting security updates to end users promptly. Hell, I even trust Microsoft to handle security updates.

            Every OS has vulnerabilities and needs regular security patching. To my knowledge, there is only one widely used OS in the world that is not promptly patched on end user systems — Android.

            Google has two well architected operating systems: Chrome OS and Android. Chrome OS has bugs and gets regular patches. Android has bugs and rarely, if ever, gets patches. Not a technical problem; a Google business model problem.

            I’m predisposed to like Android because I’m a Linux & Open Source fan. Technically, I like Android, despite some issues.

            Would I recommend Android as a secure OS or buy another Android device? No, not unless Google, handset vendors, and carriers solve this problem.

            My handset vendor, Motorola, has just announced that they will push a Stagefright patch ASAP. Must actually be a big deal, huh?

            Unlike Samsung and Google, Motorola has *not* announced any plans to provide regular security updates. That’s a shame because I like their handsets. Goodbye, Moto!

      2. I agree mike.. I checked out the stagefright alert. Takes me to a site that offers the detection app, and for a fee the cleaning solution. I thought about but decided against it.I do exactly what you say above and I don’t link my accounts to my phone.

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