Android One, Google’s program to get stock Android devices on low cost devices in emerging markets, is launching in 6 African countries: Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Morocco.
This extension of the program is driven by a new device launch from Hong Kong-based Infinix. Despite being based in Asia, Infinix focus on Africa and have over 60 service centres across the continent.
The device is called the Hot 2 and is noticeably higher spec’ed than the Android One devices that launched in India last year. It has a larger 5 inch HD display as well as vastly increased storage at 16GB with an optional upgrade to 2GB of RAM as well. The camera is also upgraded to 8MP. Similar to other Android One devices, the Hot 2 runs a MediaTek quad core chipset.
The Hot 2 is immediately available in Nigeria through online retailer and Jumia as well as through physical stores priced at 17,500 Nigerian naira (approximately $87). Devices come with an offer of 1GB of data per month for a year from MTN for 500 naira ($2.50).
One of the main purposes of the Android One program is to encourage manufacturers to push out stock Android and thus, quick Android updates into emerging markets. Typically devices that are sold in emerging markets feature older versions of Android and are also less likely to receive upgrades than high-end handsets in developed markets. This results in older versions of Android holding a substantial share of the Android installed base for many years. Currently 9 of the Android installed base use a version of Android that is at least 4 years old. This slow updating causes problems for app compatibility and security, as shown by the recent Stagefright vulnerability.
Android One however is struggling to address a key stumbling block in this process. Even at $87, Android One devices are still too expensive for a huge number of people in emerging markets. The positive news though that despite the higher specs, the Infinix device is cheaper than the Android One devices launched last year. The vast majority of people will not put any premium on buying a stock Android or a customised Android handset, so the onus is on Google to make the Android One devices available for as many people as possible.
Partnering with MTN to offer reduced data tariffs for Google users is a good development for all parties. The offer is approximately 3 times cheaper than MTN’s standard data tariff so should garner plenty of attention from consumers. The cheap data also makes it possible for the devices to receive updates from Google as soon as they become available. MTN should also benefit in the long run as customers get less conservative about using data.
It is unclear how widely available the device will be in physical stores, but IHS views this as a significant condition for Android One’s success. More and more commerce is moving online, but Android One’s target market of first time smartphone users will not be purchasing goods online just yet. Android One devices need widespread distribution across all sales channels if it is to become a success.