Google Reboots Android One Initiative, Aims For $50 Smartphones

Google isn't giving up on its much hyped Android One project, an initiative aimed at bringing inexpensive Android smartphones to emerging markets. The initial roll out hadn't gone as smoothly as Google hoped, but it's ramping up its efforts for a reboot with a focus on India where there's an existing push to increase Internet access.

Android One provides manufacturers with a set of specifications to build cheap smartphones while maintaining a certain level of quality. Rajan Anandan, managing director in India and Southeast Asia, told the Financial Times that Google is still "very committed" to this effort, even though it hasn't gained much steam since launching in New Delhi almost a year ago.

Google Phone

Similar to what Samsung is going through with its Galaxy S6 Edge, Android One is being hamstrung by supply chain issues, which in turn have led to shortages of inexpensive phones. However, Google is undeterred - Anandan chalked the shortages up to one of a "few hiccups," which he says are to be expected when launching a new initiative.

Not only will Google have to solve its supply chain issues, but it might also have to get the price of these handsets down. At launch last year, phones built to Android One specifications ran about $100. That's much higher than what Anandan has identified as the "sweet spot" in India, which is between $37 and $47.

This is all part of a bigger strategy to monetize a region via Google's advertising business. At present, the local market for digital advertising is pretty small. To help with that, Google has put in place a major investment program to bring tens of millions of businesses online with content focused on India's population, content that can be accessed by these low cost handsets Google is pushing.