Android One smartphones: 5 questions we need to note about these devices

While Android One sounds like a great deal, here are five questions that we really need to ask around these smartphones.

Android One, Google's one drop solution to make smartphones affordable while maintaining as uniform an experience as possible, is now out in India. So what exactly is Android One? Well as Sundar Pichai, Senior VP of Android, Chrome and Google Apps, pointed out -- at a hardware level Android One is sort of like a restaurant menu for specifications. Basically Google has tested the Android OS across a variety of specs, from screen sizes and resolutions to RAM to processors to Camera megapixels and manufacturers can choose which commutation or permutation to go for.


In addition to this Android One comes with what is pure Android experience (although manufacturers can choose to change the skins, themes etc) and has assured updates for two years with the Android L update coming soon.


The three smartphones that Google launched under the Android One banner are: Karbonn Sparkle V which is for Rs 6399, the Spice Dream Uno is priced Rs 6,299 and the Micromax Canvas A1 which is priced at Rs 6,499. As far as specifications go, it’s the same for all three devices. The smartphones have a FWVGA 4.5-inch display with resolution of 854×480 pixels at 218 pixels per inch, a 2 megapixel front camera and 5 megapixel shooter on the back, Mediatek’s 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 4GB memory space with microSD support upto 32 GB, 1 GB RAM, WiFi, 1700 mAh battery.


While Android One sounds like a great deal, here are five questions that we really need to ask around these smartphones.


1) The same specs issue: This is a big problem since they're same for all the Android One smartphones, except each comes with a different original equipment manufacturer (OEM) branding. For users, there are truly no different options. Sure the Karbonn Sparkle V comes in more colours and the Micromax camera has a slightly different design on the back, but at the end of the day these are three very similar smartphones.


It's also evident that all three OEMs are competing with each other, despite the whole Android One program. For starters, all three have different prices, even though the sense we got in the press event was that all three would priced similarly. Then you'll notice that all three are offering 8GB microSD cards with the phone along with various other offers to users.


For the first time user, the choice isn't real. Of course, performance will differ slightly in each smartphone, but don't expect them to outperform each other drastically. At the end of the day, when picking one of these Android One Phone, it will depend on which company's after sales service you want to deal with.

 Android One smartphones: 5 questions we need to note about these devices

Spice Dream Uno is seen during the launch. Tech2


2) The better specs concern: Yes, pure Android is a great idea as are updates, but seriously the specifications will not excite a smartphone audience which is choosy and wants all the great specs but doesn't want to pay more. Android One phones face competition from Xiaomi's Redmi 1S and Motorola's Moto E, which are the same price-range but offer much better specs in terms of screen, processor quality.


Plus as Sundar Pichai indicated the Android One program is getting more partners, from Xolo, Intex, Lava to Acer, Panasonic, HTC, Alacatel, Lenovo and Asus. Add to that Qualcomm will be coming on board as a partner soon. The Chrome and Android VP also said that Android One smartphones with 5-inch screens and 1080 p screen resolutions would be a possibility in the future and these would probably not be priced at Rs 6500.


For users who want an Android device, these three devices might seem outdated as far as specs are concerned, and if we see a new range of Android One devices getting launched in the coming months, that's going to add to their disappointment.


3) The memory space question: All three Android One smartphones are shipping with the free 8 GB microSD card for now, and as we saw during the launch memory is a big concern in these smartphones. Out of the 4 GB memory space, a little over 2 is available to users and given that we couldn't use the camera without a microSD at the launch, this is clearly not going to be enough.


Again for the first time user, who's buying a smartphone so he/she can get on the selfie and or/ smartphone photo wave, that message saying they can't use the camera would be a disaster and probably leave them annoyed. Sure there's Google Drive space, but let's also assume that some of these Android One users are first time smartphone owners who won't be the most tech-savy people. Space matters on a smartphone and in case of the Android One devices it's a disappointment.


4) The data consumption question:  This is clearly one that Google has tried to address with solution aimed at India. For most Indian users, whether you're on an iPhone 5s or a Moto G, connectivity is a pain. In Delhi alone, not every 3G signal works at every place, and 4G is a distant dream. 2G is of course exceptionally slow (try opening Facebook on it) and yet you find that data consumption is high since every app both on Android and even iOS wants to get online.


With Android One phone, Chrome Browser uses the data compression technology to ensure that a customer won’t have to worry about a high-data usage while browsing the web. For the first time smartphone user, this is a great feature, since many of them might still be on 2G or on pre-paid 3G.


Then Google is bringing YouTube videos on Android in offline mode as well. What this means is that people can store videos in the YouTube app when they are on WiFi and watch them later. This is also a big plus for data consumption. Being able to watch YouTube videos on a Rs 6500 smartphone, when you have terrible Internet connectivity is a great way to convince users about the pros of the Android ecosystem.



5) Finally the Android question:  For the consumer-section that has only Rs 6500 to spare, this is the biggest plus in all these three smartphones and one that Google is hoping they will see. The fact that their Android phone will get all the updates, all the apps as soon they launch on Android 4.4.4 is a massive bonus. For a long time, when I used an old Samsung Android smartphone, it meant that I never got all the latest apps because I was still stuck on Android 2.3.


Temple Run and Instagram might seem old for tech savvy users, but for the newer wave these are things they've dying to get on and now with Android One they can. It also means that when the next 'hit' game comes to Android, they too will be able to join in on the phone.


With Android One, Google is telling users, it doesn't matter that you don't have the Octa-core smartphone with a 16 megapixel camera, you're still going to have access to all the apps.


Overall, what holds Android One back are the specs, at least where the audience knows exactly what it wants in a smartphone and have a budget of Rs 6500. Then, there are those who just want to do all the things that their friends do on more expensive smartphones. For them, Android One sounds like a great deal.

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