The year 2018 might see action not only at the top end with flagships from the leading smartphone makers, but also at the lower end, perhaps the bottom of it all. This is where the actions appear to be happening, at least as far as the Indian mobile phone market is concerned. Probably the offer of a 4G enabled feature phone by Reliance Jio triggered it all and after that practically every service provider has been coming up with sub-2000-rupee range phones.
The latest to join the bandwagon is Google, in association with the Indian phone makers like Micromax, Intex, Lava and Karbonn and so on. Google will bring its Android Oreo (Go edition) to the table and the hardware will be manufactured by these companies. The expectation is the phone will be priced at around Rs 2,000.
According to a report in FactorDaily, Micromax is expected to be the first one off the block with its launch happening around Republic Day on January 26. Others will follow.
Google has developed the Go edition of its Android OS with the express purpose of working on phones which have low RAM, even less than 1GB and will be able to handle basic functions like Google app, Maps, YouTube and email etc. This helps the handset manufacturers to save on the cost of the processor and some other components and offer a cheaper device to the buyers in that segment.
It may be recalled that the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai had made a mention, more than once, during his last visit to India, of $30 being the price point at which markets like India can be captured by the phone makers. This might just be the way Google worked on Pichaiâ€™s idea.
There is another completely different perspective to this move by Google to associate the Indian phone makers in its Android Oreo Go edition project. It might just provide the oxygen needed for them to stand up to the onslaught by the Chinese companies which have reduced the share of the Indian companies from 50% to 15% in the smartphone market in just 2 years, according to a study.
Around 50% of the phones sold in the Indian market are reported to be in the sub-2000 Rupee category. In another related study by global consultancy firm Deloitte, there is a projection of an incremental addition to people with internet connections across India. Their report estimates that some 350 million people will be added to the smartphone volumes, thanks to the improvement in internet penetration, by the year 2020. This could be another incentive for the Indian phone makers to make full use of the Android Oreo Go edition and offer phones at prices affordable to the typical rural buyers, who will form a bulk of this new addition to the smartphone ownersâ€™ category.
The increase in internet access is also evidenced through the quantum jump in the data consumption figures. From around 20 crore GB about a year and a half back it is now in the region of 150 crore GB. These are average figures per month.
The net result of all this is that even Jio is in talks with Google to develop a phone running on the Android Oreo Go edition, since it can bring on many more apps to its customers that it is able to offer on the KaiOS based phones it is selling/offering now.
The other offshoot is that when the volumes are so large there are many apps being re-developed to meet the requirements of these low-end phones/Android Oreo Go edition.