Initially intended for emerging countries, the “stock” version of Android arrives in Europe and the United States. It could answer the problem of fragmentation encountered by Google on its mobile OS.
In 2014, Sundar Pichai presented Android One, a turnkey solution for smartphone manufacturers in emerging countries. For Google, the goal was to democratize Android on devices less than 100 dollars. The partners had to commit themselves to respect a material charter to allow massive deployments of updates and to try to solve the problem of the fragmentation of Android. The success was not at the rendezvous, this ambition is now carried by Android Go, a less restrictive project. For its part, Android One could wake up the appetite of those who swear by the Android no frills.
The legacy of Nexus
In early 2017, the American site The Information announced that Google intended to import its label in the United States. It was not until the fall to see the products arrive. The Xiaomi Mi A1 is the first to come out in France, despite a still limited distribution – it is available at Materiel.net and PhoneDroid.fr. It is followed by the HTC U11 Life, which should be found more widely. Added Moto X (4th generation), an Android One version is available in the United States. In Japan and Turkey, these three models were preceded by Sharp, Kyocera or General Mobile devices.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 01net.com – The Xiaomi Mi A1
Unlike the first Android One smartphones for emerging countries, these devices are not placed in the entry-level. The Xiaomi Mi A1 is sold 290 euros. The HTC U11 Life is launched at 380 euros. On the other side of the Atlantic, the new Moto X costs the equivalent of 400 euros. The first device is equipped with Snapdragon 625, the other two with a Snapdragon 630. None falls below the 3 GB RAM. Without measuring against the most advanced smartphones – including Pixel 2 – these devices act as Nexus “light”.
Prices and configurations that aim wide
Looking at the sales figures of smartphones in France or the United States, we see that the Samsung Galaxy J3, J5 or Galaxy A5 are among the best sellers. Smartphones priced between 200 and 400 euros, exactly the market targeted by the Xiaomi Mi A1, HTC U11 Life and Moto X (4th generation). Entering this price zone, Google gives the means to Android One to convince a significant share of Western users.
The American company rids the manufacturers of the heavy constraints of screen size imposed during the debut of Android One. The Xiaomi Mi A1 incorporates a 5.5-inch screen, against a slab of 5.2 inches for the HTC U11 Life and Moto X. There is therefore a diversity in formats – essential to popularize the platform – allied to enough processors powerful for the majority of uses.
The Moto X4 Android version One Motorola – The Moto X (4th generation) Android version One
Android ‘stock’ more convincing than ever
But through these manufacturers, Google does not just associate good configurations at competitive rates. With Android One, products have a stock version of Android, with no overlay. As on the Nexus, the user finds an identical environment regardless of the device, with the main services of Google (Chrome, YouTube, Gmail etc.).
Three years ago, Android “stock” could suffer from the comparison with iOS. In the meantime, there has been Material Design, multi-window mode, active notifications, Google Assistant or new emojis. Even used in its most crude version, Android Oreo offers a user experience worthy of 2017.
Several outstanding issues
Starting this winter, are we going to see a wave of smartphones stamped Android One? This is unlikely, even with devices offering excellent value for money. For a manufacturer, integrating a “stock” version of Android is tantamount to putting an end to its software universe and therefore its services.
The HTC U11 Life HTC – The HTC U11 Life
Google’s top three partners are Xiaomi, HTC and Motorola. The former has every interest in developing its presence in Europe and the United States. The second has been working for a long time with Google – from Nexus One to Pixel 2 – and has seen part of its workforce bought by the American giant at the end of September. The last has spent three years in the lap of Google and already offers a very sleek version of Android on its devices.
To meet the success – and perhaps allow millions of simultaneous updates, Android One will have to be used by the biggest sellers in our markets, among which Samsung. But how to convince the South Korean to do away with its services?