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Android One — Made for India

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At Google I/O 2014, the Android One project with Micromax, Spice and Karbonn was announced and I couldn’t help thinking about its resemblance to what Nokia did several years back with the Nokia 1100. The rugged low-end phone that was advertised as ‘Made For India’ and its superpower was a great battery life along with torch light and a sturdy, anti-slip design. It was successful and delivered exactly what the consumers wanted.

It was a time when incoming calls had become free in India. And owing to the poor electricity supply in rural areas, the 1100 was a hit. Since it’s launch in 2003, it sold 250 million units globally. Eleven years since, Google is seeing that opportunity in India again.

A majority of the billion Indians would go online for the first time on a mobile device. The mobile revolution is a global phenomenon, but the developing economies are seeing more of it. Globally mobile internet usage is still shy of the 50% mark, it is already over that mark in India. India wasn’t the hotspot of a lot of technological progress that the west experienced in the last decade — be it huge computer penetration, boom of organized retail and the 3G wave. But we are more hopeful of seeing smartphone adoption, ecommerce vs organized offline retailer and faster shift to 4G networks in this one.

Given the market dynamics, what would the Nokia 1100 of today look like?

— A Internet ready device. With large enough screen it might just fill out the void of not owning a computer.

— Not as expensive (the success of the Moto G and Moto E are largely due to their price points)

— Entertainment is key; music for most of India is FM. Watching videos on mobile is big! So throw in a microSD card slot too.

— Dual SIM works well in India. People like to optimize calling cost and carry multiple SIMs.

As a concept the Android One scores full marks, with one flaw against the Nokia 1100 — the build quality, durability and support / serviceability of Nokia is hard to match. Will Spice, Karbonn & Micromax build as many service centers across India? Deliver a hardware as reliable? (see the Nokia 1100 TV commercial below). We would have to wait and watch.

Lead image courtesy: DigitalBuggu

Annkur P Agarwal

Annkur P Agarwal is a mobile enthusiast who is fascinated by the ways in which mobile is changing our world.

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