Android One is a special program by Google designed to provide a set of guidelines and specifications for smartphone manufacturers interested to build low-end devices for emerging territories.
Android One is a clean Android (stock version, similar to the one in the Nexus products), without customizations.
It includes all the Google apps and services, and can potentially include additional apps by the manufacturer or mobile operator. It comes with a set of minimum hardware requirements which are dictated by Google’s designs: 4.5-inch display (845 x 480 pixels), quad core processors, 1GB of RAM and 4GB storage, dual-SIM support, and stock Android 4.
The idea is simple, if your company wishes to develop a low-budget Android phone, all you need to do is follow some specifications, develop the phone accordingly (while saving a lot of costs while doing so) and you have a ready to use Android smartphone that probably works pretty good.
Why Android One?
There are 2 reasons for Google to initiate the Android One program:
Low-end Android phones are often sluggish.
I had a chance to try some, and that was not a pleasant experience. Google is trying to change that by providing ‘optimized’ designs and specifications, as well as a clean Android version, which together with the hardware, will result in a much better product and a smoother end-user experience.
A combination of software and hardware creates a better product, as Apple proved long ago.
Google is slowly shifting from AOSP (that’s the open source part of Android) to GMS (that’s the Google Mobile Services, AKA Google Play Apps, the part owned by Google). This is an ongoing shift that is taking place for a few years now. Today, a significant part of the Android OS we all use is not even Android, but instead, a part of the Google apps installed on top of Android.
What does it mean?
Google is defending its’ second most successful asset, Android, from different rivals.
On one hand, there are many manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Meizu, rolling their own flavors of Android (using the Android Open Source Project [AOSP]), where Google has no influence nor revenues from ads or services. On the other hand, Amazon continues to push its’ Google-less Kindle Fire mobile products, and if that’s not enough, now there are some (not so) new rivals such as Cyanogen and even Microsoft planning to take a bite.
Those are, of course, threats Google must take seriously.
With Android One, Google continues to make Android less open and more… “Google”.
Yes, Android One will make Android more reachable and successful in emerging territories, but most of all, it will help Google gain more control over Android.