Intelligent Machines

Google Announces Sub- $100 Smartphone

A new line of smartphones designed by Google could spread Internet access more widely in poor regions of the world.

Billions of people may get their first experience of the Internet through Google’s mobile operating system.

A low-cost smartphone designed by Google will go on sale in India this fall before debuting in other emerging economies, the company announced today.

The phones will be branded “Android One,” after the company’s mobile operating system Android, and will cost less than $100. They are part of a new effort by Google to get devices based on its software into the hands of people who currently lack access to the Internet.

Already, one billion people use phones running Google’s Android software, said Sundar Pichai, leader of Google’s Android division, at the company’s I/O conference in San Francisco today. “Our goal is to reach the next five billion people in the world,” he said. “In India and other countries like that, it’s disappointing that less than 10 percent of the population have access to smartphones.”

Google has also developed a series of smartphone “reference designs” that it is making available to manufacturers. On stage, Pichai introduced a device based on one of those designs, made by the Indian manufacturer MicroMax.

That device will go on sale in India this fall for less than $100. Its features include a 4.5-inch screen, dual SIM card slots, an SD memory card slot, and an FM radio.

Similar devices from two other Indian manufacturers, Carbon and Spice, will also go on sale this fall, and Android One devices are expected to appear in other countries soon, said Pichai. In contrast to the arrangement with many Android devices, Google, not manufacturers or wireless carriers, will be responsible for updating the software on Android One devices. The company is working with wireless carriers to make low-cost data plans available, he said.

Like other initiatives by Google and its competitors to spread access to computing and the Internet in poor countries, Android One could help bring a lucrative new customer base online (see “Facebook’s Two Faces”).

Indeed, low-cost Android phones are already  common in many emerging economies (see “Android Marches on East Africa”). But many of those devices use versions of the open-source software that don’t include services such as search, maps, and e-mail or access to Google’s app store. Android One devices will have those capabilities by default.

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Listen in as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.