Android iteration/version names since inception have been derived from sweet foods – desserts, chocolates or other sugary confectionery.
Almost a decade down the line the owners and developers of Android Operation System that is Google, seems to try hard to maintain the sweet core of Android which is now the ubiquitous OS as far as mobile phones are concerned. Being the major player or having the highest number (share wise) does not always guarantee smooth operation. To explain this a bit better let us bring the next most popular mobile operating system in equation – iOS, the operating system exclusive for just few kinds of devices and only present on mobile phones of one particular brand, Apple.
HOW ANDROID AND iOS STAND?
As of June 2018, according to Statscounter.com, Android is the king of mobile operating system with 77% of the pie. Its closest and fiercest competitor iOS has a market share of 18%.
However one main issue with Android is that it powers devices costing as little as one thousand rupees to the zenith. So it has to tackle issues like uniform features, compatibility, security, user experience etc at all monetary levels, for thousands of mobile devices of all shapes, form factor and brands.
However in case of iOS the story is altogether different. Apple releases around two to three devices a year with a new version of iOS. This new version of operating system goes on to be compatible with iPhones as old as 4 generations back. This is really a great amalgamation of old hardware with new software that bitters the taste of Android when compared in this regard. Google being the owner and licensor of Android has to address this issue.
ANDROID AND PHONE MANUFACTURERS.
Android being open source and being readily available to any phone manufacturer for simplification and modification has its drawbacks (besides numerous positives).
If we consider iOS and Android as water slides of an amusement park, the route of iOS is smooth, lubricated and Apple has no problems created by third parties in pushing its iPhones down this slide and keeping it updated.
On the other hand the slide of Android has blocks hindering its flow. The slide of Android is first bent by phone manufactures, then it is customised according to their preference, it is painted and made to look different from its original form and most importantly in most cases the handset manufacturers starts to stand as a strict guard on top of the water slide and any update or change has to be first permitted or pushed by it. Google looses its hang.
Even high end devices of world’s largest phone manufacturer struggles to get timely Android updates.
To curb all this Google has tried hard for years to provide Android users with better experience. After all when the welfare of a child (Android) is concerned it is the parents (Google) who have to act and not the people (Brands like Samsung) with whom the child hangs out.
GOOGLE HAS MANY PROBLEMS TO FIX!
Some of it are based on the following facts,
a- Android powers even the cheapest smartphones. Google has to ensure good user experience here.
b- Most of the manufactures do not support (updates) cheap phones as they tend to attend to other high end phones of their catalogue. Google wants to fix this issue.
c- Emerging markets like India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand etc are the abode for next billion smartphones.
Google has to consider all above points and try to score maximum in all of it.
To curb issues, Google has furcated Android into other wings — Android One and Android Go.
So now there are three arms of Android Operating System — Android, Android One and Android Go.
Now let us talk about these.
Year Launched (commercial device)
Android – 2008
Android One – 2014
Android Go – 2017-18
Precisely speaking stock Android is what we get on Google Pixel (and Google Nexus) phones. These in an informal, light hearted term may be said as ‘the iPhones of Android world’.
Stock Android is feature packed, smooth, clean, bloat free, up-to-date and the virgin form of Android.
Other device manufacturers always put their own skin on top of Android to make their device stand out from the rest (or for added functionality).Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo heavily customize their Android devices.
Other brands like Essential and One Plus customize the Android less severely. However in both the cases the Android update is pushed out by these brands. Some manufacturers are swift in this while others take months and even year. Many simply do not bring updates at all. So there is no uniformity with the huge catalogue of Android devices out there. Because of all this the latest version of Android that is Android Oreo is only on 6% of the compatible smartphones. In contrast iOS 11 is on 81% of compatible iPhones.
(Source – Apple Keynote 2018)
Stock Android devices like Pixel and Nexus are always the first to get updates and security patches from Google. This is because at the core they have the unadulterated version of Android and its updates are directly under control of Google. Google introduces a new feature or adds an extra functionality to an existing feature, it is pushed to stock Android phones instantly at Google’s will. Any patch for a bug is pushed instantly. This ensures safety of the device and ultimately safety of the user.
The story is similar with Android One.
The main motto of Android One was to provide users with unmodified, non- tweaked, non manufacturer customised operating system which would get updates just like stock Android directly from Google. This would eliminate the need for a device to depend on its manufacturer for updates. Initially it was launched as a stripped down version of Android keeping budget devices in mind for emerging smartphone markets especially India, Indian Subcontinent and South Asia.
Micromax, Spice and Karbonn were the first manufacturers to bring Android One devices for the mass market. Android One was meant to empower even a low and mid tier user with the latest and upto date secure operating system. Future yearly software updates was/is also promised with Android One devices.
Apart from this Android One also introduced Google Play Protect to regularly scan apps for malware present on the Android device. Unique feature of Google Play Protect is that it also checks apps not downloaded from the Google Play
Store thus ensuring overall security of the device. Google Play Protect even works offline.
In 2015 Google heavily publicised Android One in India with cute cartoon TV ads with the tagline ALWAYS THE LATEST FROM GOOGLE.
(Source – Google India)
As of now, many low tier and mid tier smartphones like Xiaomi A1, Nokia 7 Plus and high end devices like Nokia Sirocco having Snapdragon 835 (which was the flagship mobile processor last year) have embraced Android One.
According to me this is an excellent move by phone brands to use Android One to ensure that even a low paying customer is kept secure and updated. This certainly will start sowing the seeds of positivity in minds of consumers for that particular brand.
As of now Android One is NOT a toned down version of Android but a fully fledged principle mobile programme. It is now available globally even in markets like United States and Europe. Many eminent manufacturers like Xiaomi (with A1), Nokia (with Nokia 6, Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco), HTC (with U11 Life), Y!Mobiles etc have brought Android One smartphones to different markets.
(Source – Android One Website)
Android Go, again like its brother Android One has its inspiration of emergence from markets like India.
Android Go is an extremely light weight version of Android Oreo which is focused on providing best tailored smartphone experience for phones with RAM of 1 GB or less. To put things in perspective Android Go is half the size of Android Nougat.
Now in times when we have phones like One Plus 6 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with 8 GB and 6 GB RAM, we might wonder 512 MB or 1 GB RAM is too petite and using such a device in 2018 would be a strenuous task. But Google wants to fix this.
Also we have to look at the broader picture.
Smartphone markets of the economically developed countries like United States and China have reached or are nearing saturation levels. These markets have a huge percentage of eligible mobile users already using smartphones of one kind or the other.
The next big cherry for technological companies is countries like India, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand etc.
These countries have few things in common.
a- They have huge population.
b- There is a big percentage of mobile users who seek to update to smartphones.
c- These countries have the maximum number of its people in age category of 18-40 which is apt for mobile business.
Google aims to spread its presence among this untapped section of people.
Android Go is directed for such users who have limited resources to spend on mobile phones or are updating/trying to update from a feature phone to a smartphone (off-course having limited money.)
Android Go is designed brilliantly as a lightweight version of Android Oreo with its own set of scaled down apps to provide a smooth, reliable, latest yet cost effective and up to date smartphone experience.
Google has made available the ‘Go’ version of its own apps like Gmail, Google, Maps, YouTube, Assistant etc. The size of these apps are in few megabytes. This ensures that low cost smartphones with limited storage (4GB or 8GB) are easily able to host the apps and also the cost of data needed to download the apps is less. With Android Go there is also a Files Go app to easily and effectively manage files including the option of Peer-to-Peer Sharing.
At the core Android Go is optimised to use less data. It has Data Saver switched on by default.
For Example – YouTube Go app is only 7 MB (depending on device) and is designed to work even in 2G speeds. It also has the ability to download videos in 360p and even share these videos via bluetooth to reduce data costs.
One important thing to know is Google isn’t the sole developer making ‘Go’ version/light weight version of its apps. Third party developers are welcome to build suitable lightweight version of their apps for Android Go. Examples of such apps include Skype Lite and Flipkart Lite.
However, the story does not end here. Android Go is also capable to run normal Android apps. For Example if an app you love (WhatsApp) is for Android but does not have a Go version of it; still you can download and use that app on your Android Go smartphone as usual like any Android phone (if it meets some basic requirements like minimum RAM and minimum free storage.)
Nokia 1 is an Android Go smartphone that you can buy today in India for rupees 5499. (With offers from Reliance Jio the effective price comes as low as 3500 rupees.)
It has a 4.5 inch IPS display with humble resolution of 480×854 pixels. Nokia 1 comes with 1GB RAM and 8GB of inbuilt storage which can be expanded by microSD card upto 128 GB.
The phone also packs two cameras; a 2 megapixel front camera for video calls and selfies and a 5 megapixels back camera with fixed focus and LED flash. Apart from the usuals this phone also supports 4G VoLTE and bluetooth 4.2. So you are good to use Jio sim card with this budget device.
In a developing country like India where the Government is trying hard for digitalisation by bringing mobile payments using UPI and Bharat QR Code apps; companies like Paytm, Ola, Flipkart investing heavily in bringing technological revolution in their respective fields, there is a huge potential for growth.
Also the world in general is moving towards apps. Apps are now indispensable for mobile users. Tim Cook in keynotes has repeatedly said ‘Future of TV is Apps’. Now-a-days we have apps on computers, phones, tablets, tv, watches etc. Android Go is aimed to enable people to step into the land of apps cheaply and securely.
WHY GOOGLE IS TRYING HARD WITH ANDROID ONE AND ANDROID GO?
Simple answer is – get users, data collection, security for all devices, software control (updates) of Android devices, making people accustomed with Android.
Google is primarily a search engine and a software company which is fuelled by user data and made more ad friendly and feature friendly because of data collection.
How fascinating Google Duplex seemed when it was demonstrated at Google IO 2018!
Artificial Intelligence which Sunder Pichai, CEO of Google, talks in every statement of his;
ability to train software to do work of two cameras using just one camera (portrait mode on Pixel phones);
serving suitable meaningful ads, are all the outcomes of getting users who use Google products and services and agree to let Google collect data of some sort. So more users means more data. Simple as that. And all this data helps fuel future innovations.
Even if Google is not directly earning from low end Android Go or Android One devices it still is indirectly reaping benefits in other forms.
Getting control of updates will ensure that people have the latest and greatest operating system with modern features. This would widen the number of users using the latest services. It again benefits Google.
For Example, if a large number of devices is updated by Google and the update puts Google Lens on all these devices; this directly increases the user base of Google Lens.
Also by regularly updating and keeping the devices secure Android (and Google) is painting a positive picture psychologically.
Next by selling low cost updated Android smartphones in huge numbers, Google is training people to get accustomed with Android operating system and most importantly with Google apps like Chrome, Google Photos, Drive etc which are inbuilt on all Android phones.
Microsoft sells Windows operating system at a considerable price. Still it does not take extreme preventive measures to put a full stop on pirated Windows users. One theory attributes that Microsoft does not take extreme measures hoping that a user who currently uses a illegal copy of Windows will get accustomed to it and in future he will pay for it when he upgrades professionally or he will choose Windows when he is capable to make a purchase as he is already used to using Windows and knows all its tricks and shortcuts.
Thinking of Google with Android Go and Android One also seems similar.
A user accustomed to Android Go and Google apps will upgrade to Android (stock Android)(and better phone) when he is capable and he would continue using Google Apps.
Suppose a new user of Android Go starts using the inbuilt Google Drive. He stores his files and photos there for a year or so. Now when he upgrades to an Android phone (or even an iPhone) he would tend to use Google Drive for his online storage needs instead of looking for others services because he already has previous files on Google Drive and he is also familiar with using Google Drive.
With Android, Android One and Android Go, Google is well positioned for emerging markets. It has something for everyone.
Let us take the example of India.
India runs on Cricket, Movies, Politics. There are free apps for all these.
Even an individual who is barely educated has started using or tries to use Facebook and WhatsApp. A road side seller has started accepting payments through mobile wallets like Paytm. Flipkart, Amazon are adding new serviceable pin-codes everyday. Due to the competition caused by Reliance Jio in telecom market, fast data is now cheaply available with all mobile carriers. Due to all this a solid foundation of mobile revolution has been laid. Android Go is waiting with its wings ready to welcome the humblest users to the land of smartphone and digital life.
Next the middle class in India is rapidly growing. Purchasing power of a middle class family is steadily rising. All this equates to greater ability to buy products of better quality. Smartphone is the centre of everything now-a-days. Entertainment inside home to ordering food, communication from friends and relatives to booking a ride, picnic pictures outside to videography of pet’s stunt, everything is possible using a smartphone. People want better and more capable devices. To fulfil the needs of such there is an unending list of Android One and Android Devices by various manufacturers.
So Google is playing at all levels.
Google will have to partner well with mobile manufacturers/mobile brands and make Android Go/Android One devices easily available.
It will also have to ensure a ‘value for money’ experience with Android Go devices. If the user experience is not good people will just try to buy any other Android smartphone. By this too the ball is falling in Google’s court but then the point of having Android Go will be defeated and meaningless.
Google is spending a-lot on TV ads of its apps like Google Search, Google Assistant etc. It would have to ensure that a user who watches these ads and wants to upgrade to a smartphone for these services is not let down. He is able to easily perform (in his language) the task shown to him in ads that fascinated him and pushed him to buy a smartphone.
And finally Google will have to inform people in mass market why they should consider buying Android Go and Android One devices.
(Source – Android One Website)
Customer is the king. Google is the emperor.
An individual now has many options at various monetary levels to buy a smartphone with the latest software updates, latest security patches, fluid user experience and suit of apps to get the work done.
Introduction and easily availability of Android One and Android Go smartphones is truly the humblest yet greatest stepping stone for the next billion potential smartphone users!
But Google (which has the exact stats and numbers) has a tough question to ask itself and answer it too—
“IS IT ENOUGH WHAT AND HOW THEY ARE DOING OR DO THEY NEED TO THINK EVEN BIGGER!”