By Alex Dombrowski, International Business Writer
To gain market share in the fast-growing smartphone industry, Google has collaborated with Xiaomi Corp. to provide mid-level Android phones to the developing population in India. Xiaomi’s newest Android device, the Mi A1, will now run Google’s optimized software, AndroidOne. The move is meant to bring the Android experience to consumers in developing markets as Google aims to increase its number of users around the globe.
India, the second largest country in the world by population, has a significant number of people unable or unwilling to meet the high prices demanded by smartphone giants Apple and Samsung. Google is looking to onboard these low and middle-income consumers.
This new plan to solidify the Android market throughout the developing world comes on the heels of Google’s previous attempt to offer lower priced Android devices to the poorer populations of India. That effort fell flat regarding sales partially because the phones Google was marketing were low quality and cheap, selling for about $100. This pricing entered the phones into the competitive marketplace for low-end devices where brand name affiliations are not as sought after. To combat this, the Mi A1 is a mid-level device designed to provide a standard Google experience and will sell for about 15,000 rupees ($234).
Another knock on Google’s low-end attempt to enter India’s market was that the phones were running out of date operating systems and would not have the capacity to upgrade to the newer versions.
Since Google relies on third-party vendors to control the distribution of their Android products, less than 14 percent of Android phones run the latest operating system. However, Google has standardized manufacturing presets for its devices, and all of the Mi A1’s released in India will be uniformly up-to-date. In an interview with Bloomberg Technology, Android Vice President explained, “The selling point has been the clean Android experience with the promise of updates.”
The Mi A1 is equipped with many welcome features usually found in higher-end smartphones, such as dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, a 1080p screen, and chargers designed to handle India’s frequent power surges. These features allow the phone to strike a balance between the getting the features of high-end devices with a low-end price tag.
Xiaomi’s position as the second largest phone brand in India provides Google with the marketing influence on India’s growing market that it has been looking for. Last year, Xiaomi accounted for 17 percent of India’s smartphone sales, second only to Samsung. This shows that Google has an opportunity through its partnership with Xiaomi to gain users on its operating system. With the slogan, “Created by Xiaomi, powered by Google,” this project has the credibility that sets it apart from many another low to mid-level devices.
For several years, Xiaomi has looked to expand their consumer base past its home country of China. The Google partnership marks one of the largest investments in the Indian smartphone marketplace. Along with India, the companies aim to expand to even more developing countries and the expanding smartphone market that comes with each of them. In addition to releasing the Mi A1 in India, Xiaomi will release it in 37 other markets, mostly centered in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
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