The Android One program was unveiled amid a lot of fanfare and excitement back in 2014. It was Google’s grand-plan to bring the smartphone access to the “next billion”. On paper, Android One was a very good idea and had the potential to be wildly successful. Amid slowing growth and market saturation in elite and mature markets, Android One targeted developing countries to fuel further growth in hardware sales. Google (Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL)) planned to do so by setting a hardware and software standard that would allow the sale of cheap smartphones that did not compromise on quality and user experience.
The Android One program, however, never really gained traction. In fact, many declared it a failure as early as in 2015 due to a lack of compelling product offerings. Nevertheless, if new reports are to be believed, Android One may now partner with Xiaomi to stage a stunning comeback, and finally, deliver on its original promise. Let’s have a closer look and analyze the news in detail.
The Xiaomi Mi A1: The Resurgence Of Android One
Reports out of Indonesia over the past few days claim that Google is partnering with Xiaomi to deliver the next generation Android One smartphone. The new device has currently been dubbed as the “Xiaomi Mi A1“. It will reportedly be a modified version of the Xiaomi Mi 5X, featuring a metal unibody design, fingerprint scanner, 5.5-inch 1080p display and possibly even dual rear cameras. As for its internals, it is likely to feature an octa-core Snapdragon 625 with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, a 3080 mAh battery and USB-C compatibility. The Xiaomi Mi A1 will reportedly only launch in Indonesia initially, but expand availability to other countries in the future.
A quick look at the specsheet makes one thing very clear – the Xiaomi A1 is a powerhouse. It is very different from previous Android One smartphones, in that it feels and performs like a much more premium smartphone. While most Android One smartphones in the past have been drab low-end affairs, the Xiaomi Mi A1 looks to buck that trend by offering the cutting-edge, both in terms of design and specifications.
Despite this, will the new Xiaomi Mi A1 be enough to make Android One a success? What are the factors that may enable Xiaomi and Google to succeed where past efforts have failed? Let us have a look.
The Xiaomi and Google Partnership Is A Dream Come True
A New Kind Of Partner – Previously, Google has partnered with local vendors like Micromax and Sharp for its Android One offerings. That has not worked out so well, with these companies unable to offer a refined and premium experience to their users. Xiaomi, on the other hand, is known for selling premium quality smartphones with great specs and at a low price. This is exactly the kind of approach needed to add some glamour to the Android One smartphone lineup.
Xiaomi’s Strong Infrastructure And Presence – Xiaomi is already a supremely successful company. In fact, it was the 5th largest smartphone vendor in the world as of Q2 2017. Xiaomi has a strong foothold in many Asian countries such as India, China, Indonesia, etc. Their brand name and strong distribution channels will definitely contribute towards the Mi A1’s success in these countries.
Stock Android Goodness – Despite their popularity and critical acclaim, one criticism of Xiaomi is their MIUI skin. Many users feel it is bloated and would prefer a stock Android experience. Xiaomi is also notoriously lethargic in providing software updates. The Xiaomi Mi A1 will fix all of these issues. Being an Android One smartphone, it will run stock Android and will get new updates quickly and regularly.
Price – The one caveat with the Mi A1 is its price. According to reports, it will cost in the sub $250 category, which is considerably more than a lot of other Android One devices in the past. However, users may be willing to accept the price increase considering the host of features that the Mi A1 will offer. The price is also not too far off from the smartphone ASP (Average Selling Price) in many potential target markets. For example, the current smartphone ASP in India is $155.
What Does This Partnership Mean For Android Go?
This partnership between Xiaomi and Google is undoubtedly very beneficial to both parties. Xiaomi will likely sell millions of units of the Mi A1 and make a huge profit if it becomes successful. This could help them consolidate their position as one of the biggest smartphone vendors in the world. As for Google, the Android One program will help to bring millions of new users into its fold. All of these users will be invested in Google’s ecosystem, including Google Search. This would provide a tremendous boost to Google’s ad revenue, which already makes up a large proportion of their overall revenue.
However, this new partnership does beg the question – what will be the faith of Android Go? Google recently announced Android Go, another initiative to provide low-cost, fully functional smartphones to emerging markets. Does the Xiaomi Mi A1 mean the death of Android Go? Not quite. Android Go is a stripped down version of Android O for devices with under 1 GB of RAM. It is targeted towards the ultra low-end (sub $100) and will run lite versions of popular apps. As such, Android Go and the Xiaomi Mi A1 are operating in completely different price brackets.