Google plans Indian smartphone drive

13 October 2010

NEW DELHI: Google, the online giant, is partnering with a variety of Indian companies to launch low-cost smartphones in the fast-growing market.

The US firm's Android operating system for wireless devices, providing superior functionality alongside thousands of applications, is currently employed on handsets made by Motorola and HTC.

However, these gadgets retail at $400 (€286; £252) or more, a level beyond the reach of most Indians, where 42% of the 1.2bn population live on under $1.25 a day.

As such, a majority of the 670m mobile user base opt for basic phones given their budgetary limitations.

In response, Google is allying with domestic organisations like Micromax Informatics, Spice Mobility and Olive Telecom to turn a "really niche market" into a broader category.

"To be in the mainstream, you have to be in the $100 to $200 range," Vinay Goel, Google India's head of products, told the Wall Street Journal. "The closer to $100 the better."

"You've got a lot of innovation happening from local manufacturers."

It is thought Micromax will roll out its first Android-powered cellphone in early November, while Spice Mobility has already introduced such an offering, costing $220.

Goel predicted it may take Indian enterprises some time to deliver appliances falling in to the target price bracket, but this would occur eventually.

"There's a learning curve everyone goes through," he argued, adding that the expansion of 3G networks could mean Google Android becomes a "game-changer."

"All of the features that were initially the domain of high-end phones are now being made available to pretty much any user at low price points," Goel concluded.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff