A report from The Information (paywall) claims that Google is going to bring its cheap smartphone initiative, Android One, to the US. Android One was originally cooked up for developing markets like India, which saw Google lay out guidelines for OEMs to make cheap smartphones that were actually good. Android One took “good enough” hardware and paired it with stock Android and fast updates.
The line started out with $100 devices, with a second generation moving up to the $200 range. According to the report, in the US the devices will be a little more expensive, with releases in the $200 to $300 range. The Information wasn’t sure which OEM might make the phone, but it floated LG as a possible partner. LG and Google are reportedly already collaborating on an upcoming smartwatch.
A big question will be who is in charge of the updates on this device, since Google has flip-flopped on Android One software updates in the past. Google handed things for the first generation, which resulted in fast updates—the $100 phones were the first to get Android 5.1. After a rough reception in India, Google watered down the program, and updates changed from “direct from Google” to “from Google’s hardware partners.” To further complicate matters, there is still one Android One phone that gets updates direct from Google, the General Mobile 4G. It was even in the Android N beta program.
No one really makes good, cheap Android phones anymore. Google was the standard bearer with the old Nexus line, which usually retailed for $300 to $400. It killed the Nexus line and started chasing the iPhone with the Google Pixel, which bumped the price up to $650. Motorola under Google was a big player in the budget Android market, too, with the excellent Moto G ($180) and Moto E ($150). Since Motorola was purchased by Lenovo, the Moto G line has been in decline, and the Moto E seems to be dead. The OnePlus is still a decent option, but its latest flagship, the OnePlus 3T, raised the price to $439. We would definitely welcome the return of good, cheap Android phones.