Thursday, 23 October 2014

'Android One facing tough competition from Android devices'

NEW DELHI: Just over a month after Google launched smartphones under the Android One initiative in partnership with local handset makers Micromax, Karbonn and Spice, trade watchers suggest that sales haven't been encouraging. However, the companies contest the claim, even as they start offering the devices through offline retailers.

The world's most popular search engine brought out three models in the Rs 6,299 to Rs 6,499 price band on September 15, available only online, as part of its initiative to connect the next 5 billion people through the internet and smartphones.

"Android smartphones in the same price band usually sell about 200,000 units, but Android One numbers have been half to one-third of those," an industry tracker aware of the combined sales figures of the three companies told ET on condition of anonymity.

Micromax sells its Canvas A1 Android One smartphone through Amazon, Karbonn offers Sparkle V through Snapdeal and Spice sells Dream Uno smartphone through Flipkart. The three online retailers declined to provide sales numbers.

According to an analyst who tracks the handset segment, despite a lot of money spent on marketing, the Android One campaign didn't "effectively convey how this device and its operating system that offered Google Services like Maps and Google Now, was different." He added that shortcomings such as the inability to take pictures without adding an external card to the devices may have also hurt.

However, executives at Micromax, Karbonn and Spice say their devices are doing well, and in some cases, demand was outstripping supply.

Karbonn, the third-largest smartphone vendor in India, said it had managed to create "excitement" among potential customers through the online launch and the device is now getting a "very good response" with the availability on offline channels from last week. It plans to launch the next Android One device by end of this year or early next year.

Nitin Mathur, co-founder of mobile phone research site, said Android One had generated tremendous interest among smartphone buyers.

"Since September 15, when Android One devices were launched, approximately 100,000 people have searched for Android One devices on 91mobiles, 75% of these searches are for the Micromax Canvas A1," he said. In the same period, about 170,000 people searched for Samsung Galaxy Core 2 and 160,000 people searched for Xiaomi's Red Mi 1s.

Micromax, Karbonn and Spice did not share their respective sales numbers. A Google spokesperson said only that Micromax's Canvas A1 was the top device in the mobile phone category on Amazon and the black colour model has been sold out.

Android One is a programme that promises a rich smartphone experience on low-cost devices. Google sets the minimum standards on hardware and software to be used by handset makers. By controlling hardware and software, akin to what Apple does, Google aims to bring user experience found on high end smartphones to the affordable end of the device spectrum.

Finbarr Moynihan, general manager for international corporate sales at Mediatek, the chipset maker Google tied up with for the launch, said device sales are on track to meet 2 million units for 2014. Google added Qualcomm as a chipset partner last month.