Google Android One phones to sell in three more Asian countries

The Android One low-cost phone was first introduced in India

Google's low-cost Android One smartphones will be selling in the coming weeks in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, three small but fast-growing markets, following a September worldwide debut of the devices in India.

The company said it had signed up a number of hardware and network partners in the three south Asian countries, which together have a population of over 200 million.

"All these devices will give people a high quality mobile experience for an affordable price, running stock-Android with updates from Google," Caesar Sengupta, the company's vice president for product management, wrote in a blog post Monday.

The Internet giant has decided to launch the phone in these countries because they have cost-conscious users, said Vishal Tripathi, principal research analyst at Gartner. As in India, the phones will likely target "people who understand technology," including the value of integrated hardware and standard Android, he added.

Google said in September it had a number of partners for the Android One project, including phone makers Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic and Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm.

Besides its Indian partners Micromax, Karbonn and Spice, Google has partnered with Bangladesh's Symphony, which is the largest player in smartphones in that country.

The low-cost phones based on Google's reference designs will help the company drive a standard configuration, putting pressure on other Android phone vendors who will now have to find ways to differentiate at the low end and in the mid-range, Tripathi said.

The small size of the smartphone market in the three countries presents an opportunity for low-cost entrants like Android One. Smartphone demand grew 100 percent year-on-year in Sri Lanka from a small base in the third quarter, according to CyberMedia Research. 200,000 smartphones were shipped in the country in the quarter. In Bangladesh, smartphone sales soared 220 percent annually to 1.6 million units in the third quarter, according to the research firm.

In India, Google's decision to sell online initially hasn't gone down well with brick-and-mortar retailers, but Tripathi believes the company may have decided to sell online to address its target market that understands technology. The company's partners launched in India a phone starting at 6399 rupees (US$100) without operator subsidy.

Google did not immediately comment on the prices of the phones in the three new markets.

The company had earlier planned to also launch in Indonesia, the Philippines and Pakistan by the end of the year, but did not provide details of the rollout on Monday.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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