Android One (image 002)

The Internet giant Google during a Monday media event in India announced the first wave of low-cost Android handsets running the company’s optimized Android One software, with prices starting as low as $105.

“The world is filled with potential: people who are ready to leave their mark and need a phone as ambitious as they are,” said the firm during the event. The Android One project has been conceived to bring stock Android experience to inexpensive mid-to-low-range handsets sold in emerging markets such as Russia, India, Brazil and China.

The Android One initiative includes the latest Android version (Android 4.4 KitKat at the time of this writing) and stock experience free of carrier junkware and custom user interface skins, ensuring smooth execution on low-end devices.

Android One customers are allowed to update their devices to the latest Android version “soon after it’s released,” but there’s a catch — for up to two years only.

Indian vendors Micromax, Karbonn Mobiles and Spice will provide first Android One handsets with 4.5-inch displays and a quad-core processor made by MediaTek. More Android One handsets from Acer, Alcatel, Asus, HTC, Lenovo and Panasonic are to follow soon.

Android One (image 001)

The search giant is betting that Android One can tackle Android’s widely reported fragmentation and ensure its lead in the emerging markets that have been experiencing double-digit growth of handset sales.

“Right now, only one in four people own a smartphone,” said Google. “Imagine what’s possible if everyone has a phone as ambitious as they are”.

Android One comes with Google voice commands and a Google-designed interface, run Google apps and feature a built-in FM radio, front/rear cameras, a quad-core chip, micro-SD card slot and support dual-SIM cards.

Google has said that all Android One devices will receive a free Android L upgrade later this Fall. Moreover, popular Indian carrier Airtel will treat its Android One customers to the 200MB in free Google Play app downloads per month and all Android updates for the first six months.

Lastly, the company is enabling an offline mode in the stock YouTube Android app, but in India only, to ensure that customers can download videos on Wi-Fi and watch them later without an Internet connection.

Though initially available only to users in India, this features is expected to roll out to everyone at a later stage.

What do you think?

Does a $105 Android One handset sound tempting to you?

[Android One on Google+, The Android Blog]