Android for Everyone. Android One.

At the annual developer conference (Google I/O) in June this year, the company announced Android One, an initiative to bring affordable Android smartphones to developing markets — “the next 5 billion people in the world”, as Google’s VP Sundar Pichai put it.

Earlier this week, Google made good that promise as they announced 3 Android One devices in India — the Spice Android One Dream UNO Mi-498, the Micromax Canvas A1 and the Karbonn Sparkle V.

The Spice Dream Uno pictured here.

To have them as affordable as possible, the three phones come with a starting price of (Indian Ruppe) Rs 6,399 ($100, £65, AU$115), though some models may cost around $10 more. This is expected to be the pricing range going forward.

All these devices have a controlled and almost similar spec sheet — they sport 4.5-inch displays with a 854×480 resolution, have quad-core 1.3 GHz MediaTek processors, dual-SIM capabilities, 1 GB RAM and 4 GB onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 32 GB via microSD. There is also a 5-megapixel rear camera on every device. On top of that, they will run the latest Android OS with promise of future updates that are direct from Google. With the engagement of local carriers, this will definitely be possible.

In an effort to reduce data costs, if you have an Airtel SIM card, you’ll get these software updates for free for the first six months. As part of this same Airtel offer, you’ll also be able to download up to 200MB per month worth of your favorite apps (that’s about 50 apps overall) from Google Play—all without counting toward your mobile data usage.

Google is also said to be engaging OEMs such as Alcatel, Panasonic, Asus, Acer, HTC and Lenovo who are set to be the next manufacturing partners for Android One.

The newly launched phones will be sold exclusively online with Indian e-commerce websites like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon India to begin with, but they will also head to retail stores by October this year. After launching in India, Google said it plans to expand Android One to Indonesia, Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014 and in more countries in 2015. I hope we’ll have them in our Kenyan stores by then!

We couldn’t be happier with this initiative. Google has made very good considerations on price, specifications, partnerships with manufacturing partners and local carriers.

Gone will be the days of terrible budget phones with outdated software. I’m looking at you Huawei IDEOS, Intel YOLO and various low-end Samsung/LG phones.

We hope they are able to replicate this all over the developing world with great success. That way, everybody wins. It’s a great deal!

How Long for Carrier Billing on Android?

Carrier Billing

Microsoft East Africa, in partnership with Safaricom Ltd, Kenya’s leading mobile operator have launched carrier billing.  This will enable Safaricom customers purchase applications and other content from the Windows Phone Store using airtime on their mobile lines.

According to Microsoft EA, Kenya is the second country to launch mobile operator billing in Africa after South Africa.

The significance of this cannot be over-emphasized as this removes the need to have a credit card hooked up to your Microsoft account in order to purchase apps and other related content from the store. Purchases are made and money deducted from available credit on a user’s mobile number account – whether prepaid or postpaid.

This is especially useful as application purchases in the developing world are severely limited by the requirement to have a credit card. Innovative ways like carrier billing would reduce the barrier of entry while creating new opportunities for local developers.

Whither Android?

Purchasing applications and other content on the Google Play Store is available using various options. Credit and Debit cards are the most common though Google also offers Direct Carrier Billing.

From the chat below, it is clear that Direct Carrier Billing is missing where it is most needed – emerging markets.
Google Play  - Carrier Billing
During the I/O conference, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Senior VP Android, Chrome and Apps talked of how Android has successfully engaged 1-billion users and is on the race to reach the next billion most of whom are in emerging markets where smartphone penetration is still low.
GoogleIO

With the launch of the Android One initiative, we are hoping carrier billing will be included in the list of offerings.

The lack of this feature is noticeable on Android and applications like WhatsApp have some creative workarounds. They have an option where you can purchase the renewable service for a friend.
WhatsAppPayForFriend

Samsung Launches Compact, Stylish Galaxy S5 mini Smartphone

SM-G800H_GS5 mini_Black_Duos_2
Without much fanfare, Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 Mini. The device is meant to provide a smaller more budget friendly alternative to the flagship device as they have done with the 2-generations before now—Galaxy SIII Mini and s4 Mini.

Though stripped down, it still comes with almost similar looks at the flagship and features such as IP67 Dust and Water Resistance, Fingerprint and Heart rate sensor that we only saw on the Galaxy S5.

The full specifications are as below.

Network

LTE Category4 : 150 Mbps DL, 50 Mbps UL
HSDPA 42.2Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps

Display

4.5” HD (720 x 1280) Super AMOLED

AP

Quad Core 1.4 GHz

OS

Android 4.4 (KitKat)

Camera

Main (Rear): 8.0 MP AF with LED Flash
Sub (Front): 2.1MP (FHD)

Camera Features

Shot & More, Virtual Tour Shot, S Studio

Video

FHD@30fps
Video Codec: H.263, H264(AVC), MPEG4, VC-1, Sorenson Spark, MP43, WMV7, WMV8, VP8
Video Format: MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM

Audio

Audio Codec: MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/ AAC+/ eAAC+, WMA, Vorbis, FLAC
Audio Format: MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA

Value-Added Features

IP67 Dust and Water Resistant

Ultra Power Saving mode

S Health

Private Mode/Kids Mode

Connectivity

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC (LTE ver. only), Bluetooth® v4.0 LE, USB 2.0, A-GPS + GLONASS, IR Remote

Sensor

Accelerometer, Digital compass, Gyro, Proximity, Hall, Ambient light,
Fingerprint, Heart rate sensor

Memory

1.5 GB RAM + 16GB Internal memory
microSD Slot (up to 64 GB)

Dimension

131.1 x 64.8 x 9.1mm, 120g

Battery

2,100mAh