Android Has 1 Billion Users, Unveils Android One to Win More

Sundar Pichai, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) head of Android and Chrome, took the stage at the company’s I/O developers conference to announce, to much applause, that the Android mobile operating system has reached 1 billion thirty-day active users around the world. Each year, Android activations have roughly doubled, and now Google is looking to expand Android to previously untapped markets around the world.

In order to gain its next billion Android users, Pichai said announced that Google is launching the Android One program. The announcement has so far flown largely under the radar, with headlines focused on other launches, like Android TV, Google Fit, Android Wear, and Android Auto. The Android One program will specify hardware and software guidelines for affordable smartphones intended for the emerging market in regions where most people can’t afford the expensive smartphones sold in the U.S.

Pichai said that the typical Android One phone will feature a 4.5-inch screen, a removable SD card, FM radio capability, space for two SIM cards, and a price tag under $100. Google will launch Android One phones with three manufacturers in India this fall, Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice. Google will partner with local carriers to offer affordable data packages. Onstage, Picahi called the phone a “leverage turnkey solution” that would enable Google to quickly get affordable smartphones into the market. BGR reports that manufacturers and carriers will be able to add localized apps in addition to the Android updates that will come straight from Google. The Android One standards will give Google an opportunity to quickly expand to new markets (that currently offer little competition) while retaining more control over user experience and ensuring the quality of the interface that will help Android win new users.

Pichai also provided a “developer preview” of the Android “L” release. L is “one of the most comprehensive releases” that Google has launched. The release features 5,000 new APIs, and Pichai says that Google considered both mobile and “form factors beyond mobile” in the release. Pichai’s statement that the Android team took a “radical new approach” to the interface’s design seems to confirm rumors that the Android user interface will see its most dramatic transformation since the 2011 debut of Ice Cream Sandwich. Engadget reports that Google’s new “visual language” for not only Android, but also for Chrome OS and web apps like Gmail and Calendar, is called “Material Design.” The design language makes better use of space, adds new animations and improved typography, and provides a consistent interface across phones, tablets, and desktops.

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