Google and Xiaomi: The Battle for India

Android One at Google I/O

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s news round-up, Android One—otherwise known as the Nexus program for emerging markets—was officially launched by Google.

Software-wise, like Sundar Pichai said at Google I/O, Android One is about a stock experience with Google apps and guaranteed system updates. In terms of hardware, the minimum spec for an Android One device seems to be: (1) A quad-core processor, (2) “all day” battery, (3) micro SD cards support, (4) front and rear cameras and (5) support for dual SIM cards. Not bad.

Of the news pieces I posted yesterday, one headline in particular jumped out at me: Google’s new phones are designed to ensure it doesn’t lose India like it did China. It reminded me that while Android has definitely conquered China, Google has not.

This is, of course, because Google products and services are effectively blocked within the PRC. It’s a long and somewhat complicated story that’s documented pretty well in Fred Vogelstein’s Dogfight. As I remember it, Baidu was already pulling away from Google when the latter moved their operations to Hong Kong in 2010.

These days there’s another ingredient to add into the mix: Baidu and Tencent have not only supplanted Google Search and its other services within mainland China; they are now—along with Xiaomi and others—serving millions of Android users with their own app stores.

Now, to India, the latest beachhead in Xiaomi’s international expansion. The company has only sold 80,000 handsets there, but they did it in less than 10 seconds. It’s not hard to see why; when it comes to price vs. specs the Redmi 1S blows away the competition—including Android One. By the numbers:

Redmi 1S

Screen: 4.7 inch, 1280 x 720 pixels
Processor: Quad-core 1.6 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Battery: 2,000 mAh
Storage: 8 GB
Camera: 8 Megapixel
Price: Rs. 5,999

Android One Reference Hardware (via Android Police)

Screen: 4.5 inch, 854 x 480 pixels
Processor: 1.3 GHz Quad-core Mediatek Processor
Battery: 1,700 mAh battery (removable)
Storage: 4 GB
Camera: 5 Megapixel

Android One Prices

Karbonn Sparkle V – Rs. 6,399
Micromax Canvas A1 – Rs. 6,499
Spice Dream UNO Mo-498 – Rs. 6,299

Obviously, with 15 hardware partners Android One handsets will come to market in much greater numbers. So in this way the battle for India has already been won. Still, I bet those 80,000 new Xiaomi customers are fairly pleased with themselves… I know I would be!