Google Turns a New Leaf in Achieving 'Android' Experience for Indians



Android may be the Indian smartphone market’s dominating OS (Operating System), however, there still remains the sight of many preferring feature phones and common reasons happen to entail around affordability and complexity of using smartphones. Hence, tech giant Google has been on its pursuit to fix that gap by creating ‘Android experiences’, especially for those who enter into the smartphone realm for the first time.

To bring that experience to life, Google declared that it has already formed a dedicated team bent on making Android in India based in Bangalore and London. On that note, Google co-developed Reliance Jio’s JioPhone Next is the first of its kind to live that vision, especially when the phone is made to support 4G even though 5G has already taken a liking among the masses. Yet this smartphone is already considered as a game changer in 4G, and people have immensely expressed their interest in getting their hands on the device. The tech giant is said to further build its relationships among OEMs, telecom carriers, and developers.

Why Google Cares about First-Time Users

Since the pandemic stepped the accelerator on adopting more digital solutions for a safer as well as a convenient living, the same is the case with smartphones. Since smartphones became even more of the need of the hour than they previously were. Meaning, the demand for smartphone shot up and at the same time, getting a hang of using the device is not as easy as it appears to be. At the same time, most smartphones which have features that could be useful for studying, doing projects, videography and others, end up being exuberantly high priced.

Thereby forcing most individuals to settle for smartphones that are not just less in price but less in features that are required the most.

This becomes particularly harder for the first-time users, and Google is striving to combine both gaps by building an Android suitable for the citizens of India.

As Ram Papatla, general manager and India lead for Android puts it, “we're going to think a lot about how first-time smartphone users interact with the device. Whether it's their retail experience or shifting their contacts from a feature phone to a smartphone which is a difficult procedure or how they navigate on the device and how their first seven days go”.


The Android team also hopes to obtain a better understanding of what people want in the market and then create goods or features to meet those needs. When navigating a phone in India, Papatla additionally emphasized the need of using voice.

The JioPhone Next, which offers a Read Aloud and Convert feature that allows the phone to translate any word printed on a screen into the user's local language, reflects this emphasis on voice. The smartphone will also read it to them in their native language, removing a major barrier to accessibility for many smartphone users.

“We believe we can actually leapfrog the country by becoming increasingly natural in Indian languages using voice as the major input”, he added.

"We want to make sure the device is working properly in six to seven months. We want to look at the current devices on the market and see what we can do to better the ecosystem, adding that there are several crucial areas where Google will not compromise, such as quality and security.

If a feature was exclusive to an OEM, Papatla clarified, it would remain so. However, if a feature appeals to the Android operating system as a whole, it may be made more widely available. "It's possible that we can build the infrastructure to make India a top market for validating something. We definitely want to go through the validation process because what works in India may not work elsewhere”, he continued.

He described the task as difficult and technological, adding that Google will need to work with local partners to develop products for the market. However, the team would be split between London and Bengaluru.

He also highlighted that when it comes to gadgets, the company was thinking about computing power for India as a whole, not just smartphones. When asked if Google planned to make PragatiOS available to other developers, he said it was too early.

Why Google Sees JioPhone Next to be Preferable Among First-Time Users

In 2014, Google released its first 'Android One' phones in collaboration with Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice Mobile. All three phones were priced under Rs.6,500 and promised a 'clean' pure Android experience for budget phone customers, which was unusual at the time.

The Android One, on the other hand, did not quite take off. One important issue was that all phones had the same set of specifications, with little to distinguish them from the rest of the market. Plus, data was far more expensive back then, and smartphone use was just getting started. That last part, though, has changed dramatically since Jio's debut in 2016.

In 2017, Google tried again with Xiaomi's Mi A series, which had significantly superior specs and a price tag of Rs 14,999. While the phone received mainly excellent feedback, Android One never quite took over the Indian smartphone market.

For the majority of consumers in the country, specifications are important, especially for those purchasing their first smartphone, especially if it is on a budget. The belief that good specifications equate to a pleasant user experience, and that a gadget with a faster processor will run more smoothly for longer, is strongly ingrained in Indian customers' brains.

This is also why companies like Redmi and Realme have done so well in this market, with specifications that would normally cost between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000 at a price of Rs 15,000 or less. The notion that software alone can create a pleasant experience has yet to gain traction in this country.

With the JioPhone Next, however, it appears that Google is going beyond selling the phone on the market like in the past. This is also why the JioPhone Next has features that Google believes first-time smartphone consumers in India will appreciate, such as voice queries and local languages.

The phone, which runs the optimised PragatiOS version of Android, can translate all text in all apps into the user's native language. The material can also be read aloud in the user's choice language. Of course, the JioPhone Next's success will be determined by how all of this translates into the actual user experience.