India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market, behind China, and is characterized by the success of very low-cost models. Here, Xiaomi reigns supreme, while Apple is still struggling to making a name for itself, and basic devices at knock-down prices are the focus of attention.
With some 150 million smartphones sold in 2020, India is now the world’s second-biggest market for the devices, behind China, but ahead of the United States.
Nearly one in three smartphones sold in the country is now made by the Chinese company Xiaomi, known for offering quality handsets at highly competitive prices, compared to the competition, both in the high-end and mid-range segments. And with time, the Chinese manufacturer is widening the gap with its pursuers — namely Samsung, of course, but also its compatriots Vivo, Realme and Oppo. Apple is far behind, as the iPhone has never really broken through in India. It has to be said that the premium sector is not the most popular choice in a country where poverty remains a major challenge.
In India, Android dominates the market, and Google has been actively involved in boosting smartphone sales in the country, first by developing a stripped-down version of Android, and more recently by providing financial support to a number of India’s major players in new technologies.
It was in 2014 that Google unveiled Android Go, aimed at India and some other emerging countries. This is essentially a pared-down version of its mobile operating system that’s easy to install and runs on entry-level smartphones. Its launch led to the release of many products at very low prices, accessible to a great number of people. The record was reached by the controversial company Ringing Bells and its Freedom 251, sold at the time for 500 rupees, i.e., less than $7!
Since then, Google has gone even further. In 2020, the American giant announced it was investing $10 billion in India, notably to expand access to the internet and information, but also to develop new services in education and health. Recently, the billionaire Mukesh Ambani — who helms the Reliance Industries conglomerate — supported by Google, announced the launch of a smartphone, the JioPhone Next, selling for just 6499 rupees, or around $88.
It is obviously in Google’s interest to help people in India, which now has a population of more than 1.3 billion, get a smartphone running Android — even a rudimentary one.