By the Blouin News Technology staff

Google’s project ‘for the next 5 billion’ comes to Africa

by in Personal Tech.

Executives from Google talk about Android One at its outset in September, 2014. Getty Images

Executives from Google talk about Android One at its outset in September, 2014. Getty Images

Google is finally entering the expanding smartphone market in Africa. The internet giant has long regarded the continent as an ideal place to experiment with low-cost internet delivery services, but has yet to heavily target the region with hardware. Now, the first phone packed with Android (and part of the company’s Android One program) is launching in six markets in Africa, with a price tag of $90.

Nigeria will see the first rollout of the HOT 2 device from Hong Kong-based Infinix, followed by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco. As part of the Android One program, the HOT 2 will be equipped with pure Android software, according to the company. Google’s VP of Product Management Caesar Sengupta conveyed the specifications of the device’s abilities and amenities in a blog post:

Like all Android One phones, the HOT 2 combines a high-quality hardware experience with pure Android software. Bringing together a quad-core MediaTek processor with 1GB memory, dual SIM support, and black, white, red, blue, and gold (with 2GB memory) models, the hardware is a great complement to Lollipop 5.1.1, which provides up to 2x better performance and extended battery features. The Android One HOT 2 will also receive an update to the next version of Android (according to Infinix’s schedule), and thus stays fast and responsive over time.

Google is also tailoring a version of its search for low RAM phones so that search experiences can be faster thanks to a feature that also reduces data usage while using search. Youtube Offline is another project the company is rolling out to African markets; the service lets users store videos to watch later should their connections be slow at the time.

Android is driving most of the mobile device adoption in Africa these days. Figures from earlier this year show that Q4 of 2014 demonstrated a 300% increase year-over-year in smartphone use across the continent, with Android leading the pack of operating systems. But Android operates on a ton of devices — Samsung and other phone manufacturers haven’t failed to get in on the burgeoning market. Google has also launched its Android One program elsewhere: India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, to name a few. What’s more, Google has made changes to its program having learned from mistakes made in those regions. (For example, the HOT 2 will not only be available online, but also in brick and mortar stores and through one of Africa’s biggest e-retailers Jumia.)

Overall, Google’s Android One program aims to target the biggest inhibitors for mobile device adoption in developing regions: price, access, and data capabilities. With a low-ish cost phone, equipped with the modern Android OS, and features that make the device’s operation less expensive and data-consuming, Google seeks to be a frontrunner in not just software but hardware across Africa. Advertised as “for the next 5 billion,” Android One in these six markets in Africa is a solid first step.