Google launched Android Go over a year ago with the ambition of transforming the budget-end of the mobile market. The company wants Go to be the bridge for users moving from feature phones to smartphones and to make those entry-level smart devices more usable. Android Go aims to achieve this by providing a lighter operating system with applications that are 50% lighter. The problem is, this new Android platform is struggling to get going.
Despite relatively good support from Android OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi, Lava, Micromax, and Nokia, Android Go phones in India are yet to capture the imagination. India is now Google’s biggest market for Android and could increase further as millions of customers switch from feature to smartphones over the next few years.
The problem for Android Go is Google’s plan to acquire the next billion users is stalling. Data published by industry analysts this week suggests feature phones continue to dominate the entry-level (Rs 3,000 or under) in India and no mass-migration to Android Go is happening.
“This (CY 2018) is the first time the feature phone market grew faster than the smartphone market. India remains the largest market in terms of global feature phone volume. This highlights that while India is a fast-growing smartphone market, feature phones remain relevant for a large section of the population,” Counterpoint Research Analyst Tarun Pathak wrote in a research note.
Whereas names like Xiaomi, Oppo, Samsung, Vivo, and Micromax dominate the top five in the smartphone market, the feature phone market has brands such as Jio, iTel, Nokia, and Lava. Interestingly, those companies managed to hold or improve their market position in the entry-level across 2017 to 2018.
In other words, Android Go has not made an impact on the feature phone market. Perhaps the brands are to blame and not the platform:
“For Android Go, there has never been such a loud voice earlier from brands like Nokia, Lava, Micromax, and the likes, or from Google’s end for pushing the Android Go devices. Because of this, there was no marketing initiative. Even in the retail stores, you won’t see promotional counters that talks about how important an Android Go phone is for the entry-level buyer,” IDC Analyst Upasana Joshi told Digit.in.
Away from India, Android Go adoption has been more positive, such as in the Middle East and Africa. Counterpoint Research points out Android Go devices are starting to find success in these regions, such as in South Africa where three of the top 5 best-selling smartphones run the platform. For example, Nokia 1 is the nation’s best-selling smartphone.