It is really interesting to see how Google is trying to get control over Android again.
If we go back in time, we remember that the main selling point of Android was that it was free for OEMs and they could customise it as they saw fit.
This made a lot of sense, because OEMs did not have to worry about the basic functionality of a smartphone OS while at the same time being able to differentiate their version of Android from that of the competition.
As a result of this, Android now has a market share of 80+% worldwide. However much Google enjoys that situation, they’d clearly like to have more control over Android as customers enjoy it.
We can see this in Android Wear, where manufacturers can differentiate on hardware, but the software and interface are pretty much a given. Something similar is bound to happen with Android TV, apparantly.
Of course, Google can’t do it that simply in the smartphone segment, where they have allowed OEMs to run wild with it (to a certain extend). However, they have now spotted a clear opportunity to take back some control: low-end Android smartphones performed comparatively poor and Google is offering manufacturers the Android One platform, where they have basically outlined a basic hardware spec it will run on and where they will take care of the OS updates.
This aims to reach the next billion smartphone users. The ideal scenario for Google is of course that end users end up demanding “stock” android because it performs well and it is a clean and familiar user experience.
I am not so sure it will work out like that. I personally don’t see this being a very interesting value proposition for manufacturers. Already in this article we can see that there are three very similar phones from different manufacturers. How can they set themselves apart in this situation? Market power, only, really. And that is not a great situation.
I am completely on-board with pure stock Android. It is good looking, fast and gets updated quickly. I’d love to see more phones with this on-board, but only time will tell whether this is going to work.