Android One phones in the U.S. are an opportunity for everyone to have a Good Phone™.
Step into the Wayback Machine with me for a minute, as we head back to the Autumn of 2013. Amidst all the hype and furious pace of Android phone releases, one phone was unexpectedly great: the original Moto G.
The 2013 Moto G only had to do one thing: not suck. It succeeded.
The first generation Moto G was, at around $150, fairly inexpensive. It didn’t have the fastest and bestest processor or ungodly amounts of memory (it actually had 1GB of RAM, if you can believe it). It even had a mediocre 4.5-inch LCD display. If you placed it beside a phone like the Galaxy S4 it was clearly outclassed in almost every way. The thing that made the OG Moto G special is that it did not suck. Prior to 2013, you weren’t going to find a cheap phone that didn’t suck. The 2013 Moto G became the bar all cheap phones are measured against, even today.
And you know what? There are a lot of people who want a cheap phone that doesn’t suck. That’s where Android One and the Moto X4 come into play.
The Moto X4 will be the first Android One phone you can buy in the U.S. without importing it and wondering whether it will work on your network. We (that means you if you’re reading this on a Saturday) might buy phones that ship from other countries, might not work, and have no warranty, but most people don’t. Those (smart) people go to Verizon or Best Buy and pick something that they can see and touch. Even if they’re “only” spending $200 on a phone, they want things like warranties and compatibility. That’s smart.
At $400, the Project Fi-powered Moto X4 isn’t cheap. It’s also filled with high-end parts that a good cheap Android One phone doesn’t require. And selling it through Project Fi guarantees that hardly anyone will buy it, even compared to the meager sales the standard unlocked Moto X4 will gather. Fortunately, it’s the first Android One phone for the U.S. and not the only Android One phone for the U.S.
The Moto X4 isn’t cheap, but there are more Android One phones coming that might be.
Let’s hope Samsung and LG and all the other big names in the Android space get interested. Imagine something like the Galaxy J, a phone that sells in India for 5,000 Rs ($78 U.S.) and isn’t equipped with the guts to run the TouchWIZ software it ships with, instead running Android One. You would have barebones software that runs well on the device, updates for two years (three years for security patches) and fast updates to hotfix all the messy ways people find to hack into it. Sure, there would be things Samsung does that would be missed, but Google Play can help you with most of it and come on, it sells for 80 bucks!
Now throw away that dream because it will never happen. Samsung (and LG and HTC) aren’t likely to be interested in Android One anytime soon. They sell a brand, Android. But you know which companies just might be? Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu and (wait for it) OnePlus. All companies that know how to build decent phones that don’t happen to cost $900. Chinese phone manufacturers sell a brand much like the bigger U.S. names do, but they also are interested in selling a lot of phones in the United States. Selling phones under the Android One umbrella isn’t ideal for any company, but if priced right it just might be a nice cash injection as well as a way to get American consumers familiar with the names.
Who here wouldn’t want a OnePlus Android One?
I have no idea how popular Android One phones will be here in the States, nor do I have inside information about which companies might be building them. Hell, we might not ever see one besides the Moto X4 — Google says a lot of things that sort of never happen. But there’s a chance it happens and we can start buying good cheap phones that are well-supported again. A man can dream.