Telecom company Airtel and Google have partnered to launch low-cost smartphones powered by Android Oreo Go edition in India. First such phones will be available by March 2018 making India the first market to have the Go edition phones. Lava and Micromax will manufacture these phones.

Android Oreo Go edition is a configuration of the Android operating system specifically optimised for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. The phones will have a new range of apps which run on lesser data. They will also come with twice as much storage out of the box, Airtel says.

This partnership is a part of Airtel’s “Mera Pehla Smartphone” initiative, which began in October 2017 to build an “open ecosystem” of affordable 4G smartphones. In November last year, Airtel partnered with Karbonn Mobiles to bring such phones powered by Android 7.0 Nougat OS starting from an effective price of Rs 1799. Then in January 2018, the telecom operator also announced a deal with Samsung for its Galaxy J-series phones.

Jio effect? Airtel’s new initiative and the partnerships within it, are in direct competition with Jio, and offer smartphone instead of Jio’s feature phone, at a slightly higher price.In early 2017, Reliance Jio launched 4G enabled feature phones, available from a price of Rs 1,500. The users can choose from 22 languages, and the phone comes with in-built voice assistance and a recently added Facebook app. Report by Counterpoint Research suggests that the Jio Phone was the top feature phone brand in the quarter that ended in December by shipments, with a 26% market share for devices under Rs 2000.

Google’s changing approach

Android Oreo Go edition is Google’s latest OS designed for basic, cheap smartphones, the previous one being Android One. Go edition pushes apps specifically designed for it, including special versions of Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube.

How are they different? Digital trends wrote that Android One was Google’s partner program, and it had more control over who it partners with, subject to meeting specific requirements—committing to regular security and version updates and pre-installed apps. The new Go edition allows more flexibility on customisation and do not have Google-related branding. Any company or carrier can use this OS and decide where phones go on sale.

Apart from Lava and Micromax, Android Go Edition has powered phones by Nokia, Alcatel, General Mobile and ZTE.

Even though the Google executives claim that Android One was not a failure, experts say otherwise. In September 2017, the company even admitted to have gone wrong in One’s initial timing and messaging. It also relaunched the OS with a partnership with Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi, with more flexibility, targeting the mid-tier instead of lower end segment.

It now appears that Google will have a two-way approach for its OS, with Go targeting entry level users while the renewed Android One focuses on mid-range phones.