Google unveils new Android software in India to power cheap smartphones

This file photo shows logos of US technology company Google displayed on computer screens on November 20, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2017
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Google unveils new Android software in India to power cheap smartphones

MUMBAI: Alphabet Inc’s Google launched a stripped-down version of its Android software in India on Tuesday, as it attempts to woo millions of basic phone users in the fast-growing wireless services market.
The Android Oreo Go operating system can work on entry-level smartphones with the memory of as low as 512 megabytes, Google said on Tuesday, adding it expects devices running on the software to start hitting store shelves in the coming months.
With 1.2 billion mobile phone subscribers, India’s wireless services market is second only to China’s. But, only about a third of these subscribers currently use smartphones, leaving a vast market for Google, handset, and telecom firms to further tap.
Although prices of smartphones have fallen sharply in the last few years with Chinese and local phone-makers flooding the market with cheaper handsets, they remain out of reach of a section of customers who are also concerned about a smooth user experience in low-priced phones.
“The new lighter operating system, if it works well, will likely attract first-time smartphone buyers to devices retailing in the $30 to $75 range,” said Shobhit Srivastava, an analyst at technology researcher Counterpoint, adding that it would also give Google the opportunity to cross-sell other services like its local payments application Tez that launched in September.
Phones running on the new Google mobile operating system will also have access to a special version of its Google Play application store, the company said, highlighting the apps designed to work best on the low-memory smartphones.
Google, which has increased its focus on the Indian market in recent years with initiatives including providing free wifi services at railway stations, is competing with the likes of Facebook and its WhatsApp messenger services for the attention of hundreds of millions of new Internet users.
Even for those 400 million or so already connected to the Internet in India, consumption of mobile data has seen a huge spurt following the entry of a new carrier Reliance Jio, backed by the country’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.
Jio up-ended the market with initially free and later cut-priced offerings that forced established rivals to slash their prices. Jio currently offers plans that allow users to download up to 1 gigabyte of data per day for less than $3 a month.
Among other products, Google announced on Tuesday a version of its Google Assistant for JioPhone — a low-cost 4G-enabled device marketed by Jio.
It also unveiled a version of Google maps tailored for two-wheeler users.


India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

Updated 18 July 2019
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India to make new bid to launch Moon rocket on Monday

  • India would become the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon
  • The project is one of the cheapest amongst its kind internationally

NEW DELHI: India will make a new bid to launch a landmark mission to the Moon on Monday, a week after aborting lift-off at the last minute because of a fuel leak, officials said.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it had rescheduled the launch of Chandrayaan-2, or Moon Chariot-2, for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday.
India is aiming to become just the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
Indian space chiefs called off the planned launch of the rocket 56 minutes before blast-off on Monday morning because of what ISRO called a “technical snag.”
Media reports quoted ISRO scientists saying a helium fuel leak had been detected.
India has spent about $140 million on preparations for the project, which is one of the cheapest among international space powers.
By comparison, the United States spent about $25 billion — the equivalent of more than $100 billion in current prices — on 15 Apollo missions in the 1960s and 70s.
The rocket will launch from a space center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
It will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is meant to keep circling the Moon for about one year, taking pictures of the surface and sending back information on the atmosphere.
A lander named Vikram will take the rover to the surface near the lunar South Pole.
India’s first lunar mission in 2008 — Chandrayaan-1 — did not land on the Moon, but carried out a search for water using radar.
A soft landing on the Moon would be a huge leap forward in India’s space program, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi determined to launch a manned mission into space by 2022.
India also has ambitions to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, India became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet.