Google unveiled yesterday the first fruits of its Android One program, but it did more than just announce three extremely affordable Nexus-like devices. It unveiled a slightly new way of putting out Android smartphones, one that includes not just hardware but an entire ecosystem.
To some extent, Android One is like the Nexus line where Google gets to standardize the hardware as well as the core Android experience. Unlike the Nexus, however, Google has handed OEMs free reign over branding and distribution. It has even partnered with local networks to offer an enticing experience. Despite that, however, Google still has a palpable presence in those devices, especially when it comes to the software. And that is exemplified by the "promise" of receiving automatic Android updates for up to 2 years. Two years might not seem like a lot, but its more than what OEMs ever guarantee. That said, some have actually criticized that 2-year pact which actually also exists for Nexus devices.
One other interesting Android One feature, at least for India, is YouTube offline access. This much rumored YouTube feature has finally taken flesh, or is about to, with Android One. Details are still a bit sketchy at the moment, but the basic premise is that Android One users in India will be able to download YouTube videos whiile they're on WiFi so that they can view them later on without touching their 3G data. How long those offline videos will last or how many videos one can download are questions that still remain unanswered. Google's Android One page only notes that it is coming soon and leaves it at that.
Android One will be spreading its wings across more OEMs (Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo), more SoC makers (Qualcomm), and more countries (Indonesia, the Philippines,Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), all before the year ends. The 2-year update promise is likely to carry over to the new batches as well, but we will have to wait and see whether the YouTube offline access will be available there as well.