Android One phones aren’t the greatest out there, but they serve a very specific purpose: to be cheap as possible for those who need them. Google wants anyone to be able to own a smartphone, and being able to push a line of these devices which cost just $100 is a great step toward that goal.
Making those phones $30 is an even bigger step. Google says their goal is to get the prices down to the $30 to $50 range, which would be a much smaller pill to swallow for those who don’t have hundreds to throw down on the latest and greatest. It’s a price point particularly important for India, where a vast majority of the population aren’t comfortable paying much more than $50 for a phone.
Unfortunately, it isn’t much more than a goal in the here and now. There will have to be a massive price shift for smartphone components for companies to be able to sell them that cheap. It will require efficient engineering to make sure operating costs are covered, as well.
Getting razor-thin profit margins at that level won’t be easy, and it’s something that could take a few years to even consider. But the good news is that Google has already done the hard part: they’ve highlighted the need for these devices, and manufacturers are making them. If Android One ends up doing well (it isn’t currently, by the way) it will be all the motivation manufacturers need to start finding ways to get those costs down even more.