Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has unveiled a new flagship device for the Indian market, its first smartphone running the Android One OS developed by Google for emerging markets. The new phone, called Mi A1, will be offered with 200 GB free data from Airtel and will sell for INR 14,999.00 (US $234.00) starting on 12 September via Xiaomi’s website and the local e-commerce site Flipkart. Available in a choice of pink, gold or black metal finish, the Mi A1 runs the basic version of Android, with few pre-loaded apps (similar to Google’s own devices), but will get an update to the new Android 8.0 Oreo by the end of 2017. Xiaomi said it will also be among the first phones to get Android P next year.
With dual 12-megapixel back cameras, the Mi A1 comes with Xiaomi’s camera app as well as Google Photos with unlimited storage. Other features include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 4 GB RAM and 64 GB internal storage. In addition, the phone will get the latest Google software, such as Google Assistant.
The Mi A1 will be available in other markets including Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam and Taiwan, according to Google. The company first launched Android One in India in 2014 to bring affordable smartphones to new market. Phones running the software are also available in markets ranging from Japan to Turkey.
This new phone marks a serious improvement in power for Android One devices, and it demonstrates the extent to which Google intends to dominate emerging markets such as India, where many users are new to mobile data but eager to plunge in.
Android One is a basic system, appropriately enough for developing economies, but nonetheless powerful—and now even more so, given the new device’s capacities. The price point is still relatively affordable but is still about US $50 more than other Android One devices. Google and Xiaomi (which has made a specialty of providing budget-oriented but sophisticated mobile devices to the developing world) are calculating that the Indian market has matured to the point that enough consumers will be willing to spend a little extra to get a better, more durable device. The promised OS updates should further incentivize Indian customers who anticipate extending themselves further in the use of mobile data.
From an MNO point of view, the participation of Airtel is significant. The operator has clearly made a good strategic move in entering into a partnership to become the sole provider of the Mi A1, and we believe that such exclusive deals are on general principles worth pursuing. With their ability to draw in new customers who want the new devices, they have the potential to take subscribers away from competing operators, and can burnish the brand of the operator.
Beyond that, we note that the Xiaomi–Airtel deal comes with a free data offer of 200 GB. While this is apparently a one-time-only, non-renewable offer, it is still a generous amount of data with which to get started and put the Mi A1 through its paces. We consider it a savvy move that will help the operator get its customers used to consuming more and more data and therefore become, in the long run, better sources of revenue for the operator.