Google's Android One project, one of the biggest announcements to come out of the Google I/O developer conference, will see Google working hand-in-hand with low-cost smartphone manufacturers in emerging markets. With Android One, Google will provide manufacturers with hardware specifications that these companies can use to easily build the most cost-effective smartphone devices, which will run the stock Android operating system, similar to the OS found on Google Nexus devices. 

This is an extremely strategic move from Google aimed at addressing two big trends affecting the company's enormous mobile business:

  • The next big wave of mobile growth is going to come from emerging markets, where consumers are much more likely to buy cheap, local-made smartphones.
  • If Google doesn't intervene and offer an easy-to-implement Android-based phone to these manufacturers, there's a good chance they will instead build their phones on forked versions of the Android OS. These devices ship without Google Play services installed, and that translates to a big loss in mobile revenue and market share for Google.

Already, forked Android devices are having a marked effect on Google's control of the entire Android ecosystem, as you can see in the chart below.

ForkedAndroidsBII

 

  • About 22% of all smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2014 ran a forked version of Android — also known as the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). That amounts to about 53.8 million AOSP devices.
  • Forked Android phones gained more market share than any other platform in the past year. AOSP market share is up three percentage points, from 19% in the first quarter of 2013. 
  • AOSP phone shipments grew at over twice the rate of Google-licensed Android shipments during the quarter. Android phone shipments increased 19% year-over-year compared to 40% year-over-year growth in forked Android phone shipments. 
  • Looking at just the Android platform, AOSP phones accounted for 29% of all Android smartphone shipments in the quarter. That's up from 26% in the same quarter a year ago.

The key point here is that forked Android phones tend to ship without Google Play services installed.

Take Microsoft's new device the Nokia X2.

Screen Shot 2014 06 27 at 11.32.07 AMNokia

The phone is the first Microsoft-owned Android device, but because it is a forked version of [...]