Google is testing a way to make its super-cheap Android One smartphones more useful and accessible to people in emerging markets.
The company wants to partner with developers to make apps cheaper or free to use, a practice called “zero-rating,” The Information’s Amir Efrati reports, based on discussion with people with knowledge of Google’s plan.
The way zero-rating typically works is that a company like Facebook or Wikipedia strikes a deal with the wireless carriers to erase the cost of data usage, making it completely free for people in emerging markets to use their app.
Google reportedly wants to try zero-rating on a broader level by acting as a middleman between app developers and the wireless carriers. Individual developers wouldn’t have to make carrier deals, which, ideally, would help more developers make their apps free to use. More free apps would, in turn, make smartphones much more valuable to people in emerging markets, many of whom don’t have data plans and rely on wi-fi to use their phones.
Here’s how Efrati explains Google’s potential financial arrangement:
Google could act as a middleman between apps and wireless carriers that charge data fees. When someone is downloading or using, say, the Ola Cabs app, Google can recognise that data traffic through Android and pay the carrier for the data charge associated with it. The third-party developer would then be expected to pay some or all of the charge.
What’s the end game for Google?
In part, it doesn’t “want to lose India like it’s lost China,” one of Efrati’s sources said.
If Google’s Android One phones, which it sells for about $US100 in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, came with a bunch of zero-rated apps, people would be more likely to choose them over options from competitors like Xiaomi and Cyanogen.