Update: Confidence boosted to 10/10 because, well, it happened.
Let’s talk about Android One. It’s that thing that Google has been doing in many countries other-than-the-US for the last few years that lets Google to bring a primarily Google-y less-bloat-filled experience (and better security) to cheap devices. As Google said when it launched the program, it’s intended to bring high quality, affordable smartphones for developing markets.
That seems to be changing. As we heard from a reputable publication a few months ago, it’s coming to US sometime soon. (In my humble opinion, it’s a really weird branding decision, but that’s beyond the point.) That report specifically said it could be coming as early as the “middle” of this year.
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I’ve heard from a source that has provided me with reliable information in the past that this is most definitely still very much in Google’s plans. I’ve also been provided some early information about Google’s specific launch plans, but it’s definitely possible — dare I say likely — that the information I’ve been provided is partially incorrect and/or incomplete. So take all of this with a grain of salt. Please. Read the disclaimer down at the bottom.
With that out of the way, let’s get into it. There are a few bullet points to hit here. Just like my Android O rumor from last month, the stuff in the bold bullet points are near-verbatim what I’ve heard and the descriptions below are my own (admittedly imperfect) interpretation:
• Android One is coming to the US
This is perhaps the simplest bullet point of the list, and something that we already knew/assumed based on previous reports. My single source says that, as of mid-March at least, Android One is indeed coming to the US sometime soon. Although my source suggests things may have been delayed a bit.
• They’ll work with Project Fi
Android One phones coming to the US, as could probably be assumed, will entirely work with Google’s Project Fi cellular service. They will serve as the new lower-end entry into signing up, and I’m told that boosting Project Fi out of being just a “project” is a big focal point for the Android One launch.
• Affordable, low profit, subsidized w/ Pixel profits
Google is aware that access to Fi is cost prohibitive at the moment — you pretty much need to spend at least $650 if you want a modern phone. Otherwise, you’re currently stuck with the old Nexus 6P or Nexus 5X, which start at $400 or $250, respectively, when purchased alongside Project Fi. Assumably, Android One US handsets will serve as the Nexus phones’ replacements in this case.
So I’m told, similar to what we heard back in January, that these phones are going to be somewhere in the $300-$400 range. I think it’s worth noting that I’ve heard a bit higher range than The Information was told about ($200-$300), and that leads to my next point… specific details on these phones. But I still think it’s entirely plausible that the phones will end up in that $200-$300 range.
I’m told that they’ll somehow be subsidized with profit from the Pixel, which I’ll mention again down below…
• Updates via manufacturer
This is just a minor detail, but it’s a notable one that separates what will be Android One from the Nexus program. Unlike the Nexuses, Google will be letting the manufacturer handle update distribution.
• Initial launch is down to two candidate phones (maybe even one)
Here’s the juicy bits. I’m told that — for the initial launch — there will only be one Android One phone debuted in the US. As we’ve seen in other countries, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see more down the line. So is this the mysterious taimen that we’ve seen in AOSP? Not sure, but my source doesn’t think so. And personally, I don’t think so either.
But while there was at one point at least three different phones in the running to win this spot, I’m now told that there are only two, and there might be one by the time of this writing. As of recent, Google was still choosing between the Moto X (2017) and the HTC E37. What is the HTC E37? I have no idea, and your guess is as good as mine. If you have a clue, feel free to DM me on Twitter. Or email me.
All this said, it’s been enough time since I heard these details that I have to disclaim that it’s entirely possible that Google has decided on which device it’s going forward with.
These are all tentative details, but I also have some specifics on these two phones…
• Moto X (2017) $399, and HTC E37 $349
This is pretty self-explanatory. I’m told that the new Moto X and the “HTC E37” are the two candidates that Google is picking (or already picked) between, and they would both retail on the higher end of the previously-reported “$200-$300” spectrum. That said, I’ve also heard that Google is looking to subsidize the cost of the new Android One phones with the profits of its Pixel line (as mentioned above), so perhaps they could bring them down to the $200-$300 range after all. We’ll have to see.
I’m also under the impression that the Moto X (2017) phone would have a headphone jack, unlike the Pixel 2. The HTC E37, whatever it is, would unfortunately forgo the headphone jack.
The original Google+ post from +hellomotohk that sparked recent rumors about a purported Moto X (2017) was deleted, but it spoke of a fairly-ugly (in my opinion) phone with modest mid-range specs: a Snapdragon 625 with only 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. I don’t have any information to confirm or deny those specs, but they sound plausible at $399 to me.
I’ve also been told about a launch timeline that is a bit pushed back from what we heard from The Information earlier this year. While that report said “before the middle of the year,” I was told that whichever phone Google goes with won’t be launching until later in the Fall — October or November.
• T-Mobile exclusive? (Besides Fi)
This is the weirdest part of this rumor, and that’s why I leave you with a question mark. Just due to its inherent weirdness alone, I’m skeptical. My source, for one reason or another, is led to believe that these Android One phones will be T-Mobile exclusive with the exception of Project Fi. I have nothing of value to add to this bullet point, but I figured I’d leave it here in case it’s correct.
Rumors on 9to5Google Community
To make clear the lower confidence we have in this information, we’ve decided to share it here in the 9to5Google Community section. This is the medium by which we will be sharing unconfirmed rumors going forward. If our confidence increases, they will be promoted to a full report on 9to5Google.
We stand by the information in this post as being an accurate and honest representation of what we were told, but can’t guarantee it will remain reliable. We will also be providing a 1-10 confidence score for these rumors based on a variety of factors (including timing, source, and the context of the information provided).
Confidence score: 10/10
We haven’t yet been able to confirm these details with multiple sources, and that alone gives this rumor a significant downgrade. We also obtained this information second hand, although we’re fairly confident based on information we’ve received (that we haven’t published) that the original source is in a position to know these details. Finally, there’s always the possibility that Google still hasn’t decided on… anything, really. It’s not official until it’s official.
That said, we give this rumor a score of 6 out of 10 because the information comes from a source that has provided primary source documentation in the past that we’re fairly confident is legitimate. In other words, while we can’t assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt that anything we say in this post will turn out to be accurate, we can say with high confidence that the person who provided these details is aware of its development. And we’re being straightforward about what we’ve heard.
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