Google on Wednesday announced it is working on a low-cost smartphone aimed at emerging markets as part of an initiative called Android One.
The Android-powered handset will be built with a basic set of features including FM radio, have a screen slightly smaller than five inches and be priced at less than $100, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai said at the start of the technology giant's annual developers conference.
"We are going to be launching it around the world, but will launch in India first in the fall of this year," Pichai said.
He added that Google was working with carriers in India to provide affordable telecom service packages to go with the smartphones, which could in many cases provide Internet access for the first time.
The Android One initiative sets out to work with smartphone makers and others in the "ecosystem" to pool resources and standardize hardware platforms to provide "turnkey solutions" for making handsets, according to Pichai.
"There are many people -- billions of people, in fact -- who still don't have access to a smartphone," he said.
"We want to change that."
Google is collaborating with handset makers and others in the industry to field affordable smartphones that are high quality and come with reasonably priced data plans.
Handsets will be made by Google partners and launch with an initial range of "sub-$100" smartphones.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps, speaks about the Android One phone during the Google I/O 2014 keynote presentation in San Francisco. Photo: AP/Jeff Chiu
"We've long wondered what potential could be unleashed if people everywhere had access to the latest technology and the world's information," Pichai said. "It's time to find out."
Google and Silicon Valley rival Facebook have made priorities out of connecting with people in parts of the world where Internet connectivity is scan, unreliable, or straight-out non-existant.
Having more people tune into websites or services mean expanded opportunities to make money from online advertising or providing tools that connect shops with customers.
Google does not make money from hardware, with its own branded gadgets meant to set standards and show off software capabilities with an eye toward inspiring electronics manufacturers to raise their games when it comes to Android or Chrome devices.
Developing countries have become prime targets for smartphone makers, and Android software made available free to handset makers has proven to be popular with budget-conscious buyers.
The news came a day after Microsoft said it would sell an Android-powered Nokia smartphone at a price of 99 euros ($135), a device also apparently aimed at emerging markets customers.
Google in April acquired Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones that could be used to boost Internet access to remote areas.
Google also is developing Project Loon, which uses large balloons for transmitting Internet signals to regions that are not now connected.