Tech giant Google today unveiled a slew of new solutions, such as Android Oreo Go edition for low-cost smartphones and a bike mode for Maps, aimed at driving Internet adoption across markets, including India. The company has also worked with Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio to bring a customised version of Google Assistant (virtual assistant) to the latter’s smart feature phones. Caesar Sengupta, Vice-President, Next Billion Users, said Google’s India-first suite of products and features are aimed to help more people discover how the Internet can make life easier and more convenient. “These products and features are India-first, but they are not India-only. When we build better products for India, we ultimately build better products for everyone,” he added. Citing the example of the bike mode on Google Maps and addition of bill payment feature in Tez, Sengupta said, “These additions both speak to the specific lifestyles of a large number of Indians”. “Then you have those who are just adopting Internet. For them, Android Oreo (Go edition) will help improve the experience on entry-level phones while new apps like Files Go will ensure their experience is smooth and they consume less data,” he said.
Files Go helps users free up space on their devices, find files faster and share files offline with people nearby. Sengupta told PTI that he expects handset makers to bring smartphones based on Android Oreo (Go) edition in early 2018.
Previously, Google had partnered with Indian handset makers like Micromax and Spice to launch entry-level Android One smartphones. But unlike Android One, Android Go is a software available for any handset with 1GB RAM or less. There will also be a new set of lighter Google apps, including Google Go (for search) aimed at first time smartphone users.
Google has already launched Youtube Go that is in beta testing phase in India. Sengupta said a special version of the Google Assistant — in both English and Hindi — has been developed for Reliance Jio phones. This is the first time that Google’s virtual assistant has been made available on a feature phone.
Over the next few months, Google will also offer information on air quality for 20 Indian cities through its platform. Talking about Tez launched in September this year, Sengupta said the app now has 12 million users. “Over the next few weeks, Tez will offer a customised experience to pay bills from within the app … More than 70 billers will be supported, including utilities and direct-to-home service providers,” he said.
Within months of launch, Tez has already seen 140 million transactions and accounted for 70 per cent of the country’s UPI transactions in the months of October and November. On the two-wheeler mode in Maps, Sengupta said the feature will be available in India starting today, with more countries in the coming months.
Google, which offers Internet access at railway stations in partnership with RailTel, said the service will be available at 400 stations in 2018. Sengupta said Google is now working on offering WiFi hotspots across Indian cities and is also taking it to other markets like Indonesia.