Android One in the U.S. gives it a new lease on life, and that's a big deal

Step into the Wayback Machine with me for a minute, as we head back to the Autumn of 2013. Amidst all the hype and furious pace of Android phone releases, one phone was unexpectedly great: the original Moto G.

The 2013 Moto G only had to do one thing: not suck. It succeeded.

The first generation Moto G was, at around $150, fairly inexpensive. It didn't have the fastest and bestest processor or ungodly amounts of memory (it actually had 1GB of RAM, if you can believe it). It even had a mediocre 4.5-inch LCD display. If you placed it beside a phone like the Galaxy S4 it was clearly outclassed in almost every way. The thing that made the OG Moto G special is that it did not suck. Prior to 2013, you weren't going to find a cheap phone that didn't suck. The 2013 Moto G became the bar all cheap phones are measured against, even today.

And you know what? There are a lot of people who want a cheap phone that doesn't suck. That's where Android One and the Moto X4 come into play.

The Moto X4 will be the first Android One phone you can buy in the U.S. without importing it and wondering whether it will work on your network. We (that means you if you're reading this on a Saturday) might buy phones that ship from other countries, might not work, and have no warranty, but most people don't. Those (smart) people go to Verizon or Best Buy and pick something that they can see and touch. Even if they're "only" spending $200 on a phone, they want things like warranties and compatibility. That's smart.

At $400, the Project Fi-powered Moto X4 isn't cheap. It's also filled with high-end parts that a good cheap Android One phone doesn't require. And selling it through Project Fi guarantees that hardly anyone will buy it, even compared to the meager sales the standard unlocked Moto X4 will gather. Fortunately, it's the first Android One phone for the U.S. and not the only Android One phone for the U.S.

The Moto X4 isn't cheap, but there are more Android One phones coming that might be.

Let's hope Samsung and LG and all the other big names in the Android space get interested. Imagine something like the Galaxy J, a phone that sells in India for 5,000 Rs ($78 U.S.) and isn't equipped with the guts to run the TouchWIZ software it ships with, instead running Android One. You would have barebones software that runs well on the device, updates for two years (three years for security patches) and fast updates to hotfix all the messy ways people find to hack into it. Sure, there would be things Samsung does that would be missed, but Google Play can help you with most of it and come on, it sells for 80 bucks!

Now throw away that dream because it will never happen. Samsung (and LG and HTC) aren't likely to be interested in Android One anytime soon. They sell a brand, Android. But you know which companies just might be? Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu and (wait for it) OnePlus. All companies that know how to build decent phones that don't happen to cost $900. Chinese phone manufacturers sell a brand much like the bigger U.S. names do, but they also are interested in selling a lot of phones in the United States. Selling phones under the Android One umbrella isn't ideal for any company, but if priced right it just might be a nice cash injection as well as a way to get American consumers familiar with the names.

Who here wouldn't want a OnePlus Android One?

I have no idea how popular Android One phones will be here in the States, nor do I have inside information about which companies might be building them. Hell, we might not ever see one besides the Moto X4 — Google says a lot of things that sort of never happen. But there's a chance it happens and we can start buying good cheap phones that are well-supported again. A man can dream.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Looking forward to more Oreo goodness. So i can come back to the fold.
  • Motorola, even under Lenovo (updates not as much), makes great phones in every category: low, mid-range, and almost high-end.
  • But what does Android ONE mean these days ? It used to mean 2 years of updates directly from Google. Now it's 18 months via the OEM, so no better than any regular phone from any OK OEM.
    As for whether bare Android is better than tweaked Android... that's not clear-cut once you take updates out of the equation.
  • Decent phone, decent price, plus OS/Security updates directly from Google . . . all sounds great, except you're locked in to Fi and have no option for any other carrier.
  • Updates don't come directly from Google. Android One is more like Google Play Edition, updates come from the OEM.
  • . . . and, yet, another reason not to buy it.
  • Nobody is ever "locked" into Fi. You may have to use it for a month on Fi at most, then take it to any carrier save for maybe Verizon if they don't add the phone in a timely manner. There is no contract with Fi...
  • Exactly this. I think I would buy a Moto X4 Android One version if I could use it on my current carrier. Project Fi might be fine for low data users but almost everywhere I go Wi-Fi is either locked or doesn't exist. Streaming music 12 hrs at work, streaming sports, I use at least 20gb/mo.
  • You can get the X4 unlocked from Motorola and updates are "Motorola style"
  • Android One was supposed to be cheap right ? $400 isn't a cheap
  • Cheap in general? Nope. Cheap compared to $1,000 flagships? Absolutely.
  • Android One isn't just about being cheap. It's about being a consistently good experience and offering a good value. One thing Google has shown this year is it's trying to break the stigma that Android One is just bargain phones. I'd say in the current climate of high-end phones that are $700-950, a $399 phone is considerably less expensive.
  • They shouldn't be compared to flagship prices. They should be a good deal in general. $100-300 is a good deal.
  • Not if it doesn't get you a phone that runs well.
  • Yet I was under the impression according to the story that the OG Moto G did just that, it was a good phone at a good price ($150) so just in line with the comment that the value pricing is ($100-300). I totally agree with that. At $400 you're already in very decent mid-range devices, even flagship challenging like the OnePlus.
  • Exactly and exactly.
  • I am excited about Android One. To me this is a win - win scenario. You get Google software and it's frequent updates with your manufacturer of choice. I for one - don't like bloatware - and the lack of promptness on security and OS updates. I agree with others - OEMs will never be prompt on all updates until they see a drop in sales. And pushing out OS updates for some or all of their proprietary models - is a very time consuming expensive undertaking that directly affects their bottom lime. That's admittedly an assumption on my part. But it makes sense. Enter Google and frequent updates. As an ex hobbyist programmer with various databases - security has always been a priority. It should be a priority on the mobile platform as well. I see Android One as a savior for the low and mid tier phones for the people that acknowledge security is a priority. This last podcast has a lot of good comments about low to mid tier phones that never get any updates... Maybe a tad outspoken - but I like the move. Good comments in the podcast Jerry.
  • Going to the Android One website and scrolling down - I see this... Mi A1
    Dual camera with 2x optical zoom
    Full Metal Unibody,
    5.5” Display
    Snapdragon 625, 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM
    Free unlimited storage on Google Photos* *free storage at high quality, requires Google account. That last line has my attention - nice.
  • That last line shouldn't really stand out... EVERYONE already gets that regardless of what phone they are using.
  • Wade_country is right... Android One phones get the latest version of Android from Google's hardware partners. Google's partners send updates based on their schedules, trying to get them to you as soon as possible.
  • So will it get Nexus/pixel level updates? If not, who cares, except the small amount of Fi users. And if T-Mobile and Sprint merge, as it looks like they will....wouldn't any unlocked phone on their expanded network essentially be the same?
  • The new Google Play Edition
  • sth close to that. very close
  • And what about the Xiaomi A1 Mi?
  • What's with the trademark symbol after the common words "Good Phone"?
  • So the guarantee is 2 os updates and a 3rd for security. While Apple is over here giving devices 5 years worth of updates.
  • No Android device will ever match Apple's update longevity while Qualcomm still has a stranglehold on the chipset market in the US. Apple is willing to pay Qualcomm a whole bunch of patent-related fees that allow them to use their own chips, which is not something that any Android OEM can afford to do. Until Android OEMs can use silicon that they control entirely (and we will complain BITTERLY about the cost increase associated with that), we're going to continue to be lucky to get two years of version updates.
  • I love the idea of a US Android One, and it's about damn time, Google. Now IF they'd only follow this one up with a budget model or several. The Moto E4's would be great candidates. Sub-$200. 3 years of automatic OS updates. 👍
  • Actually if the Oems gatekeep the updates I don't see a big bennifit to Android One. Also the ZTE Blade Z Max at MetroPCS (TMobile) looks like a half way decent phone for $129. So there are pretty inexpensive regular Android phones out there. I haven't tried it yet so I don't know if it sucks or not.
  • I still think if they really want Android One to take off in the US they need to have more sub $200 phones. They could really penetrate the pre-paid market with those types of devices and would be better than what is currently out there. 
  • Google needs to have an Android One program in the US. Certified Android One phones made by various companies that have software updates for at least 2 years. They could eliminate the stigma associated with Android and fragmented updates and compete with Apple in that regard.
  • This would make better sense if Android One wasn't trapped in Google's garbage Project Fi project within the US.
  • Happy with my Moto G5+, there's not enough here to be twice the cost IMO
  • I traded in my nexus 5x for the X4. Hopefully it will be a good phone. I haven't used anything Motorola after razr days.
  • I may grab this wen its reaches 250$