It’s no secret that Google has strived to better serve emerging smartphone markets, with India being a major focus for the company. “Android for Feature Phones” was once an ambition that Google was working towards, but it was scrapped before it was released. Now we get a better look at what this platform would have been like.
Looking back a bit, we’ve already reported on Google’s efforts to create “Android for multifunction phones”. It started with a new ‘contactless’ mode for Google Chrome which was discovered and eventually canceled in 2019. We found similar references to the project in Android and even posted an exclusive image of a canceled piece of Nokia hardware at during this year.
Now this Nokia device has resurfaced. Hikari Calyx has got his hands on the “Nokia 400”, a versatile phone for the Indian market. The hardware overview is very basic, but what’s interesting here is the software.
Right from the start, we can see an Android-derived lock screen, with a few legacy status indicators and a blurry Google Assistant logo. From there, we see a home screen very similar to what we’ve seen in our own leaks of this product, with icons for Google Chrome and YouTube. Later in the video, several different recommendations fed by the wizard are displayed as “bullet points” on the home screen.
A quick settings menu also displays quick toggles for Wi-Fi, data, Bluetooth, and flashlight, as well as volume and do not disturb settings. The larger Settings app looks more like standard Android, even with similar icons in place.
A glance in the app drawer further shows Airtel apps, including TV and mobile payment apps. There are also calculator and calendar versions, both of which share similar icons to the original Android. The same goes for the clock, contacts, gallery, messages, and dialer apps. Chrome’s Dino game, Proxx, and Snake are also clearly visible, as is a WhatsApp app. The Chrome game, above all, has the exact same user interface that we reported earlier.
Another look at the Settings menu also shows that it is based on Android 8.1 and that the device has 512MB of RAM. A “Phone Tips” app gives users a quick tutorial on the Google Assistant, something that displays in higher resolution on a tweet from the same source. Some featured apps include Messages app and Clock apps, the former showing T9 keyboard input and pretty much all apps showing a clear influence of Android smartphone design.
Performance on “Android for Feature Phones” is certainly far from ideal in many cases, but it’s impressive to see so much accomplished with such basic hardware. Perhaps one of the most impressive demos shows transferring files from a suitable Android smartphone to this multifunction phone using Wi-Fi, with the multifunction phone also offering a full file browser. The full video is 17 minutes long, but it’s an interesting look at what Google was working on for emerging markets.
What happened to “Android for Feature Phones” and Google’s efforts in this market? While the operating system has apparently been scrapped, Google has invested more in KaiOS and this operating system, which has made waves in India. This year again, Google and JioPhone announced an “optimized” version of Android for the region.
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