Indian OEMs aiming for $150 Android handset

Google is targeting India's rapidly-expanding mobile telecoms industry by encouraging local manufacturers to build handsets powered by its Android operating system.

More than half of India's 1.2 billion population currently uses a mobile telephone of some sort, and that number is growing by 18 million a month, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Always a country of contradictions, 42 per cent of Indians earn less than a pound a day, yet advertising for mobile phone tariffs and the latest swanky handset is everywhere. Nailed to every telegraph pole, plastered on every shop hoarding and painted on the odd itinerant cow.

Even the poorest villages will be home to at least a couple of ancient Motorolas, serving as a communications hub, jealously guarded by matronly 'aunties' who charge a few rupees to villagers who want to stay in touch with distant family members.

With the app phone revolution taking the world by storm, it was only ever a matter of time before India's increasingly gadgetised culture started to hanker after touchscreens and Internet access and Facebook and mobile games. All of the things we now take for granted.

That Google is riding the wave of technological demand is understandable, but as Android-capable phones are still teetering on the edge of the $400 price bracket, the search engine giant is reportedly courting some lesser-known Indian tech outfits in order to drive the price of the touchscreen devices down.

The WSJ report suggest that Google has approached the likes of Micromax Informatics, Spice Mobility and Olive Telecom to make Android phones that will cost between $150 and $200, but could eventually come down to as little as $100. Micromax is planning to release its first offering next month, just in time for Diwali (the Hindu festival of light.. think Christmas without all the Jesus stuff).

India is currently in the process of upgrading its mobile Internet infrastructure to a network capable of 3G speeds, but until those unproven manufacturers get to grips with the complexity of building hardware capable of running Android, we reckon the country's burgeoining middle classes will remain the only early adopters.

Google has apparently been helping the firms to integrate applications that will appeal to local users, including Bollywood movies and local media content.