May 20, 2017 7:00 am JST

Android now powers 2bn devices, Google boasts

Cheap smartphones eyed as key to reaching next milestone

JOSHUA OGAWA, Nikkei staff writer

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Google's popular Android operating system has spread to 2 billion devices worldwide, with the American technology giant looking to emerging economies for the next billion.

A smiling CEO Sundar Pichai announced the milestone to an audience of 7,000 at the company's three-day annual developers' conference that kicked off Wednesday. Google launched the free Android platform back in 2008. Android's current 85% share of the smartphone OS market attests to the strategy's success.

Google usually unveils new versions of Android at the conference. The Alphabet unit previewed Android O, due out this fall. But Android Go, a variant for down-market devices, drew the most attention.

Android Go is designed to run smoothly on phones with 1 gigabyte or less of memory. Its apps include YouTube Go, which minimizes data charges and memory use, as well as a lightweight version of the Chrome browser.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, the senior vice president overseeing Android, says Google will provide a more satisfying experience for even users of mass-market devices. But the similarly conceived Android One smartphones, costing just $100, have failed to catch on since their debut nearly three years ago.

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