Author(s): Peter Bryer
Google is enabling a feature that will adjust its search results page based on the user's connectivity speed in an effort to encourage the growing number of smartphone owners in India to search on the go. Users with slower network connections will get streamlined pages of search results, meaning faster page loading times and possibly lower data costs. Heavier page elements link images and maps are stripped away from the results in most cases.
This optimised search initiative comes shortly after Google's roll-out of its low-cost Android One project in India — Google (together with local manufacturer partners) recently launched the first Android One-based smartphones in India, bringing capable devices to market at prices close to $100. Android One smartphones will become available in other developing markets including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka over the coming months, solidifying Google's presence in these countries. Google is also expanding voice-based search in more local languages across the region, a particularly useful feature for illiterate users.
Service providers are looking at very innovative ways to introduce their services to new audiences. Google's Project Loon, for example, is a research and development design testing the possibility of bringing wireless Internet access to remote regions using high-altitude balloons.
Facebook has a similar project, which it plans to demo during 2015 — its Connectivity Lab is exploring the possibility of delivering Internet access by jet-sized drones that can fly for months at a time, raining connectivity down on remote areas. It's another ambitious effort to connect the unconnected as new user growth in developed markets dries up.
Zero-rate access, in which service providers subsidise the users' data charges, has become a popular way to reduce the cost and risk of using services. Facebook, Google and Twitter are working with operators in several countries to offer zero-rate access to their services. Facebook Zero is one example that's available in more than 20 markets. Google Free Zone and Twitter Access are available in several major countries, and the Wikipedia Zero project is supported in several developing markets.
Leading service providers are looking for innovative ways to build their brands across new regions, extend their user numbers and complete against potential local services. These are clever, long-term investments that should result in spreading their networks further across the globe.