+ Monday October 14th, 2019

When you mention Android, most people think about smartphones (and a few probably think of tablets, I guess) but that’s about where it stops. Few would imagine Android as an operating system for a feature phone, but that’s precisely what Google has been working on.

Until recently, Google was working on a Chrome for Android-based feature phones, and it appears that work has now been shelved. Despite this, however, it looks like Google’s may have been still working on the underlying Android on Featurephones project, with a leaked video showing the concept running on a Nokia handset.

It’s unclear exactly what Google is doing in this space, but the leaked video below – courtesy of 9to5Google – gives us a pretty good look at what Google envisaged here:

You can read 9to5Google’s article for more in-depth analysis, but in brief, the video shows us the following Android apps running in a feature-phone environment:

  • Google Assistant, and you can see the familiar four-colour UI for speaking to Assistant. You can also type your query as you would on any other device
  • Google Maps, with core functionality such as directions, nearby public transport, services and so on. We don’t get to see the actual map view, however.
  • Files by Google is here, albeit seemingly split into three separate mini apps called Browse, Clean and Share.
  • The Settings app is rather familiar, and shows us that this device is running Android 8.1 – a little dated, but not really as old as you might think.
  • Despite having some apps which might – on other devices – be updated through the Play Store, it doesn’t appear that this phone actually has the Play Store. It’s not clear how one would get new apps – if this is even possible. Being a feature phone, and how woeful full smartphone apps would likely perform in such an environment, installing new apps may be severely constrained.

Sadly, all signs point to this work largely being scrapped. With touchless-Chrome being removed from code repositories, and the version of Android on this feature phone being quite old, it seems doubtful at best that Google is still actively developing here.

Chris Rowland   Managing Editor

Chris Rowland

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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