Thanks to its open-source nature pretty much anyone can build a basic Android phone, and they don’t need Google’s permission to do so. But of course, not asking Google also means forsaking all of the apps and services that’ve become such a vital part of the Android OS – things such as Gmail, Maps and the Google Play store, and that’s why very few have bothered to do so.
But this might soon change thanks to the endeavors of Russian web giant Yandex, which has just rolled out a bunch of alternative apps and services for device manufacturers intent on building a more customized version of Android. Earlier today, the company rolled out something called Yandex.Kit – firmware that comes packed full of Google alternatives, including Yandex.Mail, Yandex.Maps, Yandex.Browser, Yandex.Store (which boasts just over 100,000 apps) and Yandex.Shell, a user interface.
Yandex announced its new Android kit in a blog post, saying it’s a “comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution, versatile and technologically honed enough to be offered to original device manufacturers as firmware that they can install on their devices shipped to the Russian market”.
Yandex.Kit is initially targeting device makers in the Russian market, who may be enticed by the prospect of being able to offer more locally-flavored services than Google can muster. In addition, Yandex also plans to target international B2B clients by offering deeper customization, such as being able to brand its app store, and have device makers’ own apps featured, rather than those of Google.
One thing that could entice users to ditch the ‘Google Android’ for the ‘Yandex Android’ is the latter’s 10 percent rebate scheme for each app purchase in the Yandex Store. This should help to compensate users who’ll obviously have a lot less apps on tap than with the Google store, although how much remains to be seen. Then there’s the 70/30 revenue share scheme in favor of developers that Yandex offers to those who build apps for Yandex.Store, not too mention the additional cut it’s promised to give to device makers that adopt Yandex.Kit.
So far, Yandex says that two device makers have already taken a chance with the Yandex.Kit – China’s Huawei and Russian phone maker Explay, both of whom plan to unveil Yandex-flavored phones at the Mobile World Congress next week.