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Google Plans India Ad Blitz in Smartphone Bid

Google is planning a major spending effort on marketing its new Android One phones in India, in an ambitious play into a challenging but potentially huge market for smartphones.

The company, which announced the new Android One specifications for phones targeted at the developing market in June, has told potential partners that it would spend at least several hundred millions dollars to promote the phones starting this fall, according to two people involved in the conversations.

Beyond a foray into technology’s largest untapped consumer base, Google’s push represents another move in its chess game against Samsung and Apple. One person who has been involved in the Android One discussions says Google “sees a unique opportunity to go after Samsung” by partnering with new Indian manufacturing partners who could take market share from the Korean conglomerate. Samsung is Google’s biggest and most successful Android partner, but there has been friction over Samsung’s efforts to promote its own apps and services.

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Google’s India-born Android chief, Sundar Pichai, who is from the Chennai area, has made no secret that the project is near and dear to his heart, according to people who have interacted with him. Inside of India, he and his colleagues have been framing the effort as a way to bridge the rich–poor digital divide.