Google might be planning to release the next version of Android for feature phones.

Android has been a touch-centric platform for almost as long as we’ve known it, and this trend has maintained in the programs made for it, like Google Chrome. Future Chrome updates suggest that Google may have a new vision for touchless Android devices, potentially competing directly with KaiOS feature phones.

Google has been spreading its technology to emerging markets around the world and aiming for what it calls its next billion users for years. Projects like Android Go, a version of Android designed for inexpensive devices in the $100 price range, are part of this endeavor.

But even the most affordable of these low-cost phones have touchscreens, so it came as a surprise to us when we learned that Chrome will soon have a touchless mode. All indications point to touchless mode being distinctly rooted in Android rather than being a separate platform for Chrome.

Our original assumption was that this might be Android TV because all of the touchless code is stored in the chrome/android folder utilized by Chrome for Android. With no touchscreen, this would technically be an Android device, and customers have long requested Google Chrome for Android TV. The screenshots created by Google developer provided for translators, however, revealed a different tale.

Chrome Touchless

There is a lot to absorb here, but it is immediately obvious that this is a feature phone experience and not Android TV. This is best illustrated by how Explore and Options are arranged with the extra controls with the labels 1, 2, and 3. Furthermore, from the Chrome code , we are aware that directional buttons must be pressed in order to use the touchless mode.

The design of most feature phones typically consists of a d-pad (Up, Down, Left, Right, and Enter keys), buttons at the top-left and top-right of this d-pad, and a full number pad below. All of these controls perfectly align with this design.

Another clue can be gained from the screenshot itself, which has a resolution that is extremely low by modern standards at 640 × 480. This emphasizes even more the idea that these are intended to be extremely basic, low-end devices.

Reading between the lines of Chrome’s touchless code, we also discover that unless they have an dedicated button , Android feature phones will not have access to Android’s app switcher. Such a button would be reminiscent of the hardware Home, Back, and other buttons that were present on early Android devices before the touchscreen took over on modern Android phones.

There is no proof of this new Android form factor anywhere outside of Chrome or the Android Open Source Project. We are therefore basing our conclusions only on speculative information and are unable to determine for sure whether Google plans for Android to penetrate the feature phone market or when such a move would be made. Google was contacted for comment, but we haven’t heard back.

Adding Android would undoubtedly contribute to the recent revival of affordable electronics like the Nokia 210 . However, I do have some doubts about how well it will fit. A distinguishing aspect of feature phones is their long battery life, which Android is not exactly known for.

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