Google’s vision for feature phones and apps built on Android is revealed in a leaked video.

We learned last week that Google appeared to be abandoning its work on Chrome for feature phones running the Android operating system. We think Google may have completely abandoned Android feature phones because this was the only work that was made available to the public. Now that a leaked video of a Nokia feature phone powered by Android has surfaced, we can take a closer look at what may have been. Our thorough examination turned out fresh apps and fascinating project information.

Early this year, we discovered open source code that suggested Google was developing a Chrome version just for feature phones. Surprisingly, this version of Chrome was created for an Android version intended for devices without touchscreens.

While this unique version of Chrome was shown to us numerous times, an Android feature phone—apparently created by Nokia—was only briefly shown to us. Since then, Google appears to have abandoned the touchless Chrome, indicating that its research and development efforts with Android feature phones are likely coming to an end.

Now, a complete video with leaked online looks to have come from the same source as our earlier examination of the sole Android feature phone. We get a sense of how Android-based feature phones would have behaved from the video.

Let’s examine some of the video’s more minute details in more detail.

ASSISTANT FROM GOOGLE The Google Assistant microphone button is the main feature of the Android feature phone home screen, as seen in the video. When this button is chosen and clicked, the Google Assistant’s recognizable four-color user interface appears. When the assistants are activated, a similar option to the one found on Android today displays and asks you to type your inquiry.

BING MAPS A version of Google Maps with a redesigned user interface for feature phones is the first app that the movie really shows off. While we aren’t given a chance to view how the real map appears, we can still see that the basic features of Maps, such as searching and browsing locations, are present. Interestingly, we see Directions instead of Navigation.

Google files A few new icons, including Browse Files, Clean Files, and Share Files, are displayed in the program list. These are the Files by Google app’s three primary areas, which you might remember. This strongly suggests that Google may have also created a version of Files by Google just for Android feature phones.

CONTROLS APP We get to see a new layout for the Settings app toward the end of the movie, along with other details about the phone via the System app area. The System icon has been changed with an icon that resembles a candy bar-style feature phone, which is a cute little detail. From here, we were able to confirm our initial assumptions that Google was using Android 8.1 Oreo rather than a more recent version for this feature phone branch.


We can see that the gadget is given the name Iron GAFP in the About phone section. We now surmise that this stands for Google Android Feature Phone, though we can’t say for sure. We’re not really sure what iron is at the moment.

ABSENT PLAY STORE? We need to draw attention to one noticeable exclusion among the other apps that we see in this video. No Play Store exists. Although this leaked feature phone is unmistakably an Android device with Google apps and even the Google Assistant, there is no Play Store on it.

This Android feature phone definitely has some non-web apps, including Google Maps and Chrome, at the very least. So, without a Play Store, how could you install these? Unfortunately, no specifics about how this would operate were provided to us. Instead, we discover a very intriguing new choice called Auto-update apps that has been added to the Settings app.



The video doesn’t go into detail about this possibility, but it seems to imply that an Android feature phone would have a different method for updating apps than via the Google Play Store. This may even imply that installing native apps on Android feature phones would have been significantly constrained, with a concentration instead on web apps.

PROXX On that topic, a crucial aspect of this breach that is simple to miss is an installed software by the name of PROXX. The creators of popular websites like Squoosh and Web-a-Skeb, the Google Chrome Labs team, debuted a brand-new open source Minesweeper clone called PROXX at this year’s Google I/O. The goal of PROXX was to demonstrate how to create a web application (or game, in this case), that functions and looks great on everything from desktop computers to feature phones.

When we first learned that Google was working on some sort of Android-powered feature phone, we thought the timing of this lecture was almost too fortunate, but we couldn’t prove it beyond a gut instinct. Now, PROXX’s presence in this stolen feature phone film from Nokia might help put things in perspective.

There’s a chance Google was attempting to prepare developers in advance for the potential of Android-based feature phones, even if it’s plausible that they included PROXX on this Android feature phone simply because it was a fun, free game made by their coworkers.

Google’s 9TO5 After putting everything together, it seems obvious that Google had a plan for how Android could compete with feature phones, which may have included a hardware alliance with Nokia. The firm even ran with this idea, enlisting the help of its many teams. Teams from different places built Android, Google Maps, Files by Google, and Google Chrome to create versions of their products that would work on feature phones.

Although it seems unusual that Google would waste all of this effort, we have already discovered this week that they are not averse to scrapping projects at the last minute, as evidenced by the Pixel Watch. Just by observing how long it takes Google Maps to load, which takes seven seconds, one could argue that this is what is happening to the Android feature phones’ efforts! It’s possible that Google felt this wasn’t enough to rival KaiOS.

However, there is still a remote chance that Google concealed the work from the public by removing the touchless code from the Chromium project. Although we currently have no reason to think this is the case, we nonetheless consider the project to have been shelved until we do.

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