A video, which allegedly shows off an unreleased version of Google’s Android for feature phones, has been posted online. 9to5Google reports that the video shows a Nokia device, and a user can be seen activating Google Assistant, as well as scrolling through an app selection screen that includes a range of Google’s apps and services.
Google’s work on Android for feature phones was first rumored earlier this year, when 9to5Google discovered references in Chromium’s source code to a new “touchless” mode for Google’s browser, designed for devices without a touchscreen. Screenshots later emerged which suggested that this touchless mode was destined for feature phones. However, as of earlier this month Google appeared to be removing this code, suggesting that it has shelved or rolled back its plans.
As well as apps like Google Maps, YouTube, and Facebook, the prototype device also seems to have an app called Proxx installed, which 9to5Google notes is a Minesweeper clone that Google detailed earlier this year at its Google I/O conference. The app was meant to show off how to design an app that can scale from desktops right down to simple feature phones, like the one in this video.
The device’s settings screen lists the version of Android it’s running as version 8.1, and describes the phone as “Iron GAFP” as the type of device. 9to5Google speculates that this could stand for “Google Android Feature Phone.”
Without official confirmation from Google that its feature phone operating system existed in the first place, it’s difficult to know why it might be ceasing development. However, last year the company invested $22 million in KaiOS, an alternative feature phone operating system based on the discontinued Firefox OS. KaiOS’s website lists most of the major apps seen in the leaked video of Google’s feature phone OS, including Google Maps, YouTube, Facebook, and the Google Assistant. WhatsApp is also compatible with the operating system.
With KaiOS already offering access to Google’s apps and services on feature phones, Google could have reasoned that it had little to gain from developing a feature phone operating system of its own, meaning this video might be the closest we get to a true Android feature phone OS.