Google has announced that it will soon start allowing users in India to save YouTube videos on their Android for later offline viewing. This is line with the launch of Google’s “premium-budget”Android One smartphone line in the country.

The move is primarily aimed at consumers who love to rewatch their favourite YouTube over and over again, but have no access to cheap or unlimited data plans, a scenario common in emerging markets of Asia and Africa.

Google has chosen India to test-run this service for the same obvious reasons it chose it for Android One. With its over a billion population, India only has 10% smartphone penetration. That means over 1 billion Indians still don’t have smartphones. A large number of people are buying smartphones for the first time so the opportunity for the low-cost smartphone market is huge. This also provides an avenue to drive mass YouTube adoption, hence the offline availability offering. It is however not clear how Google plans to retain it’s ad-supported business model with such an offering. Perhaps Google is ready to let go of some chunk of its revenue stream in favour of mass adoption.

If you ask me, many African countries need offline YouTube availability more than India, which has relatively cheaper internet rates, and better internet penetration, than most African countries. The bigger problem in India is getting more people on the smartphone bandwagon, not getting them on the internet.

After India, Google looks to expand Android One to Indonesia, Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014 and in more countries (likely African) in 2015. Our guess is that YouTube offline availability will follow the same course.

Either way, heads up Africa, YouTube offline availability might be coming soon.

Muyiwa Matuluko Author

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