Google Pushes Into India With Data-Saving Apps, More Wi-Fi

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Google is making a big push into India this week with several new products intended to get people online without draining their data and bank accounts.

During the second Google for India event, the company unveiled the data-saving YouTube Go app (pictured) and lighter versions of flagship products, but also tipped more options for activating public Wi-Fi and Hindi for Google Assistant.

YouTube Go promises smooth video plays "across various connectivity situations," Caesar Sengupta, vice president of Google's Next Billion Users team, wrote in a blog post. He promised control over data consumption and the ability to share videos without eating into data allotments. It will roll out first in India as a beta app; locals can sign up online to find out when it launches.

Google also promised data optimization in the updated Chrome for Android, which will display only the essentials when 2G-like networks are detected. A new download feature also lets users save Web pages, videos, music, and pictures to their phone for offline use. Access it in Chrome's new Downloads tab.

Similarly, Google Play added two experimental features: pre-loading the most popular parts of the store when on a wireless connection and the option to "Wait for Wi-Fi" before installing a new app. Google News and Weather's new "Lite mode" will also keep the headlines and trim the rest, ensuring the app loads more quickly while providing only the bare essentials. Slower networks automatically trigger Lite mode.

"Added up, that's a lot of data saved, speeds accelerated, and new connections made," Sengupta said.

Google is also broadening its free public Wi-Fi program. Last year, it announced plans to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India. That's now live in more than 50 rail stations in India, but to help speed up the rollout, partners can now access Google Station, which is software and guidance on how to roll out wireless hotspots in public places.

"By getting great Wi-Fi into the world's malls, bus stops, city centers, and cafes … millions more people will be able to learn, play, chat, work, and find the information they need," Sengupta wrote.

"We're just getting started," he added, putting out the call for "strategic, forward-thinking" partners.

Meanwhile, Google's new Allo chat app is currently only available in English, but it is also learning to speak Hindi—a feature rolling out later this year.

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