Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android operating system is wildly popular in emerging markets. And Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) says that a large part of its next billion users will be from emerging countries. But these companies had to study emerging markets carefully to learn the behavior of users in those countries, as well as issues affecting them.

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How Google made Android a favorite of emerging markets

When Matias Duarte joined Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) in 2010 as the head of user experience for Android, his first directive was to conduct research to figure out how people across the globe use Android phones. Duarte said at the Accel Design Conference in San Francisco that the company was making smartphones for geeks at the time. He focused on understanding cultural differences. His team found that the way people use Android in emerging countries is completely different from how U.S. users do it.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s mobile division was making smartphones based on how U.S. consumers used them, without considering the limitations of emerging markets. Duarte found that many countries lacked reliable data infrastructure. That finding prompted Google’s Android team to design the system so that it worked well even without reliable Internet connectivity.

Emerging countries in Asia, Latin America, and Europe have become the biggest markets for smartphones. Silicon Valley companies are working hard to figure out the differences in usage. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s user experience designer Brynn Evans said that the search engine giant now welcomes researchers into every step of the software development process. Now designers don’t wait until an app is launched to see how users interact with it. Instead, they are free to tweak their products at every stage based on their findings about user habits.

Facebook follows Google

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), which has launched the Internet.org initiative to boost global Internet connectivity, has improved its own design research in emerging countries. The social networking giant’s director of product design Julie Zhuo said that the company is doing a lot more research by sending its team members to different markets to understand user behavior and infrastructure conditions. Julie Zhuo said her team recently visited India, Indonesia and Africa.

Class-A shares of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) were down 1.90% to $556.62 at 10:17 AM EDT on Thursday.