Jio Platforms is run by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. On Thursday, Google unveiled the JioPhone Next Android smartphone. This affordable Android phone comes as top Indian telecom operator gives more push to make it more affordable to sign up for its network.
The Indian company , which received $4.5 billion in investment from Google (and an additional $15.5 billion from Facebook) last year, shared plans to develop low-cost smartphones and said that JioPhone Next would help approximately 300 million Indian users who are still using 2G networks.
The phone is powered by the “extremely optimized Android” operating platform and will be available in India starting September 10.
Jio Platforms has 425 million subscribers and is poised to add 200 million more in the coming years, stated Mukesh Ambani (chairman of Reliance Industries) at Thursday’s annual general meeting.
Ambani claimed that the JioPhone Next would be the “most affordable smartphone” in the world, but he did not reveal the exact price nor the specifications of the device.
Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, said that the company also has a 5G cloud partnership agreement with Jio Platforms. Pichai stated that the partnership will enable more than one billion Indians to connect to faster internet and support digital transformation. It will also help Jio create new services in areas like education and health — laying the foundation for India’s next phase of digitization.
Reliance will move its core retail business to Google Cloud as part of the collaboration. They will be able to take advantage of Google’s AI, machine learning, ecommerce and demand forecasting services. These businesses will be able to use the reliability and performance offered by Google Cloud to grow as they need to meet customer demand,” he said.
Google stated in a statement that it had worked closely with Jio on engineering and product development to create useful voice-first features. These features allow users to use content and navigate their phone in their native language. They also have great camera experiences and can get the most recent Android security and feature updates.
Customers looking for smartphones under $100 have few options, even though most smartphones shipped to India, India’s second-largest market, cost $150 or less. In recent years, that range has gotten smaller.
TechCrunch was told by Counterpoint that sub-$100 smartphones only 12% of India’s smartphone market. This is a decrease from 18% and 24% respectively in 2019. The sub-$50 smartphone market accounted for 0.3% of India’s total market in 2020, compared to 4.3% in 2018.
Although smartphone makers know there is a lot of white space in the market, they have struggled to fill it. Jio Platforms, with over 425 million subscribers has explored the possibility of using a variety of feature phones to reach smaller cities and towns in India. JioPhone is a KaiOS-powered feature phone from Jio Platforms. It has 100 million customers as at February 2012.
UBS analysts reported to clients that any smartphone priced below $50 will likely sell at cost after taking into account the recent price rise in memory components.
While Jio’s move will speed up 2G to 4G migrations, we assessed how attractive this space could be for other smartphone makers, particularly key players such as Xiaomi. According to TechCrunch, Xiaomi, India’s largest smartphone market, will not follow up with a $50 smartphone.
Google has also made numerous efforts to increase the reach of its handsets, including the $100 Android One smartphone program in 2014, and the low-resource Android Go operating system for 2017 It also supported KaiOS which powers many feature phones.
Google stated that JioPhone Next was a “momentous milestone in our Android Mission for India” and the first of many projects that our Android product- and engineering teams in India will undertake. We are also expanding our engineering teams in India as we work to meet the needs of Indian smartphone users.