Updated on October 30, 2017, 5:30PM IST:
"JioPhone, 'India ka smartphone' is committed to fulfilling the country's digital vision. Jio welcomes the initial 6 million Indians who are moving to digital life with the JioPhone and will soon announce the next JioPhone booking date," a company spokesperson said in a statement to IBTimes India.
IBTimes India has learnt that the company has no immediate plans to launch a new Android-based smartphone to replace JioPhone.
There's no denying that Reliance's JioPhone 4G VoLTE feature phone is a success on the part of Mukesh Ambani and the company he heads. The fact that it managed to get more than 6 million pre-bookings in just three days says it all. But with rival telecos like Airtel, and more recently Vodafone, announcing ultra-affordable 4G smartphones, the Mukesh Ambani-led company seems to be shifting its focus to proper touch-screen smartphones powered by Android.
While it was recently reported that the JioPhone pre-orders will resume post-Diwali, there is no official word on that from Jio yet. A latest report indicates that there might be a change in Reliance Jio's plans in the wake of increasing competition from its rivals.
The report by FactorDaily suggests that Reliance Jio has stopped production of JioPhone and is in talks to introduce an Android-based phone soon.
"There are not enough apps compatible with KaiOS (the operating system on which JioPhone runs), but people are working on developing special versions for the JioPhone," the report cited a source as saying.
Reliance's decision to shift to Android seems justified, as JioPhone runs on KaiOS, an operating system that has a very limited number of users (estimated 100 million users worldwide). Moreover, it does not currently support most of the popular apps like WhatsApp and Instagram. A shift to Android will not only mean a larger user-base, but also the millions of compatible apps (on Google Play store) that it brings to the table.
Reliance Jio is also said to be working with Facebook and Google to build compatible versions of their popular apps with the JioPhone. The company has reportedly asked Google to lower the royalty for Android, all this hints at its plans to introduce an ultra-budget Android smartphone.
In recent months, many rival telecom operators have launched 4G-enabled phones to counter the JioPhone with more features and Android OS. Unlike the JioPhone which is restricted only to Jio's cellular network, these phones can be used across operators, meaning that customers can shift from one operator to another.
Currently, the JioPhone is compatible with Jio's suite of exclusive apps such as JioTV, JioMusic, and JioChat among others. However, there is no real compatibility with other popular apps. Although Jio's exclusive apps are a nice addition, they also lead to cross-platform support issues, as the report quoted one of the sources as saying that JioPhone's bundled apps "are not enough for its success."
The company seems to be facing a difficult time in keeping up with the pre-order demand. Hence, it stopped receiving pre-bookings after just three-days of the first round of pre-orders (and there is an indefinite delay in delivering the handset). The telecom had earlier claimed that it will make 5 million JioPhones available every week.
"It's not that the target is changing, but a walled garden approach (incompatibility with other operators) doesn't work in mobile phones, it hasn't worked in the past and it will not work in the future," a source said.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio is currently focused on delivering the JioPhone to smaller towns and villages first, it is still not clear whether the company will discontinue the KaiOS-based JioPhone altogether. But sources close to the development claim that the company will manufacture at least 10 million units of the current JioPhone and 6 million units already in the process of getting delivered.
Further, it is still unclear whether Reliance is planning to introduce an Android-based JioPhone feature phone with keypad or a touch screen smartphone. Also, Reliance has its own brand of touch screen Android smartphones called LYF, so it will be interesting to see what Reliance Jio has in store for the future.