Feature phones continue to outsell smartphones in the India market, something Reliance Jio saw as an opportunity. With the launch of 4G-enabled JioPhone, the new telco disrupted the feature phone market and breathed a new sense of competition in an otherwise dull mobile phone category.
Now, thanks to Google, JioPhone users are going to be treated with some goodness of the Android flavour.
JioPhone is based on KaiOS, which is a popular choice for feature phones. There is a growing market share for the stripped down version of mobile operating systems like Android and iOS suited to run on low-cost feature phones. This has attracted the maker of world's largest mobile OS maker, Google, which has invested a $22 million (Rs 150 crore) investment in KaiOS.
"We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone, whether they are using desktops, smartphones, or feature phones. Following the success of the JioPhones, we are excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world," Anjali Joshi, Vice-President, Product Management, Next Billion Users, said in a statement.
It's safe to assume Google's investment in KaiOS will bring some of its useful apps and services to feature phones, including JioPhones.
Google is expected to bring popular apps such as YouTube, Google Search and Maps to feature phones running KaiOS.
The California-based tech giant had already announced earlier this year that they're developing native apps for KaiOS-powered Nokia phones.
Google rolled out its native AI-powered digital assistant for JioPhones last December. In addition to "Hello Jio," users can also use the "Ok Google" command to perform various actions, such as play music, video, change settings, find local information and get answers to questions.
Making the JioPhone more user-friendly for the Hindi-speaking masses in India, Google made its Assistant available in Hindi.
"This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets. We are excited to work with Google to deliver its services on more mobile devices. Having an intelligent voice assistant on an affordable mobile phone is truly revolutionary as it helps overcome some of the limitations a keypad brings," KaiOS's CEO, Sebastien Codeville, said in a statement.