The smartphone, known as JioPhone Next, supports the entire suite of applications from Google and Jio and is powered by an optimised version of the Android Operating System developed for India, Reliance Industries
Chairman Mukesh Ambani said at the annual general meeting.
He did not disclose the pricing but promised that it will be “among the most affordable smartphone not just in India but globally”. Media reports have pegged the price in the sub-Rs 5,000 range.
He added that JioPhone Next is packed with cutting-edge features like voice assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, language translation, smart camera with augmented reality filters among other things.
Jio is the country’s largest telecom service provider with over 425 million customers. In 2017, it unveiled a 4G-enabled handset called Jio Phone which has sold over 100 million devices.
India has around 300 million customers using 2G and the Jio-Google phone is targeted to win over these users.
Ambani also said Jio would be the first to launch full-fledged 5G services in the country — its converged future-proof network will give its advantage to seamlessly upgrade from 4G to 5G.
Jio, which has developed an indigenous 5G solution, is carrying out 5G trials and is developing 5G-capable devices and solutions in the health and education space.
According to analysts, while demand for smartphones in the Rs 3,000-5,000 range is massive, below 5 per cent of users end up buying smartphones in that price bracket due to the sub-standard quality of handsets.
According to Navkendar Singh, research director at IDC India, offering value for money smartphones with touch screen at below Rs 5,000 price range is a massive challenge as cost of materials makes it unviable for manufacturers.
“While we do not know how the new Jio-Google phones will be priced, attracting regular buyers from the feature phones segment will not be easy as one can still get a feature phone under Rs 1,000,” he said. However given the increasing demand for smartphones for educational purposes, it may find some traction if priced below Rs 4,000, he added.
Reacting to the announcement, Airtel said it supports every effort that triggers the upgradation of feature phones to smartphones so as to connect more Indians digitally.
“Our experience has shown that as customers with entry level devices upgrade to quality smartphones (priced over Rs 7,000) they demonstrate a strong preference for Airtel’s brand and network. In the long run this complements our strategy of focusing on quality customers with world-class services,” it said.
Firms to partner for 5G technology
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said a new partnership is being launched between Jio and Google Cloud for 5G netwoks.
“It will help more than a billion Indians connect to a faster and better internet... support businesses in their digital transformation… and help Jio build new services in sectors like health and education. Reliance will also shift its core retail businesses to Google Cloud's infra. They will be able take advantage of Google's AI and machine learning, ecommerce, and demand forecasting offerings. Harnessing the reliability and performance of Google Cloud will enable these businesses to scale up as needed to respond to customer demand,” Pichai said.
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