JioPhone demand is on the radar of Indian smartphone maker Micromax as it explores whether its feature phone lineup needs to be upgraded to support 4G networks. The JioPhone bookings start online and offline officially on August 24, and deliveries will start in September.
Rahul Sharma, Co-Founder of Micromax, said the company already has 4G-enabled feature phone prototypes ready, but it is unsure whether trickling down such technology in phones at that price range is the way to go. The vast majority of feature phone models sold today don't offer support for 3G and 4G connectivity options.
So, much like everybody else, Micromax is also waiting for the arrival of JioPhone. "I have yet to see any impact of JioPhone," Sharma said. "When they are here, we will take a call," he said, adding that Micromax is doing well in the feature phone market.
Reliance Jio will begin shipping its 4G LTE-powered feature phone some time next month. The JioPhone will be available to purchase at Rs. 1,500 - a refundable security deposit that can be reclaimed after two years.
If Jio is able to disrupt the feature phone market, it will be a deja vu moment for Micromax, which witnessed an immediate need for 4G LTE capability in smartphones last year and struggled to clear its 3G-enabled phones inventory.
"We were selling phones that maxed out at 3G support," Sharma told Gadgets 360. "But overnight, the market changed from 3G to 4G. So at that time, a person who had never even purchased a 3G-enabled phone wanted to get a 4G-enabled smartphone to make use of the 'free Internet'," referring to Jio.
To recap on the Jio Phone, the entry-level phone will come with unlimited voice, data, and texts. Customers will have to recharge with a Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan monthly pack of Rs. 153, which will give them free voice, texts, unlimited data (high-speed data capped at 500MB per day), and free access to Jio apps for 28 days. At the 40th AGM, Ambani also announced an accessory "Jio Phone TV-Cable" that will allow users to connect their phones with any kind of television sets. For connecting phone to TV, users will have to recharge with Rs. 309 per month pack for large screen.
Talking about Jio Phone features, the device comes with an alphanumeric keypad, 2.4-inch display with QVGA display, microSD card slot, torchlight, FM radio. It will be a single SIM handset that works only on 4G VoLTE networks. The phone supports voice commands and 22 Indian languages, and has a panic button as well. A short demo of the voice command feature on Jio Phone was showcased during the keynote presentation where the device was able to play music via Jio Music. Additionally, the handset will also come with a panic button that is enabled when long-pressing the number 5. Moreover, the Jio phone will come with advanced NFC support for digital payments that will be rolled out to users via OTA software upgrade. Qualcomm and Spreadtrum have confirmed their chips power the new feature phone.
The phone does not have WhatsApp support at the moment, though we did catch glimpse of a web browser, Facebook, and PM Modi's Mann Ki Baat broadcast during the unveiling at the Reliance AGM.
According to analysts, Reliance Jio aims to reach another 100 million users with its new feature phone; this will be in addition to the 125 million users that already use the Jio telecom network. Moreover, the 4G VoLTE-enabled feature phone will completely change the low-end phone segment and bring about a new era of innovation in this segment. On the other hand, industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has termed the Rs. 0 pricing a clever marketing move by the company and attempt to save government levies like licence fee.